PREP BASEBALL: Experienced Falcons hoping to soar at state
LAMBERTON – It’s been a special and historic season for the Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove baseball team. The Falcons finished the regular season with a 22-3 record and stamped their ticket to the state tournament for the first time in program history last week with a 5-2 victory over the Wabasso Rabbits in the section tournament.
“There are a lots of different words you could use to describe our season,” RRC/WWG coach, Derrick Jenniges said. “For the players hopefully it was memorable. For the coaches it was rewarding.”
The Falcons have been led this year by 12 seniors. It’s a group that has been playing together since they were old enough to carry a glove in one hand a bat in the other.
“These guys have been a big part of our program ever since they started back in third grade,” Jenniges said. “They put their time in and put themselves in a position where they can be successful. They’ve built off the success they had last spring and the success they enjoyed in other sports this past year.”
The 12 seniors for the Falcons are, Jordan Martius, Devon Evans, Evan Blomgren, Cole Jackson, Corey maras, Jeffrey Coners, Mitchell Willhite, Taylor Bunting, Cole Pankonin, Trevor Pederson and Skyler Reddemann. It’s a group that has stuck together through the many ups and downs they’ve experienced together during their time on the diamond.
“Anytime you can have a group of kids that can stick together they really learn to play together,” Jenniges said. “They learn how to believe in one another and rely on each other. I think that’s probably the greatest strength. They believe that every time one of their teammates come up to the plate that they are going to get a hit. If there is a play that needs to be made they believe that the play will be made by that individual and come through for the group.”
The special bond that the seniors have built over the years has been the strength of this year’s team. Through the years of going to battle together they’ve learned to play the game the right way and have been a great influence for the younger players on the team.
“The senior leadership is a huge part our success,” Jenniges said. “I think we pride ourselves on making the right plays on defense. We are always there to back one another up. We also pride ourselves on hitting with two strikes. We foul off tough pitches and make the defense work. We run the bases the right way. It’s a whole group effort.”
The Falcons enter the state tournament on a 15-game winning streak. During that stretch the Falcons are averaging 8.8 runs per game and have scored five or more runs in every single game except one. It’s not quite murderer’s row. However, Jenniges said that every batter from one to nine understands their role.
“We like to think of it as two different lineups,” Jenniges said. “The guys in the middle are the guys that can string together a few doubles. At the bottom we have guys that are capable of beating out a ground ball or getting a good bunt down. They can steal some bases. We give the defense a couple of different looks and they really have to be prepared.”
With the bats booming, Taylor Bunting has been dealing on the mound.
“Taylor has been an important guy on the mound for us for four years,” Jenniges said. “He has been through the grind. He’s been through the ups and downs. I think he’s learned how to work his way through those situations. He really believes that his defense is going to make plays.”
The Falcons will open up the state tournament today against Fosston at 12:30 p.m. The game will be played in Jordan at Mini Met.
Fosston enters the state tournament on a 12-game winning streak and owns an overall record of 22-2. During that 12-game winning streak Fosston has five shutouts.
“We need to play the same game we’ve played our entire life’s,” Jenniges said. “They need to throw strikes. They need to get a two-out hit. We don’t want them to look at the game any differently. It’s the same game they’ve been playing since they were eight years old. It’s at a different venue and at a different time of the year. But it’s still a baseball game. Everybody has the same job.”