Posted on Aug. 19, 2015 by CJ Siewert
We’re just two days away. The 2015 Class C state tournament is finally here and 48 teams are ready to make a run.
We’ve done Class C rankings all season long and the final rankings were posted July 23. But we got the committee back together for one last look at how the teams are shaping up for the Fall Classic.
Just like last year, this last edition of Class C “rankings,” we split the 48-team bracket into four groups. The 12 teams on the top of the bracket – Plato down to Cannon Falls – are Group 1, Jordan to Hinckley is Group 2, Hampton to Spring Hill is Group 3, and Sartell to St. Patrick is Group 4.
Within those four groups, we have four characteristics paired with the teams of our opinion.
• BLUE CHIPS: Best 1 or 2 teams in that group
• UNDER THE RADAR: 1 or 2 teams that haven't received a lot of attention statewide, but could make a run
• UPSET ALERT: Region champ with the toughest possible matchup in its first game
• GUT FEELING: 1 team that could make it to the semifinals that may not be a blue chip, or there’s just that gut feeling about anything
Andy Johnson – Stewartville-Racine
BLUE CHIP: Plato - They were already a good team and then they hit the draft lottery with Tony Kley.
UNDER THE RADAR: Mora - In almost every other Region, they would have been the champs.
UPSET ALERT: New London-Spicer will have a tough match-up versus Delano/Sleepy Eye
GUT FEELING: I think Plato is too loaded not to advance.
BLUE CHIP: Nisswa - They possibly have the best lineup in the whole tourney.
UNDER THE RADAR: Watkins - Playing at their own ballpark should be a boost.
UPSET ALERT: Watkins will have a tough match-up versus New Market/Hinckley
GUT FEELING: I think Nisswa and Jordan will meet up for a rematch from last year's tourney.
BLUE CHIP: Sobieski - I'll take the defending champs.
UNDER THE RADAR: Hampton - I like them in their sub-section of the bracket.
UPSET ALERT: Morris will have a tough match-up versus Raymond/Maple Plain
GUT FEELING: Green Isle is a wild card that could make things interesting.
BLUE CHIP: Sartell - The #1 ranked team in the state is an obvious choice.
UNDER THE RADAR: Ada - They did well in last year's tourney and I expect it to continue.
UPSET ALERT: Howard Lake will have a tough match-up versus Fairmont/Lastrup
GUT FEELING: I think this group is the strongest of the 4.
Jason Kuerschner - Cologne
(named each bracket according to the first listed #1 seed)
Blue Chips – The two best teams in my opinion are Mora & Plato. The best first round game here is Mora vs. Fort Ripley. If Mora gets past this one I think they could meet Plato in the round of 8 on Sunday Sept. 6th.
Under the Radar – I am going with New London-Spicer here. They advanced convincingly through Region 15 to secure the 1st seed, but haven’t really received any publicity throughout the season.
Upset Alert – My pick here is Luverne, they get the winner of the best 1st round game of this bracket, Mora vs. Fort Ripley. Both of these potential opponents have been in the top 10 in State conversation throughout the season.
Gut Feeling – Plato, with pitchers Cody Hallahan, Adam Prehn, Draftee Tony Kley (Winsted) and Chris Odegaard to close and the rest of their staff, lookout. Not to mention they can flat out hit! Plato will be a tough out for anyone and you will know you have earned that win. Plus Plato has already won, arguably one of the toughest Regions in the state.
Blue Chips – I have two here again, Nisswa & Jordan have both been consistently mentioned in the state top 10 all season. I fully expect these two to meet up in the round of 8.
Under the Radar - Watkins & Long Prairie. The Co-Host Watkins definitely has something to play for here and maybe they can feed off some home town magic. In Long Prairie, I picked them last year as an under the radar team. As this is their 2nd consecutive State Tourney, I expect them to come away with an opening round win. Unfortunately, Nisswa awaits them in the 2nd round, but anything can happen in one game.
Upset Alert - My pick here is Owatonna. Of the four #1 seeds, I think they are the most in jeopardy of losing the 2nd round game. I expect Blue Earth to give them fits.
Gut Feeling – Nisswa is my gut here. After losing in the 2nd round of league playoffs they have dominated their competition through Region 8.
Blue Chips – Faribault and Green Isle, it is just too bad they will potentially meet in the 2nd round of the tournament. Can Green Isle avenge last year’s melt down of an 8 run lead to Matt Lane and Faribault. Or does Faribault get the better of the Irish again? I wouldn’t miss this potential round 2 match-up, but if you can’t see it tune to AM 1310 KGLB, (Jeremy and Chris will have the play-by-play).
Under the Radar – Morris, Coming through the losers bracket of Region 9 with over 40 consecutive innings without giving up a run and beating Chokio twice to earn the #1 seed. That pitching staff is doing something right.
Upset Alert – Refer back to the Blue Chips, and I am pulling for Green Isle here. It won’t be easy but I think the Irish get it done in 2015.
Gut Feeling – I’m putting all my eggs in one basket here, but I am riding the Green Isle Irish band wagon after they squeeze past Faribault.
Sartell Muskies Bracket
Blue Chips – In my opinion the two best teams here are the Waconia Lakers and the Sartell Muskies. The Muskies were the unanimous #1 ranked team in the final state poll and the Lakers flirted with the top 10 all season. However, it is playoffs now and Waconia has come to play, as evidenced by their run in Region 7. The unfortunate thing here is these two teams will potentially meet up in the 2nd round. This one just like the Faribault vs. Green Isle game listed above could be the game of the bracket.
Under the Radar – This bracket has 6 teams that got mentioned in the top 10 during the season. So to pick out someone that is under the radar is tough. Still, I am going with the Fairmont Martins here, however they have to get by Lastrup in the opening round. The winner of this game has the potential to get to the final 8.
Upset Alert – Howard Lake and Ada are my two teams on alert in this bracket. However, the Sartell vs. Waconia potential matchup is no cake walk either.
Gut Feeling – At first glance I am intrigued with the Waconia vs. Sartell matchup. Sartell can flat out hit and put runs on the board. Waconia on the other hand has tons of pitching and a solid defense. I feel the winner of this potential 2nd round game continues on a long run, possibly to the championship game. As I have to make a pick here I am going with Pitching and Defense and pick my fellow Region team the Waconia Lakers.
This is my humble take on the brackets, you get to this point of the season and it is really tough (as it should be). Last year no one could have predicted the incredible run that Jendro and Sobieski went on. Will we see an unproven team make that kind of run this year? Or will it be a powerhouse that got the pollsters votes all season? No one knows the answer to those questions, so you can say “that is why we play the games”. I may end up way off on my predictions, (Chances are pretty high of that) but one thing is for sure… The games in this tournament will be filled with drama and unexpected bounces and that is why we will go and watch them. That and because we love this wonderful game!
Good luck to all the teams in the 2015 State Tournament, enjoy your place and time while you are there because you all earned it!
Anonymous ranker - Southern metro
I have slightly adjusted the way I will talk about teams. I've used:
DON'T FORGET ABOUT.....: Mention team(s) that will be a tough out that may not look like it.
OPENING WEEKEND MUST-SEE: I will highlight my favorite matchup rather than predict a 2nd round team to be in trouble
NEXT BEST: where I will highlight other team(s) that could give it a run besides the top team.....Here goes:
Top Quarter: There will be a ton of low scoring games in this one. Besides Plato, the other 3 region champions aren't overwhelming favorites to win their games by any means.
TOP TEAM: Plato Bluejays (25-7) - Best team out of Region 7 gets the bye and the ultimate reward in Tony Kley whose Winsted Wildcats are missing from this year's tournament. Will be curious to see if they rely on Hallahan or Kley as their #1.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT.....Fort Ripley Rebels (13-13), Cannon Falls Bears (18-21). Fort Ripley has Brett Kramer who beat Nisswa 3-1 in their league playoffs and Cannon Falls has Keith Meyers who keeps them in games against more superior teams.
OPENING WEEKEND MUST-SEE: Mora (29-4) vs. Fort Ripley (13-13). Based on records this seems like a Mora win for sure. Asa Patterson vs. Brett Kramer has my attention as a game that needs to be seen. Mora didn't impress in their first go at the state touranment last year but have had a great year with only losses being to Sartell and Maple Lake. Player/manager Brett Kramer and the Rebels won two games at last year's tournament before losing to Kley and Winsted.
NEXT BEST: Very balanced section of the bracket. If I had to pick a few I'd highlight Luverne (22-4), Mora (29-4) and Delano (22-10)
2nd Quarter: Nisswa vs. Watkins, and Blue Earth vs. Jordan would be two quality games if the bracket plays true to form.
TOP TEAM: Nisswa Lightning (30-3) - They mash. Piepkorn hitting .447 with 11 doubles and 10 home runs. Team has 43 home runs. Draftee Kyle Collins makes them the 2nd tournament favorite in my book behind only Sartell.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT.....Blue Earth (26-8) - It could be easy to lose track of Blue Earth with some of the other teams in this bracket but they are more than capable. Two straight years they've lost heartbreakers in their first game. Looking to get back to their old ways of going deep into the tournament.
OPENING WEEKEND MUST-SEE: Loretto Larks (15-12) vs. Long Prairie Predators (20-9) - this game is intriguing because I'm curious if either team is capable of holding down Nisswa in the next round.
NEXT BEST: Watkins (21-3) - Will take their elite pitchers and play in front of some large home crowds. Watkins vs. Nisswa would be a game that needs to be seen if it happens to open up the final weekend, Jordan (29-11) - Coming off of back to back 3rd place finishes, enter on a 10-game win streak where they've averaged over 11 runs per game while giving up less than 2 runs per game.
3rd Quarter: Lots of good teams that didn't win their region in this area of the bracket. There is a reasonable chance that 3 of the 4 region champs in this quarter will be one and done.
TOP TEAM: Sobieski Skis (21-5) - Same team that added a couple pieces. They have to be considered the favorite.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT.....Spring Hill Chargers (14-10) - Solid Lineup, Maple Plain Diamond Devils (14-18) - They sent Maple Lake to loser's bracket with clear-cut 8-0 victory.
OPENING WEEKEND MUST-SEES: Sobieski Skis vs. Spring Hill Chargers.....Spring Hill actually matches up well with the Skis. The Chargers rely on their balanced lineup to cause fits for opposing pitchers. It will not be easy for Tyler Jendro to go the distance in this opening round matchup.
NEXT BEST: Faribault (22-9), Green Isle (31-7), and Hampton (26-11)
Bottom Quarter: While only a few teams are highlighted, this is a stacked bracket. I think that 8 of the 12 teams have a realistic chance to be playing in the quarterfinals
TOP TEAM: Sartell Muskies (29-1) - They've impressed in every way. The tournament favorite will be tested however. Will play winner of St. Peter/Waconia, and then could face one of the pitchers listed below to open up Labor Day Weekend.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT.....our friends from the North: Nimrod Gnats (17-12) and Ada A's. Two teams with great top of the line lefty arms. Ethan Opsahl had a nice tournament last year for Ada. Nimrod's Gunner Johnson is seen almost every year at the state tournament as a draftee. This year Johnson gets to showcase his stuff with his own team behind him. Kimball's no slouch, but a Nimrod/Ada matchup in round 2 would be destined for a classic pitching duel.
OPENING WEEKEND MUST-SEE: Fairmont Martins (18-11) vs. Lastrup Lakers (16-5) - Two teams that are usually good for a few state tournament wins and not used to being knocked out in the opening round.
NEXT BEST: New Ulm Brewers (29-8) - Pieces are still intact from last year's runner-up finish, Waconia (27-8) and Howard Lake (24-7)
CJ Siewert - St. Peter
Lamberton vs. Shakopee (Plato)
Delano vs. Sleepy Eye (New London-Spicer)
Mora vs. Fort Ripley (Luverne)
Roseau vs. Cannon Falls (Bertha)
Blue Chip: Plato - After watching these guys play Sunday in the region championship, it is clear that they can hit the ball well and have the pitching depth to make a run at Labor Day weekend. The Bluejays also picked up Winsted ace Tony Kley in the draft, who is well documented as one of the premier pitchers in Class C.
Under the radar: Cannon Falls - The Bears are making their fourth straight state appearance, but have only one win in the past three years at state. Keith Meyers always gives the Bears a chance and I think this year they make it to Labor Day weekend.
Upset alert: Luverne - The Redbirds get the winner of Mora and Fort Ripley, two teams that are battle tested this season. Asa Patterson of Mora is a tough draw and the Rebels have a veteran team that showed last year they know how to win at state.
Gut feeling: Plato - The Bluejays showed me Sunday that they are primed for a deep run and I expect them to make it to the semifinals.
Hamburg vs. Chokio (Jordan)
Lake Henry vs. Blue Earth (Owatonna)
Loretto vs. Long Prairie (Nisswa)
New Market vs. Hinckley (Watkins)
Blue Chip: Nisswa - The Lightning have been at the top of the Class C rankings all season and recently beat defending state champion Sobieski to earn the Region 8 title. They win games with their bats and that will have to hold true if they want to be there at the end.
Under the radar: Long Prairie - The Predators got my attention when they beat Fergus Falls 6-5 in the opening round of Region 16. They also crushed Urbank-Parkers Prairie 15-4 – a team that I figured to contend for a state bid.
Upset alert: Owatonna - Both Lake Henry and Blue Earth are perennial state qualifiers that are proven winners. The Aces are making their third consecutive trip to state and have just one win in the past two years.
Gut feeling: Watkins - Playing as the host, I think they are going to give the home crowd a show.
Belle Plaine vs. Hadley (Hampton)
Raymond vs. Maple Plain (Morris)
Wanamingo vs. Green Isle (Faribault)
Sobieski vs. Spring Hill (Pelican Rapids)
Blue chip: Sobieski - No explanation needed. The Skis are the defending champs and will go as far as Jendro will take them.
Under the radar: Maple Plain - The Diamond Devils ousted Maple Lake, who was ranked No. 1 or 2 all season long. Sounds like Maple Plain’s mediocre regular season record of 12-16 was a result of not having their regular starters at most of the games. Assuming everybody shows up for a state game, I think they can make some noise.
Upset alert: Pelican Rapids - They get Sobieski or Spring Hill - not an easy draw either way.
Gut feeling: I think Faribault and Sobieski will match up in the third round. Winner of that has a shot at it all.
Waconia vs. St. Peter (Sartell)
Nimrod vs. Kimball (Ada)
Fairmont vs. Lastrup (Howard Lake)
New Munich vs. St. Patrick (New Ulm)
Blue chip: Sartell - The Muskies are ranked No. 1 in the state and for good reason. Sartell cruised through Region 1 without a loss, outscoring opponents 49-4. Wow.
Under the radar: Nimrod - The Gnats have a lefty ace in Gunner Johnson who could give them a chance to make a run. I think they win their first game, making for a great pitcher’s duel versus Ada’s lefty ace Ethan Opsahl.
Upset alert: Howard Lake - The Orphans face either Fairmont or Lastrup. All three of these teams made it to Labor Day weekend last year, so needless to say, two great teams are will be going home sooner than they hoped.
Gut feeling: St. Peter - I wouldn’t be much of a true team player if I didn’t think my own team had a chance. We’ve figured out how to win close games, but if we want to make it anywhere we need the bats to wake up. Pitching and fielding have been great.