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Rockets ready to blast off to state

RAYMOND -- All systems are go as the Raymond Rockets are set to launch into the Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament this weekend in Red Wing and Miesville.

RAYMOND -- All systems are go as the Raymond Rockets are set to launch into the Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament this weekend in Red Wing and Miesville.

The Rockets will open against St. Patrick at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Red Wing.

"I think we have good chance," said Raymond manager Butch Steen, who guided the Rockets to a tie for fifth place after going 3-2 in last season's state tournament. "We have a good defense and we've been getting good pitching."

Plus, the Rockets are hitting .308 as a team, led by leadoff hitter and center fielder Mike Kluver at .419 and powered by designated hitter Kyle Knott, who has 12 home runs and 55 RBI.

Steen said the Rockets will likely start left-hander Mark Krogstad, a draftee from the Willmar Rails, in the first game against St. Patrick.

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"I'm a little surprised they picked me, but I'm also excited," said Krogstad, who posted a 3-2 record and a 1.68 ERA with the Rails this season. "I'm nervous because they are putting their hopes on me. But I'm looking forward to the challenge. I've never played in a state tournament of any kind before.

Raymond lost one of its top pitchers, Tyler Knott, to a broken ankle early in the season. The tall right-hander has only logged nine innings this season and probably won't be available in the state tournament.

Tom DeBoer, a hard-throwing right-hander, has a 10-1 record and a 1.50 ERA. He is expected to get the call if the Rockets advance to the second day.

The team must win its first two games to advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament.

Raymond can also get mound help from Nate Hebrink (9-2, 1.94 ERA), Mike Kragenbring (4-0, 0.66), Ron Hoekstra (3-1, 3.50) and Zach Nelson (2-3, 4.17). The Rockets also drafted Jesse Bjur from Bird Island and Brian Kingery from Atwater. Both pitched in the Region 9C tournament.

Steen is projecting this starting lineup for the first game:

Kluver, center field; Jed Nelson (.345), third base; Knott, designated hitter; Kragenbring, catcher; Jason Meyer (.274), shortstop; Mike Jeseritz (.304), first base; Zach Nelson (.287), second base; DeBoer (.341), right field; Adam Schieck (.328), left field. Knott could DH for Krogstad or Nick Koewler, who would play first base and Jeseritz would move to the outfield.

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