Amateur baseball notebook: Raymond's task: Win 2 or go home
Rockets face Milroy in a Region 4C elimination game at 11 a.m. Saturday in Glenwood
GLENWOOD — Butch Steen is the definition of a baseball guy.
The long-time Raymond Rockets manager and former player has a clear understanding of what’s at stake this weekend in the Region 4C tournament.
For the Rockets, it’s simple: Win two or go home.
“Anything can happen,” said Steen, knowing that whatever happens will be a stern challenge to his club.
Raymond faces Milroy in an elimination game of the Region 4C tournament at 11 a.m. Saturday at Marthaler Field near Minnewaska Area High School.
A victory over the Yankees, no small task, would mean that Raymond would need another victory in a 4 p.m. game Saturday. In that one, the Raymond/Milroy winner plays the Regal/Paynesville winner in another elimination game. Regal and Paynesville play at 1:30 p.m.
The winner of the 4 p.m. game earns a berth in the 98th state tournament Aug. 21-23 at Milroy and Springfield.
“Oh my gosh,” Steen said when asked about Saturday’s task. “We play Milroy first and they’ve beaten us twice this year already.
“Then, we’d play Regal or Paynesville and Regal’s really good. Paynesville has been playing awfully good in the region.”
Region 4C concludes Sunday. Bird Island and host Starbuck are in the winners’ bracket and already have clinched two of three berths awarded to 4C for the state tournament.
Raymond fell to Milroy 7-6 on June 19 in an exhibition at Yankee Stadium. The Rockets were up 6-1, but Milroy rallied late as both teams made substitutions.
The teams met July 19 at Lilleberg Field in Raymond for the Corn Belt League championship. Milroy won 7-5.
“(Milroy’s) Matt Bauer hit a three-run home run in the first inning and that kind of set the pace right there,” Steen said.
Steen anticipates seeing right-hander Austin Deutz, Milroy’s ace. Though, left-hander Nathan Deutz also could pitch.
The Rockets, meanwhile, are likely to throw Jose Rosario. The right-hander from Puerto Rico dominated in Raymond’s 10-0, eight-inning win over New London-Spicer on Sunday.
Steen said Rosario threw 74 pitches of which 58 were for strikes and 16 were balls.
“I’ve watched a lot of baseball and played a lot of baseball and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that before,” Steen said. “They (the Twins) had three hits, and they were all Texas-leaguers.”
Rosario, who used to work for Jennie-O in Willmar, has emerged as the Rockets’ ace.
“He’s just an outstanding guy,” Steen said.
Alex Lotthammer, who has been Raymond’s No. 1, hasn’t played for much of the summer. Lotthammer’s girlfriend had COVID-19, then Lotthammer tested positive for it, Steen said.
He came back, then had symptoms. Amateur baseball protocols have caused him two miss two long stretches, each 14 days plus, because of it.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster ride,” Steen said.
Lotthammer pitched last weekend. Steen hopes to have him available this weekend as well. Right-hander Caleb Ditmarson, a new addition this season from Willmar, has pitched a lot of key innings for the Rockets.
Meanwhile, John Sawatzky, another Raymond pitcher, is now the primary catcher. Tyler Steen has an elbow issue and has been told not to throw. He has been the Rockets’ primary designated hitter.
Butch Steen also said that second baseman Eric Hulterstrum, who batted third Sunday, has a pulled hamstring. His status is uncertain Saturday.
“You can have one DH, but you can’t have two,” Steen said.
Big game for Elrosa
Like Raymond, the Elrosa Saints are in a must-win situation this weekend. Elrosa plays the St. Martin Martins at 11 a.m. Saturday in Greenwald.
If Elrosa wins, it qualifies for one of Region 15C’s four state berths. If it loses, the Stearns County League North Division champs are done for the summer.
“We get to think about the off-season,” Elrosa manager A.J. Hadley said.
The Saints, of course, would prefer to think about the state tournament.
The other 15C elimination game features Lake Henry vs. Spring Hill at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Greenwald.
Watkins and Kimball, both members of the Central Valley League, are in the winners’ bracket and have qualified for state. Region 15C play concludes Sunday.
St. Martin, tied for the Stearns County South title with Richmond, is led by right-hander Scott Lieser. Hadley expects the former St. Cloud State star and Milwaukee Brewers minor-leaguer to get the start.
“I’ve made that assumption,” he quipped.
The Saints will counter with either left-hander Payton Van Beck or New Munich Silverstreak left-hander Ty Reller. Reller beat St. Martin during the regular season.
The Martins handed Elrosa its lone league loss, 3-2 in 13 innings.
Elrosa has veteran right-handers Ethan Vogt and Aaron Voigt.
“It’s all hands on deck Saturday,” Hadley said. “We might use all of them.”
The Saints are also dealing with the loss of Kevin Kuefler, their centerfielder and lead-off hitter. He broke his wrist diving for a ball in an exhibition game against Becker.
Elrosa has moved Matt Schmitz, its usual No. 3 hitter, to the top of the order. Austin Imdieke has taken over in center.
The Saints fell into the losers’ bracket when Lake Henry, which went 2-7 in the regular season, beat Elrosa in the first round. Hadley said he wasn’t surprised. The Lakers, who were state runner-ups in 2017, always play well at the end of the season.
Like Elrosa, Lake Henry needs to play well Saturday to get back to state.