When leading off a game, Randolph's Andrew Wenstrom always had one goal in mind: score the first run.
Whether he was on the mound or at second base, scoring the first run meant a lot. It put pressure on the other team and eased his mind when pitching.
With fellow senior Joey Erickson batting behind him, Wenstrom said the two routinely got on base in front of AJ Weidner, Dane Ehleringer and Matt Weber.
"It was almost guaranteed one of those guys would drive us in," Wenstrom said. "I always wanted the lead first. It was nice to pitch with the lead."
The formula for scoring worked well for the Rockets, who compiled a 22-4 record this season. Wenstrom, the Republican Eagle Player of the Year, had a stellar year in leading the Rockets. However, it became much easier to reflect on the season he had once it was over.
"Nobody cared about their stats during the season," Wenstrom said. "We just wanted to win. Looking back at it now, to see all that we've done, it's fun to see all of the accolades."
Following a successful football season in which he had 59 total touchdowns and led the Rockets to a section championship, Wenstrom had a productive basketball season during which he averaged nearly 10 points per game, helping the Rockets reach a section championship game.
On the mound as the ace and batting leadoff all season, Wenstrom overpowered hitters and was a hard out at the plate en route to a section championship and first state birth in program history.
"If you go back to last school year, we went to the section championship in baseball. So we were in four straight section championships," Wenstrom said. "It was a big relief for us seniors to finally win one. We finally broke through. After losing in football and basketball, it was nice to win one."
A four-year starter, Wenstrom leaves the baseball team with a four school records: career games played, career wins, career strikeouts and career hits.
This year, Wenstrom totaled 33 hits and scored 33 runs as the Rockets' leadoff man. He batted .402 and drove in 20 runs.
On the mound, Wenstrom regularly blew his fastball by hitters. He often used a high fastball to set up his off-speed pitches, racking up 93 strikeouts. If a batter chased his fastball, they usually swung late and missed. If the batter took the fastball for a ball, they often swung early on the off-speed resulting in a strikeout or a weakly-hit ball.
Part-time coach and former Rocket pitcher Nate Overby had a lot of influence on the entire Rocket pitching staff.
"Since pitching is his passion, (Overby) has a keen eye for an adjustment a player may need in becoming more consistent," Randolph head coach Chris Stanton said in an email.
After the Rockets 11-1 win over Sebeka in the state consolation semifinals, Overby said he stressed throwing more off-speed pitches after high fastballs from the beginning of the season.
"I talked about how well that worked for me," Overby said. "That's what my friends and I used to do when we were 12 all the way up to graduating high school, 0-2, 1-2 zip it up by their neck. ... If the batter doesn't do anything, you can throw something slow and away. It's hard to adjust to that."
As a freshman, Wenstrom watched then-ace and teammate Overby pitch for the Rockets. Overby made a return as his coach in Wenstrom's senior year.
Having Overby back to guide the pitching staff, making them aware of situational pitching, Wenstrom appreciated having him in the dugout again.
"Everything came full circle," Wenstrom said. "It's nice to have someone with a wealth of knowledge."
After falling to Hayfield in the state consolation championship, Stanton likened Wenstrom to a former Rocket.
"He'll probably go down as one of the best athletes we've had," Stanton said. "Besides someone like (professional pitcher) Caleb Thielbar, him and Andrew are probably the two best athletes we've ever had."
Wenstrom said he's received similar compliments from other coaches. Some opposing catchers have given some too, even asking if he'll play in college.
Wenstrom said he knows a lot of people have wondered if he will play sports in college and many more have asked him about it.
"The plan is to still attend (University of Minnesota, Mankato) and focus on my education," he said.
Whatever Wenstrom decides, he said he's thought about next year's baseball team.
"I really hope they make it back," Wenstrom said. "I think they will and they'll make more memories. Hopefully they are able to enjoy it as much as we did this year."