The loss could have staggered the La Crescent High School baseball team.
Maybe it did a little.
“I don’t think anybody had us losing that game,” senior Cade McCool said of an MSHSL sub-section 1AA loss to Plainview-Elgin-Millville, “but it happened.”
The Lancers (21-5) seemed ready for another deep postseason run behind a terrific performance by their pitching staff, good defense and batting order that could produce no matter who was at the plate.
La Crescent, which not only rebounded but qualified to play in this week’s state tournament, wasn’t being led around by a star pitcher or star hitter, it was coming at teams with force and ready to build on postseason success from last spring and summer.
And then it was all put in jeopardy with a 5-4 loss to P-E-M in a double-elimination tournament.
“We were all shell-shocked,” La Crescent coach Rick Boyer said. “The best thing that happened for us was that we didn’t have to turn around and play again right away.
“We got to regroup and remind the kids that they had to trust their abilities.”
Six straight victories — the last two over rival Caledonia — since that loss have the Lancers in a state quarterfinal game against second-seeded Minnehaha Academy (18-4), which is unbeaten in the postseason after losing its final two regular-season games. The game was scheduled to be played at 3 p.m. Thursday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud, Minn.
La Crescent wasn’t awarded one of the five spots for seeded teams in the eight-team bracket and has to start out against a team that was consolation champion after losing a quarterfinal game to Caledonia a year ago.
“They have a good team, and we’re excited to play them,” senior Thomas Kiesau said of the Redhawks. “We know it will be a fun (game) and one we can win if we play the way we can play.”
Kiesau, who holds down the ninth spot in the batting order, bats .338 with four doubles, two triples and 17 RBI to go with 10 stolen bases.
Senior Sam Wieser has led the charge for an offense that collectively bats .343 with a .437 batting average. Wieser also leads the Lancers with 38 hits, 27 RBI, 21 stolen bases and 32 runs scored.
The Lancers should be ready for a new double-elimination challenge, but a significant source of confidence should also come from their pitching staff, which has a season ERA of 1.38 and 168 strikeouts against 51 walks.
Senior Bryce Weymiller is 10-1 with a 0.51 ERA and 81 strikeouts over 69 innings, while junior Luke Schwartzhoff (4-0) follows with a 1.71 ERA over 28⅔ innings. McCool (5-1) has a 1.82 ERA.
McCool, a left-hander who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning when the Lancers beat Caledonia to qualify for state. He has altered his pitching form after tearing his labrum — but not knowing it — during the winter.
“I have lost about seven miles per hour on my fastball, so I can’t just come out and throw fastballs anymore,” McCool said. “My changeup is pretty good, and I’ve been working on my curveball.
“But I haven’t had to change much besides (due to the injury) my form.”
If Boyer needs to look elsewhere for pitching, he can also turn to junior Isaac Petersen, who has pitched 17 innings without allowing an earned run.