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Sacred Heart's ready; Jordan eyes 4th straight

SACRED HEART -- It doesn't matter if you're watching "Baseball Tonight" on ESPN, listening to a baseball broadcast on the radio or reading a preview in the newspaper, the same words come out when discussing postseason play: Pitching and defense wins championships.

"If we're playing good ball, pitch and play good defense, we're tough to beat," said Sacred Heart American Legion coach Steve Agre. "That's what you're going to have in a state tournament. You're not going to see a lot of runs scored on the first day."

Sacred Heart (13-9), the host team in the 2008 Division II State American Legion Tournament, will face La Crescent in the first round at 7 p.m. today.

The tournament starts with three-time defending champion Jordan taking on Pipestone at 9:30 a.m., followed by Staples-Motley vs. Red Lake County at noon and Wheaton vs. Ely at 4 p.m.

Jordan (21-10) reflects the great pitching part of the success equation, with its two main starters boasting ERAs under 2.00. T.J. Oakes leads the staff with a 1.03 ERA in 54Zc innings and Joe Lucas is at 1.76 in 55Xc innings.

Ely (20-14), La Crescent (20-3) and Red Lake County (22-5) competed in last year's tournament, which was held in Ely.

Staples-Motley (13-5) and Wheaton (17-6) are each making their first appearance since the tournament changed formats to eight teams in 1995.

"I think its fun because there are teams here that haven't been here before. Staples-Motley and Wheaton finally got over the hurdle," Agre said.

Sacred Heart, the state and regional champion in 2000 and a 2005 tournament participant, started the season strong, but lost to Granite Falls twice in the sub-district tournament.

"One of our goals was to earn our way in, but that didn't happen," said Agre. "Another was having a respectable record coming in."

Dakota Freiborg leads Sacred Heart in almost every offensive category with a .430 average, 31 hits in 73 at-bats, eight extra-base hits and 12 RBI. Trent Novotny and Mike Fischer have two home runs each.

Phil Erickson heads the pitching staff with a 6-2 record in 51Zc innings. He has a 4.30 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 25 walks. Freiborg has a 1.80 ERA in 38Xc innings with 53 strikeouts and 15 walks.

Team Capules

SACRED HEART

Host team

Record: 13-9

Coach: Steve Agre

Last tournament appearance: 2005

Highest tournament finish: first (2000)

Leading hitters: Dakota Freiborg: 31-for-73 (.430 average), 6 doubles, 12 runs, 12 rbi; Drew Hultquist: 17-for-56 (.310), 11 runs; Paul Peterson: 15-for-49 (.310), 14 runs, 8 rbi; Trent Novotny: 17-for-58 (.300), 2 home runs, 13 runs

Leading pitchers: Phil Erickson: 6-2, 51Zc innings, 44 strikeouts, 4.30 era; Dakota Freiborg: 4-3, 38Xc innings, 53 strikeouts, 1.80 era

LaCRESCENT

District 1 champion

Record: 20-3

Coach: Jamie Muller

Last tournament appearance: 2007

Highest tournament finish: first (1997)

Leading hitters: Ryan Minegar: 30-for-59 (.508), 7 doubles, 23 runs, 15 rbi; Levon Mueller: 28-for-57 (.491), 7 doubles, 28 runs, 22 rbi; Brandon Verthein: 24-for-59 (.407), 3 home runs, 24 runs, 11 rbi; Tim Verthein: 20-for-58 (.345), 5 doubles, 14 rbi

Leading pitchers: Tim Verthein: 7-1, 51 innings, 58 strikeouts, 1.10 era; Brandon Verthein: 6-1, 37 innings, 39 strikeouts, 1.14 era

PIPESTONE

District 2 champion

Record: 17-3

Coach: Steve Moffitt

Last tournament appearance: 2005

Highest tournament finish: second (2005)

Leading hitters: Brandon Alfson: 16-for-32 (.500), 12 runs, 14 RBI; Jordan Karels: 22-for-53 (.415), 4 doubles, 17 runs, 18 RBI; Colin Taubert: 23-for-56 (.410), 3 triples, 26 runs, 12 rbi; Doug Mead: 20-for-49 (.408), 4 triples, 28 runs, 19 RBI

Leading pitchers: Greg Quist: 4-0, 23 innings, 25 strikeouts, 0.91 era; Bryce Beyers: 4-0, 23Xc innings, 26 strikeouts, 1.77 era

JORDAN

District 3 champion

Record: 21-10

Coach: Ron Beckman

Last tournament appearance: 2007

Highest tournament finish: first (2007, 2006, 2005)

Leading hitters: Steven Beckman: 37-for-95 (.389), 9 doubles, 33 runs, 20 rbi; Joe Lucas: 33-for-96 (.344), 7 doubles, 3 triples, 26 runs, 20 rbi; Jordan Kivei: 31-for-94 (.330), 8 doubles, 23 runs, 30 rbi; Tyler Dabu: 25-for-79 (.316), 13 runs, 13 rbi

Leading pitchers: Joe Lucas: 7-3, 55Xc innings, 58 strikeouts, 1.76 era; T.J. Oakes: 6-2, 54Zc innings, 64 strikeouts, 1.03 era

STAPLES-MOTLEY

District 6 champion

Record: 13-5

Coach: John Riewer

Last tournament appearance: none

Highest tournament finish: none

Leading hitters: Trevor Ness: 27-for-54 (.500), 22 runs; Colton Thompson: 13-for-27 (.481), 12 runs; Jordan Riewer: 21-for-57 (.368), 16 runs; Anthony Jenkins: 14-for-46 (.304), 10 runs

Leading pitchers: Jordan Riewer: 5-0, 37 innings, 49 strikeouts, 0.94 era; Devin Becker: 3-2, 30Xc innings, 11 strikeouts, 3.88 era

WHEATON

District 7 champion

Record: 17-6

Coach: Paul Thielen

Last tournament appearance: none

Highest tournament finish: none

Leading hitters: Sam Thielen: 34-for-69 (.493), 5 doubles, 4 triples, 29 runs, 25 rbi; Luke Schmitz: 33-for-68 (.485), 7 doubles, 5 home runs, 29 runs, 35 rbi; Lucas Kracht: 29-for-68 (.426), 5 doubles, 26 runs, 9 rbi; Ryan Schwagel: 23-for-58 (.397), 24 runs, 13 rbi

Leading pitchers: Jay Nelson: 6-0, 39 innings, 43 strikeouts, 0.54 era; Ryan Schwagel: 5-1, 29 innings, 23 strikeouts, 4.59 era

ELY

District 8 champion

Record: 20-14

Coach: Tom Coombe

Last tournament appearance: 2007

Highest tournament finish: second (2004, 1998, 1997)

Leading hitters: Ben Povhe: 40-for-90 (.444), 7 doubles, 9 home runs, 35 runs, 43 rbi; A,J, Pope: 35-for-85 (.412), 9 doubles, 36 runs, 13 rbi; Tyler Cramer: 30-for-84 (.357), 5 doubles, 21 runs, 29 rbi; Kyle Forsman: 15-for-46 (.326), 13 runs, 15 rbi

Leading pitchers: Tyler Blomberg: 8-2, 70Zc innings, 113 strikeouts, 0.99 era; Tyler Cramer: 4-3, 43Xc innings, 38 strikeouts, 3.53 era

RED LAKE COUNTY

District 9 champion

Coach: Arlan Weiss

Last tournament appearance: 2007

Highest tournament finish: third (2007)

Leading hitters: Casey Cardinal: 37-for-72 (.513), 5 doubles, 12 home runs, 36 runs; Nolan Knott: 24-for-72 (.333), 28 runs; Ethan Paradis: 16-for-49 (.326), 3 home runs, 17 runs; Jeff Weiss: 24-for-76 (.315), 31 runs

Leading pitchers: Jeff Weiss: 6-1, 35Xc innings, 36 strikeouts; Nolan Knott: 5-0, 35 innings, 37 strikeouts; Steve Morinville: 5-1, 31Xc innings, 30 strikeouts

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