CLASS C ROUNDUP FRIDAY AT DASSEL: Waconia shuts out Watkins, 3-0

By Eric Kraushar

Some teams enjoy having the first weekend off as a region champion. Some teams would rather keep playing, keeping the momentum going from regions.

For Waconia, a veteran group, champions of Region 7C, the break was welcomed, but also a time where the team came together three times for practice. Each night well attended. The theme across the Lakers’ team is one that wants to win its first state championship.

“Having that bye can be a good thing or a bad thing,” Waconia first baseman AJ Friedrich said. “Sometimes playing that first weekend, it keeps everyone fresh, everyone rolling. We practiced last Wednesday, Monday and last night, everyone was there, hitting live pitching on the field, so I feel like we used the time to rest the bodies, which was a good thing, but also kept it going, used the time to clean things up, and be ready to go for tonight.” 

In their 2023 state tournament opener, in front of 702 fans at Saints Field in Dassel, Waconia got a combined five-hitter from pitchers Blake Tritch and Aaron Wukmir, and received clutch hits from the middle of its batting order, in a 3-0 win over Watkins on Aug. 25.

Chris Bullis was 3-for-4 for Waconia, plating single runs in the fourth and eighth innings. The Lakers also scored a second run in the fourth on an error.

Max Kalenberg (2-for-4, two runs), Jake Hendricks (2-for-3, run) and Bullis accounted for seven of the Lakers’ nine hits in the fourth, sixth and seventh spots in the batting order.

“(Watkins) is a great team,” Friedrich said. “We knew that coming in. We just had to battle up there and put good swings on the ball and put the ball in play. That’s the team we are. Hats off to Bullis, some other guys, that really got it done for us offensively tonight.” 

Tritch, the favorite to win the pitcher of the year award in the Crow River Valley League, a draftee from Mayer, scattered five hits, finishing with five strikeouts over seven innings in the win.

With Waconia ace Kodey Simon limited for the rest of the season, Tritch was the easy choice to get the ball.

“(Tritch) carved us up all year, so if you can’t beat him, it’s best to have him on your team. We knew when Mayer lost out in regions that he was a guy we wanted on our team,” Friedrich said. “Blake’s a gamer. He’s a guy you want on the mound for your team. Sammy (Schiffman) called a great game for him, and then we had Wuk on the back end of things. We’ve never had this much depth before. We feel really good about the arms we have.”

One week after striking out 19 batters in a shutout over Carlos in the first weekend of the state tournament, Watkins ace Matt Geislinger threw all eight innings, fanning seven batters, giving up nine hits, no walks and one earned run.

“Knowing we were going to face someone like Geislinger, we spent all week trying to simulate him. We had (Ryan) Naughton pitching to us with some live (at-bats), giving us that left-handed look,” Friedrich said.

The Clippers had runners in scoring position in the first and second innings but were unable to score. Watkins also had a runner thrown out at home plate on a wild pitch.

Carson Geislinger was 2-for-3 with a double for Watkins.

Waconia plays Bird Island at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2 in Dassel.

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