Class C prognosticators weigh in on a loaded field

By Nick Gerhardt

So it’s here — the great Minnesota baseball get-together — the Class B and C amateur baseball state tournament. Class C remains as difficult to predict as ever with a number of teams with legitimate changes to make the championship game. It’ll all depend on who’s hot at the right time and who gets a few bounces their way. 

We’ve tapped our four experts, as we have all year, to examine the Class C bracket, quad by quad, to give us an idea of what to expect. Once again, we thank them for their insight this past year and will let you take a look at their thoughts. 

Aaron Worm — Albert Lea

Quad I 

The Favorite: Sartell — The Muskies have been my top-ranked team for the last couple of rankings, so they are my favorite, but the road through this quad is pretty tough, starting with a first-round matchup with Hutchinson.

The Dark Horse: Loretto — Not that they are gonna surprise anyone, with former Twin Corey Koskie on the team, they will draw big crowds, and become a fan favorite at state.

The Upset: Carver — They are the fourth team out of their region, but everyone knows the Sox have plenty of talent, I see them beating Bird Island and Bluffton.

The Sleeper: Windom — There are so many good teams in this quad, including Windom. If they can get by Sobieski, could go on a nice postseason run.

Quad II

The Favorite: Waconia — Playing on their home field, winners of the Crow regular season title and Region 7, I see the Lakers playing for a title on Labor Day.

The Dark Horse: Union Hill — The Bulldogs can hit the ball, solid one through nine. If they get by Kimball in the first round, Sweet 16 possibly with Jordan, which would be an epic game to start Labor Day weekend.

The Upset: St. Benedict over Luxemburg, America’s team will give every team they face a battle. If they get out of the first round, don’t be surprised if they end up playing Labor Day weekend.

The Sleeper: Kimball —  Because they are the third seed out of their region, maybe people are sleeping on them, I think whoever wins the UH/Kimball game in the first round will be the favorite to win the quad along with Jordan and Waconia.

Quad III

The Favorite: Avon — They come out of a tough region, but I think this quad might be the most wide open, with at least seven different teams I could see getting to the final four.

The Dark Horse: Eagle Lake — I don’t know much about them, besides they come out of a tough region with Jordan, and I love their nickname, Expos.

The Upset: New Prague over Bemidji and Milroy. The Orioles are young team, with a couple of really good arms that can get them to Labor Day weekend.

The Sleeper: Cannon Falls — Keith Meyers-led team, all that has to be said. Meyers is always playing in the state tourney one way or another, glad he’s doing it this year with his team.

Quad IV

The Favorite: St. Patrick — The other teams in the bracket are gonna disagree with me, when I say I think they are only three teams that will win this quad. The Irish, last year’s state runners-up, are loaded with talent and look to finish the job this year. I have the Irish winning the whole thing. I think Young America and Watkins are the other two.

The Dark Horse: Austin — I remember when the Greyhounds were once a team that made state on a consistent basis in Class B, and I assume a talented team coming out of a region with Wannamingo and Cannon Falls.

The Upset: St. Stephen over Princeton.

The Sleeper: St. Martin — Because I think this quad is a three-team race, I would not be surprised if I jinxed those teams, and a state mainstay like St, Martin wins the quad.

Kip Kovar — Howard Lake

Quad I 

The Favorite: This is by the hardest quad to navigate through. Of the 12 teams in this part of the bracket, seven have ranked in the Top 10 at some point this season. Not really sure if there is a favorite but let’s go with Sobieski returning to Class C. With Tyler Jendro on the mound, they’ll be a tough out as always. 

The Dark Horse: Isanti Redbirds — They’ve been my pick all year long to make some noise this year. A team that’s been on the rise the past few seasons and a chance to make their name known to the state.

The Upset: Carver over Bird Island. Andrew Weber will get the ball on the mound for the Black Sox and he’s a gamer. Brian Tichy has a complete lineup and lethal bullpen in Alex Twenge and Jacob Booden. With those two, Carver shortens games to six or seven innings.

The Sleeper: Windom Pirates — As good as Sobieski is, their first matchup is not a cupcake. Windom has a true ace in Collen Lovell that can keep the Pirates in the game and maybe pull off a big upset. 

Quad II

The Favorite: Waconia Lakers — The Lakers have been the most consistent team all season. The most complete team I’ve seen covering amateur baseball. Have not lost to a Class C team this season. Only two losses are to Chaska (Class B) and St. Louis Park (Class A). Added some big arms in the draft. Will be a tough out each game as they have everything working for them.

The Dark Horse: Jordan Brewers — They were the state champions just two years ago. Not a lot of people talking about them, which is probably just the way they want it. Still a really good team. 

The Upset: Union Hill over Kimball. The Bulldogs are a good team that people will see this year. I like their chances to make it to Labor Day weekend.

The Sleeper: Foley Lumberjacks — If Waconia wasn’t waiting for them in the next round, they’d be my pick to make a deeper run. Still, they will give Stark all they can handle and if they win, will be a fun matchup for the Waconia Lakers. 

Quad III

The Favorite: Avon Lakers — This section of the bracket has a bunch of teams who can come out of it. I’ll give the nod to the Avon Lakers.

The Dark Horse: Watertown Red Devils — Might have one of the best pitching staffs in the tournament this year. If the offense is there, the Red Devils have a good chance to improve on their appearance from last year and make some noise.

The Upset: Watertown over Midway — I’m high on the Red Devils coming into this one. They have the pitching to make a deep run and runs will be hard to come by off them.

The Sleeper: Delano A’s — The state tournament has not been kind to the A’s in their past three appearances. They’ll be looking to change that in a big way as I expect Delano to make a deep run this season with a good mix of talent.  

Quad IV

The Favorite: St. Patrick Irish — Runner-up a year ago. Once again one of the best teams. I believe Waconia and St. Patrick are in a tier of their own followed by 10-12 teams right behind them. Irish look poised to make another memorable run out of the DRS.

The Dark Horse: Young America Cardinals — Which Young America team will show up? The one that struggled in big spots in the regular season or the one that turned things around late. The Cardinals have two top-tier pitchers in Dillon Whittaker and Josh Lenz. If they want to make a run, they’ll need to clean up the defense and come through in big spots at the plate.

The Upset: New Prague over Bemidji. Just a gut feeling. Picking the Orioles to not only win this one but to knock off the Milroy Yankees as well.

The Sleeper: Watkins Clippers — A perennial state tournament team. Probably don’t get the respect or recognition they deserve. Matt Geislinger is still good enough to carry the Clippers to a deep run. 

Tom Elliott — Willmar

Quad I

The Favorite: Sobieski Skis — Sobieski is back in Class C after a two-year stint in Class B. The Skis remain experienced and talented, just like they were prior to 2019.

The Dark Horse: Loretto Larks — These guys intrigue me. They play in a good league (North Star) and then there’s Corey Koskie, the former Twin, on the roster.

The Upset: I’m not sure if it’s an upset, but look for the Richmond Royals to beat Dumont in the first round. Richmond has Eli Emerson back to pitch after the hard-throwing right-hander from St. Cloud State spent the summer in the Northwoods League.

The Sleeper: Sartell Muskies — Sartell remains one of the state’s top teams, so the Muskies aren’t exactly sleepers. But, they certainly have the horses to make a long state run. Of course, they have to get past Hutchinson in the first round, and that will not be easy.

Quad II

The Favorite: Waconia Lakers — There’s a reason Waconia has been at the top of the Class C rankings all season. Teams playing at home in the state tournament haven’t always fared well, but Waconia might be the exception.

The Dark Horse: The Foley Lumberjacks are capable of knocking off some teams. Now in the Victory League and Region 8C, they’ve done this before in their Sauk Valley League/Region 11C days.

The Upset: Maple Lake winning at state is hardly an upset, but it might be this year if they can beat the Milroy Irish.

The Sleeper: Jordan Brewers — I don’t know how a franchise as storied as Jordan’s could be a sleeper, but it’s hard to not pick the Brewers to make a long state run. They are the other favorite in this quad.

Quad III

The Favorite: The Avon Lakers come in as a top seed in a tough region (8C). They’re capable of a run into the final weekend.

The Dark Horse: Bemidji Blue Ox — It’s hard to find scores on them except when they venture south to play in weekend tournaments. But, Bemidji is talented and athletic. Key for the Blue Ox is getting the “A” lineup south and playing on Saturday or Sunday instead of Friday. That all happened.

The Upset: The Eagle Lake Expos are young, athletic and new to the state tournament. Beating New Prague, one of the state’s well-respected programs, would qualify as an upset.

The Sleeper: Milroy Yankees — Milroy’s a good team with a good tradition that could be playing in the final weekend if it plays well and gets a break or two.

Quad IV

The Favorite: The St. Patrick Irish have the horses to get back into the state championship game. And this time there’s no Fairmont, which didn’t make the tournament because it wasn’t eligible.

The Dark Horse: Watkins Clippers — Watkins has a mix of veterans and young guys and a dominant starter in left-hander Matthew Geislinger. They’re also coming out of Region 11C, which includes a strong Sartell squad.

The Upset: I’m not sure if this is an upset or not, but take Young America to beat Ortonville in the second round. Ortonville won Region 9C and awaits the winner of Young America and St. Clair.

The Sleeper: St. Martin Martins. St. Martin has had a great season so far, having the best record in the Stearns County League and earning the top seed in Region 15C. Scott Lieser is a strong ace pitcher with a minor-league background.

Chad Knutson — Heron Lake 

Quad I

Sobieski Skis, Windom Pirates, Isanti Redbirds, Dumont Saints, Richmond Royals, Loretto Larks, Bird Island Bullfrogs, Carver Black Sox, Bluffton Braves, Sartell Muskies, Hutchinson Huskies, Wanamingo Jacks.

The Favorite — Sartell Muskies, perennial state title contender, veteran quad with young talent, tough matchup with Hutch, Sobieski is also back in Class C and could make a long run … tough matchups for both. 

The Dark Horse — Isanti Redbirds, a team that has dominated the Eastern Minny and several other good teams – could be a year they make it to Labor Day. 

The Upset — Windom Pirates, they have the pitching with Collin Lovell and Luke Gilbertson leading the strong rotation … if they string some hits together, Lovell and company will keep them in any ballgame 

The Sleeper — Loretto Larks, hard to be considered a sleeper being Region champs, playing very well at the right time and with Corey Koskie in the lineup, very dangerous. 

The Underdog — Carver Black Sox, come in as the four seed from Region 7, they are a team who has the talent to being playing on Labor Day weekend. 

Quad II

Stark Longhorns, Foley Lumberjacks, Waconia Lakers, Luxemburg Brewers, St. Benedict Saints, Ads A’s, Milroy Irish, Maple Lake Lakers, Jordan Brewers, Union Hill Bulldogs, Kimball Express, Alexandria Black Sox. 

The Favorite — Waconia Lakers, ranked No. 1 all year and someone will have to play extremely well to beat them. 

The Dark Horse — Union Hill Bulldogs,  good DRS team who has been making some noise in the past few years. 

The Upset — Stark Longhorns over a good Foley Lumberjacks.

The Sleeper — Foley Lumberjacks — Victory League competition will help this young squad stay in any game.

The Underdog — St. Benedict Saints, come from the DRS and could make a run to the final weekend. 

Quad III

Midway Snurdbirds, Watertown Red Devils, Avon Lakers, Eagle Lake Expos, Cannon Falls Bears, Luverne Redbirds, Delano Tigers, Spring Hill Chargers, New Ulm Brewers, Bemidji Blue Ox, New Prague Orioles, Milroy Yankees.

The Favorite — Luverne Redbirds, have been getting better and every year. Nearly beat Young America. They swing it well and have the pitching to make a deep run.

The Dark Horse — Bemidji Blue Ox, a team who has made deep playoffs runs before and a team many people don’t hear a lot about.

The Upset — Spring Hill Chargers over Delano Athletics.

The Sleeper — Milroy Yankees, a region champ, but they have the veteran pitching to to surprise teams. 

The Underdog — Eagle Lake Expos, first time making the tourney. Talented young team that will have to beat a veteran Cannon Falls led by Keith Meyers.

Quad IV

Austin Greyhounds, Paynesville Pirates, St. Patrick Irish, Young America Cardinals, St. Clair Wood Ducks, Ortonville Rox, Princeton Panthers, St. Stephen Steves, Watkins Clippers, Fergus Fall Hurricanes, Hanska Lakers, St. Martin Martins. 

The Favorite — Young America Cardinals, team that has been to the finals before and keeps knocking at the door … great chance to get back. A lot of tough teams to get past, including last year’s runner up St. Patrick, who is another favorite. 

The Dark Horse — Fergus Falls, another northern team who is always there. Has had tough matchups – maybe their year to go far. 

The Upset — St. Stephen Steves over Princeton Panthers, four seed out of region 8, good young team.  

The Sleeper — Austin Greyhounds, former Class B power who has a good matchup.

The Underdog — St. Clair Wood Ducks, tough first round matchup. They are a great hitting team and score a lot of runs.

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