By Nick Gerhardt
The Class A state tournament begins Thursday in St. Paul and a lot remains to be seen once the tourney starts but one thing is for sure, our pollsters think it could be a wide-open race.
Minnetonka remains the presumptive favorite despite a third-place finish last year. The Millers grabbed all four first-place votes to remain the No. 1-ranked team heading into the tournament but after that it's kind of a toss-up.
St. Anthony ascended to the No. 2 ranking in the previous poll but the Hogs will share that spot with last year's runner-up Lyon's Pub. Meanwhile the St. Paul Capitals continued to rise up the rankings to claim the No. 4 spot.
Cue Rodney Dangerfield here, the defending champs St. Louis Park enter the tournament as the fifth-ranked team in the last poll of the season but make no mistake the Pirates will be a tough out.
The Minneapolis Cobras inched up a spot to No. 6 while the Tri-City Shark swarmed to the No. 7 ranking.
Kelley Fuels Diesel moved from receiving votes to the No. 8 spot in this poll while the Twin City Saints followed a similar path to claim the No. 9 spot.
The Hamel Hawks, making their first state tournament appearance since 1997 when they played in Class B, dropped to No. 10 and share the spot with Stockmen's Irish, though the Irish did not make the tournament.
The Class A state tournament begins Thursday in St. Paul at Dunning Field with St. Louis Park facing the Minneapolis Angels at 6 p.m.
Kelley Fuels takes on Tri-City at 8:30 p.m. in a rematch of last year's first-round matchup that saw the Shark advance with an 18-8 win.
Rick Tossey — St. Paul Capitals
1. Minnetonka Millers (Riverview No. 1) — Clear 2019 favorite with a good draw.
2. Lyon’s Pub Warriors (Park National No. 1) — Tough opening matchup versus winner of Tri-City and Kelley Fuels Diesel.
3. St. Anthony Hogs (Skyline No. 1) — They have not slowed down this year and will be heavy favorite in their first game.
4. St. Paul Capitals (St. Paul No. 1) — Face the winner of Park and the Angels, toughest draw of No. 1 seeds.
5. St. Louis Park (Riverview No. 2) — Defending champs, they have to play a single elimination game likely versus Minneapolis Angels pitcher Mike Schuld.
6. Minneapolis Cobras (Park National No. 2) — Giving them the edge over Hamel in the single elimination, pitching depth will be tested.
7. Tri-City Shark (Skyline No. 2) — They have a history of upsetting No. 1 seeds, tough single elimination matchup with Kelley Fuels Diesel.
8. Kelley Fuels Diesel (St. Paul No. 3) — Deep and dangerous lineup, pitching will determine how much damage they can do opening weekend.
9. Minneapolis Angels (Park National No. 3) — Veteran team with solid pitching staff, toughest possible single elimination matchup versus Park.
T10. Twin Cities Saints (St. Paul No. 2) — Interesting single elim matchup with Metro Knights, winner gets Tonka.
T10. Hamel Hawks (Riverview No. 3) — Total unknown for me, do they have the pitching to hold down a hot Cobras offense?
T10. Metro Knights (Skyline No. 3) — Pulled the big playoff upset over Stockmen’s, young team.
Bryan Ludwig — St. Paul Mudhens
1. Minnetonka Millers — Gotta be the favorite, but it won't be a cake walk.
2. St. Anthony Hogs — They score a bunch and have the pitching to keep others from scoring. Pretty good combo.
3. Lyon’s Pub Warriors — Undefeated PNash season and in line for a deep tourney run.
4. St. Louis Park Pirates — Never count this lineup out. The defending champs will make some waves this weekend.
5. St. Paul Capitals — Undefeated St. Paul League season. This team is deep and talented, watch out!
6. Minneapolis Cobras — Seem to always do the little things well, and that plays well at tourney time.
7. Stockmen's Irish — Surprise exit in the Skyline playoffs at the hands of the Knights, but still one of the best rosters top to bottom this summer.
8. Tri-City Shark — Took care of business to punch their ticket in a hard fought series, if their dudes show up they will be a tough out this weekend.
9. Hamel Hawks — Team full of grinders that rode that mentality to a state tournament appearance.
10. Twin City Saints — Surprise team out of the St. Paul league. Can the magic continue this weekend?
On The Bubble: Metro Knights (Under performed in the regular season, but showed what they are capable of in taking down the second-seeded Stockmen’s Irish), Kelley Fuels Diesel (Nice regular season, but can they keep it up against a power-packed Shark attack?), Minneapolis Angels (Draw the ever dangerous SLP in round one, they'll need their pitching strength to get through that gauntlet of a lineup).
Paul Melchior — Park National League/Minneapolis MudCats
Ranking teams entering the State Tourney is often a fool’s errand. Here’s hoping every squad can bring every guy to the field this year. Perhaps there should be a state law barring August weddings, reunions, births and other such nonsense during the amateur postseason!
1. Minnetonka Millers — The time has come to prove the pollsters right.
2. St. Anthony Hogs — This may be the Skyline top seed’s best shot at a title.
3. Lyon’s Pub Warriors — Warriors take an undefeated PNASH record into the tournament and want another shot at the trophy.
4. St. Paul Capitals — Look for a two-weekend stay by the Caps.
5. St. Louis Park Pirates — No. 5 seems low, but they know the drill.
6. Minneapolis Cobras — Speed, power, pitching, experience, attitude. Tough mix to beat.
7. Twin City Saints — Get their first Tourney ticket and the notice they’ve earned all season.
8. Tri-City Shark — A strong finish by the cartilaginous predators gives them a shot.
9. Minneapolis Angels — Bats got hot second half. With that pitching staff, they’re a real threat.
10. Kelley Fuels Diesel — Nice playoff run gets the petroleum-based St. Paul squad in again.
Just missed: Hamel Hawks — Young and energetic squad walks off Hopkins in extras to punch ticket.
Metro Knights — Big upset of Stockmen’s showed they are not to be taken lightly.
Matt Paulsen — St. Louis Park
1. Minnetonka Millers (35-3) — With the best record in A ball and the No. 1 seed out of the Riverview it’s like duh.
2. Lyon’s Pub Warriors (30-6-1) — Numero uno out of the Pnash and one of the only teams to top the Millers.
3. St. Anthony Hogs (30-8-1) — I think the Hogs are going to take the tourney back to the Skyline. They are a great mix of pitching, defense, and hitting.
4. St. Paul Capitals (24-4-1) — Number 1 in the St. Paul league. This team has been a little under the radar this year but the Capitals are capable of taking it all.
5. St. Louis Park Pirates (32-8) — Second to Tonka in the Riverview and second only to Tonka in wins.
6. Minneapolis Cobras (23-11) — While reports of a bolstered pitching staff may have been a bit premature, the Cobras are still No. 2 in the Pnash and just really good anyway.
7. Minneapolis Angels (17-14) — The Angels are just a mainstay of successful baseball. This team has been good since I broke into townball in 1991.
8. Kelley Fuels Diesel (?) — All I know about this team is that they keep showing up in the state tourney. Who are these masked men?
9. Hamel Hawks (14-12) — It has taken some time but the Hawks are starting to mature and have made it to the tourney. Be careful, they may surprise some people.
10. Stockmen’s Irish (23-8) — I know Stockmen’s didn’t make the tourney but they have had a great season and the record shows it.
Class A Final Rankings
1. Minnetonka Millers (40)
2. Lyon's Pub Warriors (34)
2. St. Anthony Hogs (34)
4. St. Paul Capitals (28)
5. St. Louis Park (25)
6. Minneapolis Cobras (20)
7. Tri-City Shark (10)
8. Kelley Fuels Diesel (7)
9. Twin City Saints (6)
10. Hamel Hawks (5)
10. Stockmen's Irish (5)
Others receiving votes: Minneapolis Angels, Metro Knights