CLASS C ROUNDUP AT DASSEL: Monticello, Avon, Maple Lake win on Sunday

By Eric Kraushar

news@mnbaseball.org

Matt Geislinger threw 203 pitches over 13 innings in a Region 11C game against Monticello Aug. 4. The Watkins left-hander struck out 19 batters in a complete-game shutout in the state tournament opener Saturday.

Monticello pitcher Alex Otto took a different approach. While he did strike out six batters, his pinpoint pitch location and selection was what had Raymond batters on their front and back foots all game.

Otto set down 18 Rockets at one point, surrendering three hits with no walks, five runners total for the game, in a 4-0 win in Dassel on Sunday, Aug. 20.

“Our defense was great. One mistake, that was all, and we were able to come back and not let it bother us. We had a great game plan behind the dish, my stuff was working well today, and everything worked out,” Otto said.

Otto had Rocket batters guessing all game between his fastball, curveball and a change-up that seemed to fool batters more and more as the game went on. When Raymond batters did put the ball in play, often it was a chopper or lazy fly ball.

“Catching Alex Otto may be the second easiest job in the world. I put down a sign and he hits the spot. It makes for an easy game when he’s pitching like that,” said Monticello catcher Dustin Wilcox, who figured he had to block just one pitch in the dirt in the game.

For Otto, a 2019 graduate of Monticello High School, who played two sports at St. John’s University, the complete-game shutout almost had a feel of a culmination of a comeback. Involved in a car accident in December 2021 that could have cost him his life, one that he has a large scar and a rod in his non-throwing arm, and still has a loss of feeling on the outside of his hand, this is Otto’s first year pitching again.

He is only able to pitch; swinging a bat is out of the question.

“I shattered my ulna, fractured my humerus, dislocated my shoulder, and partially severed my ulnar nerve. They told me I’d never come back and play again, and I didn’t think I would. I’m proving them wrong each and every single day and it couldn’t feel better. I’m finally back up to what I can do, what I feel like I can do. It feels good to see the payoff,” Otto said.

Otto had thrown a baseball just once before the first game of this season. With the support of teammates, some he grew up with, and played with throughout high school, he found himself in a position in wanting to come back to the Monticello team.

Manager Gary Revenig told Otto he was going to keep penciling him on the roster card until he showed up.

“It feels good to shoot the breeze with the guys. To be a part of something like this, it’s special. It feels like old times being around guys I used to play with, guys my brother used to play with. We’ve had that chemistry throughout, even when we weren’t playing. The times we have in the dugout together, this team keeps gelling and getting better and better,” Otto said.

Gelling is something Otto and Wilcox have built this season as well. Wilcox, a Big Lake High School graduate, joined Monticello two seasons ago after the Big Lake team folded.

“I have all of the confidence in the world in what he’s calling. I rarely shake him off,” Otto said of Wilcox. “I trust him. He knows what he’s doing. He’s an experienced ball player like myself.”

“It’s all feel when it comes to calling pitches. If you’re watching each pitch, watching each batter, you get a feel of what to call the next time the batter comes up. With Otto executing all three pitches to perfection, it was throw the sign down and sit back and wait for the ball to hit my glove. It was a beautiful thing,” Wilcox said.

Sam Dokkebakken and Jason Axelberg each had RBI-singles in the first and fifth innings for Monticello with Wilcox driving in two runs with an eighth-inning double to the wall for the 4-0 lead.

Cole Christensen surrendered two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts over six innings in the loss for Raymond.

Monticello draws Bluffton in the second round on Friday, Aug. 25, in Litchfield.

AVON 4, RED WING 0

Three early runs were plenty for Avon starter Dominic Austing, who struck out nine batters, allowing four hits in eight innings, in a 4-0 win over Red Wing on Sunday.

Reese Gregory pitched the ninth inning to preserve the win for the Lakers.

Elian Mezquita went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Joe Dolan and Ryan Janzen each had double and scored a run for Avon. The Lakers scored twice in the first inning, adding a single run in the second inning.

Zach Harding had a double for Red Wing, one of five Aces to record a hit. Ben Kuehni pitched 4 2/3 innings, surrendering one hit with four strikeouts of shutout ball.

Avon plays Hibbing at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27 in the second round.

MAPLE LAKE 12, UNION HILL 8 (11)

Maple Lake brought the lumber early on, Union Hill scratched and clawed all the way back from an eight-run deficit.

Twice 90 feet away from a defeat, Maple Lake pulled through, scoring four runs in the 11th inning, defeating the Bulldogs 12-8 on Sunday.

The Lakers had 11 hits early on, a Hunter Malachek home run capping an 8-0 lead in the sixth inning. Malachek, who took the no-decision, pitching the first six innings, finished 4-for-5 with four runs scored and a double.

The middle of the Maple Lake lineup did damage throughout. Ben Clapp and Donnie Mavencamp each had RBI-hits, while catcher Matt Bergstrom, returning to his former home park in Dassel, and Riley Decker, each had three hits and two RBIs.

It was Bergstrom’s 11th-inning RBI-single that broke the 8-all tie, the first of four runs in the extra frame.

Union Hill rallied for four runs in the sixth and eighth innings to tie the game. Nate Lee was one of six Bulldogs to record RBIs, driving in a pair. Conrad Masberg’s three hits were part of a 15-hit attack for Union Hill, which at one point in the game was being outhit 11-1.

The Bulldogs had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth inning and had runners on second and third base with one out in the 10th inning, but were unable to score in either situation.

Jordan Flick, a draftee from Dassel-Cokato, pitched four innings of relief, for the win. Flick induced a pair of ground balls to escape the 11th inning. In the 10th inning with the bases loaded, a pop out on a 3-2 count extended the game.

Maple Lake draws Courtland in the second round at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27.

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