Athlete of the Week: Justin Sokol of the Rochester Royals

Justin Sokol • Rochester Royals • Pitcher

• Sokol had a strong pitching effort on Saturday to lead the Royals past the Chaska Cubs 6-3 in the opening game of the Class B amateur baseball state tournament. Sokol tossed a six-hitter and struck out one. He  allowed only one run after the first inning.

• A loss would have eliminated the Royals, who are making their 13th straight state appearance. They now are one of eight teams left in the double-elimination portion of the tournament. "I was definitely anxious, especially at the start, because the last (state tournament) memory I have was two years ago when I started and got beat by Marshall," Sokol said. "It definitely felt good to get that first one."

• The 26-year-old Sokol is in his sixth season with the Royals. He didn't play for the team a year ago as he was taking Masters courses at Marquette in Milwaukee. Sokol's playing time was limited early this year as he completed his Master's degree in counseling. He still became the team's staff ace and has a 7-3 record in 2010.

"It took a while to get my arm back in shape," he said. "Probably since about June I've been throwing pretty well."


• Sokol said a key against Chaska was being aggressive. "I was throwing my change-up pretty well against their left-handed hitters," he added.

• The Royals (19-17) continue state play on Saturday at 5 p.m. against Dundas in Bird Island. Sokol figures to get the start on the mound for the Royals.

— Guy N. Limbeck

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