Class C Rankings: May 3 Edition

— by Brett Kruschke

As most may prefer to read this article so that the best is saved for last – kind of like the chocolate at the bottom of an ice cream drumstick – we will avoid giving away anything up front. We will only say that due to the very tight results at the top of the poll, this may have to be settled on Twitter.

The voting there began yesterday, with 170 votes already cast in less than 24 hours. That Twitter poll – which please note, only allows for four voting options – will remain open until Friday afternoon. You can find it pinned to the top of the MBA Twitter account.

As we start a new year of Class A, B and C polls, please remember that the 14 gentlemen involved are not paid for their efforts and are taking time out of their busy schedules to give you some enjoyable reading every couple of weeks.

The inaugural Class A and B polls will debut in one week, with the current intention to keep that schedule throughout the season.

TOM ELLIOTT – St. Cloud Times

  1. Plato – The Bluejays are defending state champions and deserve this until they prove otherwise (like they get beat several times in the Crow River Valley in the early going).
  2. Green Isle – The Irish have been one of the state’s best teams for a while now and should be again this year.
  3. Nisswa – I think the Lightning are the best team in the 20-team Victory League, which is saying something. There are a half-dozen teams in the Victory League that could end up in a top-10 state ranking, depending on who is playing well (Sobieski, Lastrup, Fort Ripley, Avon and Upsala would be possibilities, for instance).
  4. Sartell Muskies – Sartell has been the best Class C team in the St. Cloud area for a while and there is no reason to believe they won’t be again this year.
  5. Maple Lake – The Lakers are like all the teams above them on this list, capable of winning the state title.
  6. New Ulm Brewers – I’d be surprised if this squad wasn’t in the state tournament at the end of the year.
  7. Jordan – Another perennial on a list like this, the Brewers always seem to have a good team.
  8. Kimball – The Express advanced further than any St. Cloud area team last season and have a strong veteran core ready to make another run.
  9. Watkins – The Clippers are the other team to watch in the Central Valley League, which has some talented young teams like Luxemburg, St. Augusta and the Cold Spring Rockies.
  10. Elrosa – The Saints were the best team in the Stearns County League last year, going 13-1 in league play. They flopped in Region 15C, but reloaded and should be the top team in the league again.

CJ SIEWERT – St. Peter

1. Plato – This first ranking is largely based on last year’s finish. When the season just started for some and still hasn’t for others, it’s hard to pin down how these teams are doing until they get a few games under their belts. With that said, the defending champs start off at No. 1.

2. Green Isle – Runner-up last season and always field a competitive team. They also always play a strong strength of schedule that prepares them for August.

3. Waconia – The Crow River was well represented at last year’s state tourney and the Lakers fill out my top three. I saw first-hand in last year’s opening round how good of a team Waconia is and barring any major roster changes, I expect the same this year.

4. Nisswa – Super strong lineup. They will go as far as their bats can take them.

5. Howard Lake – Made it to the final four last year with wins over quality teams such as Waconia, New Ulm, and Lastrup.

6. Jordan – The old farts are sticking around for at least another season. They finished in the top eight last year and previously made two straight trips to the semifinals. They’re a Class B team living in a Class C world, completely dominating the River Valley League since dropping to C a few years back.

7. Cannon Falls – Behind the arm of ace Keith Meyers, the Bears can do some late season damage as they proved last season with a quarterfinal appearance.

8. New Market – The past few years at the state tourney I always enjoyed how balanced these guys were with pitching and hitting. Not sure if they have made any significant roster changes, but if not, I expect another deep postseason run.

9. Blue Earth – Veteran team. Knows how to win come August and is the best team coming from the Minnesota/Iowa border.

10. Maple Lake – They didn’t even make the state tourney last year after being ranked at the top for most of the season, but I think that will drive them to make it back to the final 48 this year. Again, I’m unaware if there have been any roster changes, but I expect the Lakers to field another strong team in 2016.

TRENT SUKALSKI – Jackson

  1. Plato: Defending State Champions; poised to defend title.
  2. Green Isle: 1-0, runners-up last year, opened season with 13-3 win.
  3. Nisswa: 1-0, blasted four homeruns in season opener against St. Mathias.  Final 4 last season.
  4. Sartell Muskies: 1-0, 2013 State Champs win their opener 14-0.
  5. Blue Earth: 13 straight trips to the state tournament, two championships, and a veteran team.
  6. New Ulm Brewers: Veteran leadership and a team stacked with D-II talent, finished as Class C runner-up two years ago.
  7. Waconia: 1-0, opened with a 5-4 win over Hamburg, final 8 last season, this could be their year.
  8. Cannon Falls: 0-1, lost 2-0 at 2015 Class B state champs Dundas on Sunday; final 8 last season.
  9. Hanska: 1-0, defeated a very good Fairmont team 6-2 in their opener.
  10. Lamberton: 2-0; four straight trips to state, a legit ace in Johnny Pistulka, added former SMSU pitcher Christopher Eichten.

JASON KUERSCHNER – Cologne

  1. Nisswa – This team can mash, and if it weren’t for torrential rain in the state tourney last year they may have been crowned the state champs.
  2. Green Isle – Continues to replace players and stay competitive, however is father time catching up with the core of this team?
  3. Plato – You would think I would put this team as #1 but I just can’t do that.  Their best player from last year’s championship run has returned to his team (Tony Kley to Winsted), and while still very good, I can’t just give them the #1 spot. Sorry Blue Jays!
  4. Jordan – Dominant season last year again in Class “C” competition, one pitch ruined their tournament run last year against Nisswa.
  5. Waconia – On paper this is a team that has tons of collegiate cred; will this be the year they “all” commit to playing and show up for every game. If so, look out!
  6. Hampton – A newbie coming out of Region 4 last year to make it to the final 8. Another year of collegiate experience will definitely help this team go far.
  7. Sartell Muskies – Last season they lead the polls almost all season, unfortunately they ran into Waconia is the state tourney (by the way I picked that game correctly). I expect them to come back in 2016 just as hungry.
  8. Howard Lake – Nice run to the final 4 last year, but ran out of pitching and lost to Green Isle in the semis. Should contend well in the North Star again this year.
  9. Maple Lake – They were upset in the Region Tourney last year after placing high on this poll all season. I look for them to come back strong in 2016.
  10. Faribault – Won Region 3 last year and I expect them to fight it out again with the rest of the DRS.

CHRIS PACK – Hayfield

1. Nisswa – Solid lineup every year. They get the jinx as the preseason #1 for me. Let’s see how long they can stay up here!

2. Sobieski – Fellow SMSU alum Tyler Jendro puts them up here as he has shown the ability to carry this team on his back. 

3. New Ulm Brewers – When Mitch Kelly is on the mound they are as good as anyone. Solid lineup and a perennial power in the Tomahawk.

4. Green Isle – Honestly I am a little jealous of Mac Zachow still being able to take the mound. Had a lot of good battles against him and the Irish over the years. They are like the San Antonio Spurs, always up near the top. 

5. Sartell Muskies – Coming off a great regular season last year and looking to go deeper in the state tournament this year after losing to Waconia last year in the opening round. 

6. Maple Lake – Have had a nice run lately but have a sour taste in their mouths after bowing out early last year in the playoffs. Mitch Wurm and company will bounce back this year!

7. Plato – I for one am not a believer that the defending champs are the automatic #1 the next season. They did rely on Kley from Winsted in the state tournament and he isn’t with them now! Still a solid squad that deserves to be ranked. 

8. Cannon Falls – As long as Keith Meyers is around, Cannon Falls will be a team that contends in August. Close loss to Dundas to start the year. 

9. Blue Earth – Do the Pirates have another run in them? I wouldn’t bet against it. Solid core of players that know how to win, especially when it matters the most.

10. Lamberton – Had to put the Long Sox in here to start the year. I grew up in Lamberton, though I never played for the Sox since they started after I moved away. They have one of the best pitchers in the state in Johnny Pistulka. He and my little brother Colby Pack form a solid 1-2 punch offensively. They have won the Tomahawk East title 12 of the last 13 years and have qualified for state four straight years. 

On the bubble: Jordan, Waconia, Fergus Falls, Watkins, Lastrup, Faribault, Dodge County.

CLASS C RANKINGS (as of May 3):

T-1. Green Isle Irish, Nisswa Lightning (43 points)

3. Plato Bluejays (42)

4. Sartell Muskies (24)

T-5. New Ulm Brewers, Waconia Lakers (18)

7. Jordan Brewers (16)

8. Maple Lake Lakers (14)

T-9: Blue Earth Pirates, Cannon Falls Bears (10)

Others receiving votes: Howard Lake Orphans (9), Sobieski Skis (9), Hampton Cardinals (5), New Market Muskies (3), Kimball Express (3), Watkins Clippers (2), Lamberton Long Sox (2), Hanska Lakers (2), Faribault Lakers (1), Elrosa Saints (1). 

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