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PREP BASEBALL: Marshall prepared for state opener against Grand Rapids

Independent file photo Marshall’s AJ Toulouse looks up after scoring a run during their Section 2AAA tournament game against New Ulm on June 5. Marshall will face Grand Rapids today in the Class AAA tournament quarterfinals.

MARSHALL — After having last season canceled due to COVID-19, the Marshall baseball team is back at the state tournament and are coming off two of its best wins of the season, with Marshall defeating No. 1-ranked Mankato West 6-2 and 2-1 in the Section 2AAA tournament last week to reach its third trip to state in the past five years.

“We’re playing our best baseball right now,” Marshall coach Chace Pollock said. “Beating Mankato West twice shows that and we’re excited about seeing what’s next.”

Marshall (17-6) earned the No. 4 seed in the Class AAA tournament and will face No. 5 Grand Rapids in the quarterfinals today at 12:30 p.m. at the Mini-Met in Jordan. Grand Rapids enters the tournament with an 17-7 record and are coming off a 6-0 victory against Chisago Lakes in the Section 7AAA tournament. The Thunderhawks also have won 13 of their past 14 games, including the last seven in a row.

Grand Rapids has a mix of youth and experience on its roster, including four seniors in Chris Pederson, Kodi Miller, Wyatt Holcomb and Andrew Sundberg and eight juniors in Ben Keske, Garett Drotts, Walker Ritter, Dan Wohlers, Erik Overlee, Andy Linder, Ren Morque and Jake Overlee. The rest of the roster are comprised of sophomores Myles Gunderson, David Wohlers and Kyle Henke and freshmen Nolan Svatos, Easton Sjostrand, Jake Garski, Dominic Broberg and Kyler Miller.

Entering today, Grand Rapids has averaged just over six runs per game (6.125) and has outscored opponents 147-78 this season. Meanwhile, Marshall enters the tournament also averaging a little more than six runs per game (6.26) and has outscored opponents 144-90 this year. Pollock said they’ve faced Grand Rapids many times throughout their history and knows it will be a competitive matchup.

“We’re on opposite ends of the state but we’ve played each other many times before in the past,” Pollock said. “They’re a big hockey community but they’ve got some good ballplayers and it’ll be a very good game between two teams that are a lot alike. But other than that, I don’t know a lot about them, which is nice because we’ve seen the same teams pretty much all year.”

Marshall has plenty of experience on its roster, led by the team’s 10 seniors in Chase Douglas, Josh Baker, Cole Felcyn, AJ Toulouse, Mitchell Bouwman, Jack Bly, Jacob Hughes, Brock Schultz, Zach Allen and Benson Kuecker and six juniors in Keaton Maertens, Jacob Eben, Seth Radtke, Connor Neubeck, Charlie Jacobson and Owen Knochenmus. The rest of the roster is comprised of sophomores Tyler Maeyaert, Andrew Wallen and Zach Leibfried and freshman Talan Plante.

Pollock said they’ve tried to keep things simple as of late to prepare for Tuesday.

“We’ve just kept things simple,” Pollock said. “A lot of the work was done in the beginning and the middle of the year, but we’ll get some practice in before heading to Jordan on Tuesday.”

The rest of the Class AAA tournament will be St. Thomas Academy, Mendota Heights (17-9) taking on top-seeded Willmar (22-2), Albert Lea (12-11) taking on second-seeded Sartell (21-3) and Sauk Rapids-Rice (10-12) taking on Mahtomedi (17-5). Three of those teams (Willmar, Sauk Rapids-Rice and Sartell) all come from the Central Lakes Conference.

As they head into the state tournament, Pollock said they’re looking forward to having the opportunity to keep their season going and spend more time with each other as a team.

“We’re excited to continue to play; we’re a very close-knit group and it’s fun to be around the guys,” Pollock said. “They will have an experience that will last a lifetime and we’re just happy to be around each other a little while longer.”

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