Almost two full weeks will have passed from the Miesville Mudhens’ playoff sweep of the Rochester Royals and their first game in the Class B state tournament. Every single day of that break is critical for Miesville as they battle a spate of injuries that have popped up over the final weeks of the regular season, though they have won 14 straight games over that span. So the Mudhens will not play any tune-up games in between then and now, but rather will focus on getting healthy to make another run at a Class B state championship.
Deryk Marks and Tanner Vavra have both battled injuries this summer but will hopefully recover in time for state. Hardest hit is the pitching staff as Steve Maher, Shannon Ahern and Connor Malcom all missed significant amounts of time and it sounds like Malcom is done for the season. Jacob Dickmeyer missed a month while in Europe but returned for July and has worked himself back into shape over the last month, which has provided the team with a boost.
“We’ve been kind of injured the last couple weeks, we’ve had a lot of guys go down,” said manager Chris Olean. “Deryk was hurt, Ahern was kind of knocked out for a while, that knocks out two of our starters at this point. We’re just starting to get Dicky (Dickmeyer) built back up which is really good timing, but I think more than anything we were just happy we took care of Rochester in two games and didn’t have to go into a third and now we have two whole weeks off to kind of get guys back healthy and hopefully be geared up for a run.”
Despite the injuries, Miesville has played well to end the regular season and in the playoffs, though veteran Matt Van Der Bosch believes the team has yet to play its best ball.
“I think we’ve been playing very well, I don’t actually think we’ve played our best baseball as of yet, throughout this whole season,” he said. “I think we’ve been a little inconsistent when it comes to our lineup throughout the season. We’ve had a lot of players here or there that have been unavailable, available, due to work, life commitments and things like that. Hopefully that will be coming here at state. I do think game one against Rochester was probably the best game we played all year.”
Miesville went 20-6 overall during the regular season, 12-3 in the Classic Cannon Valley League and 7-3 in Section 1B. They started the year with six straight wins, but then went 2-6 from mid-June to the start of July. However, they rebounded quickly and have won their last 14 games and counting. Olean said part of the problem during the rough stretch in June was an inconsistent and changing roster from game to game.
“It’s always a little bit different in the summer, it depends on who you have,” he said. “For us, we usually have a pretty good amount of college kids who have some different commitments, whether it’s Northwoods League and things like that, so our roster kind of flipped over a couple of different times throughout the summer. I think you’ll see that as the record went up and down, it kind of depends on who was there and when we had guys, when we had pitching.”
However, both Olean and Van Der Bosch identified both younger and veteran players who helped anchor the team over the course of the season.
“Guys like Joey Werner, Brad Goulet, Dylan Blake this year, they’ve all stepped up and been there consistently and producing consistently,” Van Der Bosch said. “Austin LaDoux has probably been the biggest, I wouldn’t say surprise, but I didn’t know he would be playing with us until later in the spring. He’s played multiple positions and played them very well, he’s had a very good season. It has been nice having those guys. In the future it would be good for the organization to have those guys kind of be the mainstay veterans from this point on.”
“Obviously Vandy (Van Der Bosch) was pretty steady throughout the whole thing, he was kind of the anchor that kept everybody together,” Olean said. “I thought Austin LaDoux too, has really picked it up from where he was at the start of the year, where he was really scuffling to now where he’s a very reliable bat. Nate Hammes has been pretty consistent throughout the year as well just with steady at-bats and being there.”
Miesville continues to slowly get younger while still sporting veterans like Van Der Bosch, Marks, Hammes, Brian Sprout and Jordy Horsch. The Mudhens had six players -- who are either right out of high school up to their mid-20s -- register at least 50 at-bats and a total of eight with at least 20: Blake, Goulet, LaDoux, Reed Collins, Brenden McKevitt, Joey Werner, Josh Rehwaldt and Max Morris.
Marks led all Miesville hitters with a .435 average and five home runs, while Van Der Bosch hit .412 and Rehwaldt .417. LaDoux had 21 RBI and Hammes added 18 while hitting .370. Hammes also scored 23 runs and Marks and Blake both crossed home 16 times apiece.
They had five pitchers throw over 20 innings this season and Thomas Shogren was the leader by a long shot with 53 ⅓ innings pitched. He compiled a 6-1 record with one save, a 2.19 ERA and 46 strikeouts. Van Der Bosch praised Shogren for being an innings eater, especially with the rash of injuries to the pitching staff. Dickmeyer (5-0 with a save) and Spencer Kopp (3-1 with two saves) threw 35 ⅓ and 34 ⅔ innings respectively, with Dickmeyer sporting a sterling 1.53 ERA.
Both Van Der Bosch and Olean said that the key will be what their lineup looks like as the state tournament starts. Since the state tournament runs so late, many teams that make it lose some or all of their college players as they head back to school. But despite losing a few of their younger contributors -- Goulet, Collins and McKevitt -- Olean mentioned that he hopes that will be offset by guys coming back from injury and is cautiously optimistic. They will also see the return of Ronnie Sweeny, who has been playing in the Northwoods League this summer.
“We had a nice start, but we always kind of say ‘what’s our lineup going to look like at the end of August’ and that’s kind of what you always gear towards,” he said. “I think this year we’ll actually be a bit better than we were last year in terms of the number of guys we have around so we’re a little optimistic.”
“Realistically we need three guys who can start and two or three relievers and we can get through a state tournament,” Olean added.
Brackets for Class B tentatively come out either Sunday night or Monday and Miesville will play either Friday, Saturday or Sunday in Maple Lake, Delano or Dassel.