By Nick Gerhardt
Could the 2019 Class C state tournament replicate something like last year?
UN. BE. LIEVABLE! Correct call by @NWumpires - Runner jumped over the plate in celebration and missed home plate! @nmMUSKIES dodge HUGE bullet, and we are now in the 13th inning in Shakopee! @nmMUSKIES Vs. @yacardinals @NPShakJor2018 @MinnBaseball #VideoDontLie pic.twitter.com/rJ9sljwK0r— Bill Schleper (@bschlep1) September 2, 2018
The bracket is certainly set up for the possibility if No. 1-ranked New Market advances and No. 3-ranked Young America makes it through its section of the bracket. Of course, second-ranked Sartell stands between both of them.
One thing that's for sure is that there will be a new champion this year after Plato bowed out in the playoffs and Sobieski moved to Class B.
We've turned to our four experts once more for their guidance through a tough-to-pick bracket filled with teams making their first appearance in sometime, like Cologne and Morristown. Of course, the usual favorites are still there but will they fold to the upstarts?
Once again, we owe a debt of gratitude to our four experts who have sought out the most up-to-date information to provide the most insightful analysis they could.
Let's find out what they think about this year's Class C state tournament.
Tom Elliott — St. Cloud
The Favorite: The New Market Muskies are ranked No. 1 in the final Class C poll and that’s good enough for me. They have hit 31 home runs in 29 games and have a 1.95 team ERA. Tony Voca has struck out 74 and walked four in 50-plus innings with a 0.54 ERA. I’ll go with them and feel like there’s a good chance I might even be right.
The Dark Horse: The Raymond Rockets have been under the radar this season, though their tradition suggests that they will be a club to watch in Maple Lake and Delano. They won Region 4C out of the losers’ bracket, coming back with big wins over Bird Island (7-2) and beating New London-Spicer twice (8-0 and 4-0). Raymond, of course, won the state title in 2016. The Rockets are definitely a team to keep an eye on.
The Upset: I always get this part wrong because I don’t think there are that many true upsets in Class C. There are just too many good teams capable of winning the title every year. My strategy in the past has been to take a northern team over a regular state entrant. This year, I’ll go another route: Let’s pick St. Benedict to make it into the final weekend. That would mean victories over Waterville and Bluffton.
The Sleeper: I’ve got a hunch about the Nisswa Lightning and that’s only because traditional Region 8C power Sobieski was bumped up to Class B this year. Nisswa has been one of the top teams in the Victory League all season and with the top seed in 8C, will get the winner of Hadley and Cologne. They are then bracketed with Bemidji and the Cokato/Sleepy Eye winner. Again, I like their chances there. Then, it’s the field of eight and anything can happen. But the Lightning picked up two strong draftees in Eric Lampert of Upsala and Reggie Litke of the Pierz Lakers to go along with their own strong pitching staff. I think they’ve got a shot.
Aaron Worm — New Prague
The Favorite: New Market — The Fish look like they could be playing Class B ball next year, so this is their year, the pitching staff is deep, and a pretty solid lineup 1 to 9 makes them my favorite to win the whole thing.
The Dark Horse: Watkins — They are not a typical dark horse, but fit here, because of how talented this quad is. I see them in the sweet 16 with a possible matchup against Red Wing.
The Upset: Howard Lake over New London Spicer.
The Underdog: Carver — I wouldn’t call them an underdog, but with a second weekend matchup possible against New Market, they would fit that mold. I like New Market a lot, but Carver will give them a big challenge early in the tourney.
The Favorite: Sartell, the northern fish have been high on my rankings all year, and are the team to beat in this quad.
The Dark Horse: Green Isle, great to see the Irish back at state. Didn’t have a great regular season but knocked out the defending state champions Plato in the league playoffs. They play in one of the best leagues in the state, watch out for GI.
The Upset: St. Benedict over Waterville — America’s team finds ways to win, they play hard and with Tanner Oakes back to form on the mound, the Bennies could find their way to Labor Day weekend.
The Underdog: Marble — I know nothing about these ducks, but since my Montgomery Mallards are not at state, put the underdog cape on Marble.
The Favorite: Jordan — The Brewers are loaded with talent and have a favorable draw to get to the Elite 8 and farther.
The Dark Horse:Cologne — Haven’t been to state since 1972, the Hollanders will be ready to play at state.
The Upset: Prior Lake — The Mudcats can hit the ball, I see the Cats beating Foley and Fergus Falls.
The Underdog: Hadley — The Buttermakers, great name, great logo, fun team to pull for.
The Favorite: Young America — I have the Cardinals in the finals against New Market, which would be a great rematch of last year’s extra-inning thriller which YA won.
The Dark Horse: St. Patrick — The Irish are well managed, solid all the way around, I see them in a final eight matchup with Young America.
The Upset: Morristown over Isanti.
The Underdog: Maple Lake — The host team will get a chance to play the first two games in its home ballpark, being the fourth team out of its region, put the cape on them in this quad.
Chad Knutson — Heron Lake
The Favorite: New Market Muskies — They have been No. 1 all year are are my pick to win it all.
The Dark Horse: Red Wing Aces — They play a tough schedule and could make a team run.
The Upset: Luverne over Carver — Both teams are loaded with pitching. If the Redbirds’ bats come alive they beat a strong Carver Black Sox team.
The Underdog: Stark Longhorns — Play in a tough Tomahawk League.
The Favorite: Sartell Muskies — Perennial power who can flat out hit with excellent pitching.
The Dark Horse: Waterville Indians — They have won 30 games and lost in the region final to Jordan.
The Upset: Lake City over Ft. Ripley — The Serpents won a couple of games last year at state and have a tough matchup versus Ft. Ripley.
The Underdog: Green Isle — Usually a Labor Day contender but could be getting hot at the right time.
The Favorite: Jordan Brewers — They are solid every year and tough to beat.
The Dark Horse: Cokato Kernels — They have a great chance to make a run to Labor Day weekend with their matchups. They have played well
The Upset: Prior Lake over Foley — The Mudcats may be a No. 4 seed but the DRS league prepares them well and they pitch well.
The Underdogs: Cologne Hollanders or Hadley Buttermakers — One team is making its first trip in more than 40 years and the other is there for fifth straight year ... many may think these don’t have a shot but the Buttermakers swing it well and have six comeback wins in the playoffs.
The Favorite: New Ulm Brewers and Young America Cardinals — This looks to be a tremendous matchup Saturday night Labor Day weekend in Delano … could be best game of tourney.
The Dark Horse: Raymond Rockets — They are getting hot at the right time and still have the core of guys who helped them win a title in 2016
The Upset: Maple Lake over Perham — I pick the host team to pack the stadium and pull off the upset, by seed anyways, and maybe pull off another upset to make it to final weekend
The Underdogs: Morristown Morries — Making the first trip in many years and Cold Spring Rockies … tough matchups all the way through.
Jason Kuerschner — Cologne
The Favorite: New Market Muskies — They played extremely well during the Region 3 tourney and were able to add to their stable of pitchers, Matt Lane from Faribault. They have flirted with good runs in the state tourney in the past, but this looks like the year it all comes together for the southern fish
The Dark Horse: Watkins Clippers — Come in as a No. 3 seed out of Region 11, but I could see them potentially making it all the way to the final eight and a matchup with New Market.
The Upset: Avon Lakers — They come in as a No. 4 seed from Region 8 and have a tough draw with 2017 runner-up Lake Henry and then if they win, the Red Wing Aces are looming the next weekend. They play in a well-rounded league and region, as such, I think they are poised to make some noise these first two weekends.
The Underdog: Carver Black Sox — They come in as a No. 2 seed out of Region 7C, however in the second weekend looms the New Market Muskies. While I have the Muskies as my favorite in this bracket, Carver can score runs in a hurry, so this could be a fun game to watch.
The Favorite: Sartell Muskies — The northern fish have been in the top of the polls all year, they won an increasingly more competitive region. They are tournament tested and ready for anything that can come their way.
The Dark Horse: Fort Ripley Rebels — As the No. 2 seed from Region 8, I have them making it to the final eight only to run into the northern fish. This should be a wonderful matchup!
The Upset: St Benedict Saints — I have these Saints making it to the final weekend by way of knocking off the hot Waterville Indians and then also the Bluffton Braves.
The Underdog: Green Isle Irish — These are not the Irish of old, there has been a changeover in the roster from the past few years. However, they have come to play their best late in the season. I think they get to the second weekend and will have to face off with Sartell, but there is still enough veterans on this team to help out the youngsters understand how to play in the state tourney.
The Favorite: Nisswa Lightning — I know that Jordan is in this group as well but I think Nisswa is the team to beat in this group. They come out of Region 8 as the No. 1 seed and that region has always performed well in the state tourney, usually sending multiple teams to the final eight and I think Nisswa can continue that trend.
The Dark Horse: Foley Lumberjacks — Played in a tough Region 11 and came out with the No. 2 seed, I feel they can get themselves to the final weekend with their draw here, after that is when the fun begins.
The Upset: Bird Island Bullfrogs — I have a feeling that the Frogs are going to get to week two and face the Jordan Brewers and come through with the upset win over the No. 1 seed from region 6.
The Underdog: Cologne Hollanders — My team has finally made it to the big dance after a 47-year absence, I have to talk about them. They are coming of a great regular season in the CRVL and being the first team to qualify for the state tourney out of Region 7. All season they have played tough games and found ways to win, the middle of this lineup is as tough as anyone and with the draft and returning a Northwoods League pitcher hopes are high. My heart says they have a chance to get to the final weekend, even if it means they beat out my favorite for this bracket. GA HOLLANDERS!!!
The Favorite: Young America Cardinals — The Cardinals come out of Region 7 as the No. 1 seed, they have a balanced team with exceptional pitching and a strong offensive lineup as well. I look for them to continue what they did last year and make a deep run into the final weekend.
The Dark Horse: St. Patrick Irish — I think the Irish build on what they did last year and make it to the final weekend and possibly even the final eight.
The Upset: Maple Lake Lakers — As one of the hosts this year, I think they are poised to delight their local fans and get themselves into the final weekend.
The Underdog: Morristown Morries — This being their first tourney appearance the draw couldn’t be tougher. Isanti, just last year a Class B team, and then Young America looming the second weekend. Regardless still a great accomplishment for the Morries. Congrats!
So my favorites from the four quads to advance to the final four are: New Market, Sartell, Young America and Nisswa.
Good luck to all the teams that have advanced, congratulations on a fine season, even if you don’t win a game at state you still had a great season!