By Stephen Wiblemo
DASSEL, COKATO, MN - The playoffs are quickly approaching for the Dassel-Cokato Saints baseball team, but before it’s time for those win-or-go-home games, the Saints are still concerned with improving their position in the Section 8 standings.
As of July 1, the day DC had its last game before the North Star League All-Star break, the Saints were sporting a 12-10 record.
According to DC head coach Mark Forsman, there are a couple reasons for that.
The main one, he believes, is that the Saints have had a hard time getting their complete roster together at games.
While DC has a good share of talented players, it has been difficult to get them all at the park on the same day.
Just one example of this was slugger Brent Opsahl, who missed about two weeks during the season while he was in Thailand with his wife.
Opsahl has since returned to the line up, but his absence was certainly felt during those games.
The repercussions of an incomplete roster at times can been seen in the Saints’ record and scores.
Out of DC’s 22 games as of July 1, 11 of them have been decided by three runs or less. Of those 11 games, DC has won six.
The Saints have also had a consistently inconsistent season when it comes to streaks. It has not won or lost more than two games in a row, which is another effect that Forsman says is due to an incomplete roster.
Many of the games the Saints lost to Class C opponents, Forsman feels could have gone the other way had DC fielded a complete roster.
Fortunately, while it has been tough at times to get a full roster together, the Saints have seen a fresh crop of young players burst onto the scene.
Forsman praised young players like Lucas Larson, Zach Lingl, Brendon Opsahl, and Tyler Zweibohmer, who have proven their worth to the team, especially during those games when some of the team’s veterans could not be present.
At the beginning of the season, Forsman identified the pitching staff as one of DC’s strengths.
With an abundance of young and veteran arms, Saints pitchers have been an important part of the squad this season.
Eric Hanson and Jordan Danielson have come through as strong one and two pitchers, while Dan Birkholz has shown he is a capable third option to start.
Forsman was also happy with how the bullpen has performed this season, with Zweibohmer, Perry Thinesen, Andrew Carlson, Kyle Kaczmarek and others doing a good job coming in as relievers.
While Forsman believed pitching would be a strength this season, hitting was something he was not so certain about.
Forsman knew the Saints would still have good swingers like Brent Opsahl, Matt Bergstrom, and Birkholz in the order, but his concern was getting runners on base for those hitters to bring in.
According to Forsman, though, the offense has done a decent job of getting runners on base. Guys like Cole Flick and Eric Hanson have been tough for opposing teams to keep off the base paths, and recently these young players, such as Lingl, have been a threat, too.
While the Saints’ overall win record is just two games over 50 percent, that isn’t the record Forsman and the rest of the team is concerned about.
The record they care most about is the Section 8 standings.
The Saints have a 4-2 Section 8 record and are just one-half game out of first in the standings.
Hutchinson is the current leader.
The Saints swept both games against Section 8 rivals St. Michael and Maple Lake, but have lost a game to both Delano and Hutchinson.
DC still has four Section 8 games left to play, however, and those will be the most important games in the final three weeks of the regular season.
The Saints have one more against Delano (Friday, July 10) and Hutchinson (Wednesday, July 29), but also have two games against the newest Section 8 member Plato.
The Plato Blue Jays made the jump up to Class B last year after winning the Class C state title in 2007.
Although the Saints used to play Plato in previous years, this will be the first time the two teams have faced each other in many seasons.
Those games are scheduled to go down Friday, July 17 in Dassel, and Sunday, July 26 in Plato.
Of all the remaining Section 8 games, Forsman is looking forward to the two against Plato the most, because it will be a chance for both squads to get a good look at what each other has before tournament time.
As the month of August comes closer and closer, so does the Section 8 playoffs for DC.
In order to get the seed they want in the playoffs, which is first, and best help them with the ultimate goal of reaching the Class B state tournament, which they missed last season, Forsman believes the Saints will have to continue pitching well, get some good hitting, and most of all, get a complete roster to the park.
Other than that, it all has to be decided on the diamond, and according to Forsman, the Section 8 field is wide open.