The summer of 2019 was a season of change for the Hastings Hawks with the team in the middle of two transitions. The Hawks continued to bring in young players to build around and this past winter made their move to Class C from Class B official, which put them among similar teams in terms of roster construction and talent.
“I think overall it’s a better fit for us with how I constructed the team, I just think a lot of the Class C teams are more locally based,” said Hawks manager Shawn Matson. “Look at our roster and it’s all Hastings, we have just one kid who’s not from Hastings or Cottage Grove, I like that aspect of it.”
There are three classes — A, B and C — for town baseball teams that are part of the Minnesota Baseball Association. Which class a team belongs in is based on a points system that evaluates their roster, geographic area and team success.
A team is assessed one point for every 1,000 people in their city/town or school district, five points for each player who has played professional ball, four for Division I college experience, three for DII, two for DIII or NAIA and one for junior college. Players 34 years old or older do not accrue points, unless they are part of what is called the “hometown rule”. As for team success — which is limited to the prior five years — the criteria between Class B and Class C are different. For Class C, a championship is worth 12 points, in the final two 10 points, final four eight points, final eight six points, final 16 four points and a state tournament appearance is two points. In Class B, a final four is 18 points, final eight 12 points and a state tournament appearance would be six points. The cutoff between Class B and Class C for 2019 was 49 points, a mark that Hastings was well below.
There are 18 players listed on Hastings’ roster and only two reside outside Hastings and Cottage Grove — Ben Bundschu who is listed as being from Maplewood and Dennis Reinhart from Rosemount. The Hawks’ youth movement is reflected on that roster, as 10 of the 18 graduated high school in the last couple years. From Hastings there is Douglas Nordine, Cody Lewison, Cory Wolters, Blake Warner, Jake Dale and Cole Benson, while Jason Greeder, Brenden Kruger and Evan Krhin are from Cottage Grove on top of Reinhart. Matson said he continues to be impressed by his young players.
“Absolutely, our young guys were awesome this year. Blake Warner made a huge, huge step forward for us this year and ended the year as probably our best hitter, I’m pretty sure he led the team in average,” he said. “Cory Wolters is another guy that really improved a lot for us this year, Cole Benson had a huge year for us. All the young guys are going off to play college baseball now and that’s not a bad thing at all.”
Hastings went 6-16 during the regular season, including 5-9 in the Classic Cannon Valley League and 5-3 against fellow Class C teams in the Randolph Railcats, Cannon Falls Bombers, Red Wing Aces and Lake City Serpents. During the Region 5C play-in games for those four teams and the Hawks, Hastings lost two games to Lake City 8-4 and 5-3 to see their season end. In those Class C matchups during the regular season, the Hawks outscored their opponents 43-30. They beat Randolph twice, Lake City twice and Cannon Falls once.
Looking back at their season, Matson said he was very happy with their offense and expects it to be just as good next season. Warner led the team at the plate as he hit .400 with four RBI, six walks and nine runs scored. Not far behind was Dale at .386, while Adam Medlicott finished with a .315 average and Lewison .302. Lewison led the team with 11 RBI, while Wes Hedlund had eight and Benson and Medlicott seven apiece.
Heading into the offseason, Matson said that adding pitching will be a priority, as well as utilizing what they already have more.
“Pitching is probably what I’m going to try and add to the most this offseason, but it was kind of a weird summer in a way,” he said. “I wasn’t quite able to get as many of our young guys as many innings as I would have in most cases liked to. But we had a little bit of a condensed schedule with the move to Class C, the playoffs start a week and a half earlier than they normally would have (in Class B). But that’s an adjustment we will make this year.”
The Hawks relied heavily upon Rick Wagner on the mound as he racked up 56 ⅓ innings and compiled a 2-4 record. Wagner was efficient with a 4.63 ERA and just nine walks compared to 27 strikeouts. The closest to Wagner in terms of pitching workload was Bundschu, who threw 24 ⅔ innings, finished with a 1-3 record and sported a 5.47 ERA. Also throwing double-digit innings for the Hawks were Nordine (2-1), Jordan Jeske (0-2) and Nick Horsch (1-1).
As of right now, Hastings has not had any retirements and are set to return most of the team in 2020. Matson said that their goal this summer was to make the region playoffs and that will remain the goal for next year, as he hopes the young players take the next step that will translate to winning ball.
“We’re a super young team and they’re all super talented and can help us win games in multiple ways, but I don’t know if they’ve quite figured out how to win at this level yet, but that’s something that’s going to come with more experience,” he said. “We had a lot of close, one, two run games that hopefully next year some of those spin our way.”