College Baseball: RCTC takes aim at region title

Rochester Community and Technical College is the No. 3 seed heading into the NJCAA Region XIII Tournament in baseball.

The Yellowjackets open with No. 6 Fergus Falls at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the eight-team double elimination tourney, which is being held in St. Cloud. The winner of the event qualifies for the NJCAA Division III World Series.

"I don't think there's a clear favorite," RCTC coach Steve Hucke said. "I think it's anybody's game."

Century is the No. 1 seed and St. Cloud Tech is seeded second. RCTC split a pair of games with Fergus Falls late in the regular season, winning 12-3 and losing 2-1 in 13 innings.

RCTC tied with St. Cloud for the Southern Division championship with a 9-3 mark. RCTC is 24-7 overall and has been very strong (19-3) since returning from its spring trip to Florida.


"I feel we're starting to come on hitting-wise," Hucke said. "Our pitching's been pretty solid all year."

Hucke said the Yellowjackets have had good depth on the mound this season. Freshman left-hander Kody Knaus (3-0, 1.33 ERA) likely will start the opener against Fergus Falls. Staff ace TJ Nowak (5-0, 3.41 ERA) likely will pitch the second game when RCTC plays either St. Cloud or No. 7 Central Lakes at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Other pitchers who could get starts for RCTC in the tournament include Bryce Christopher (3-1, 2.60 ERA), Adam Rude (2-1, 4.50 ERA) and Conner Robley (3-0, 1.37 ERA).

Luke Beachler (4.35 ERA, two saves) has been the team's closer. Other key relievers are Dylan Weber (1-2, 1.65 ERA), Matt Dammen and Cory Strable. Neither Dammen or Strable has allowed a run in 6 1/3 innings of work.

"We have a lot of guys who know their roles and have helped us get through some close games," Hucke said.

RCTC's pitching staff has an overall ERA of 2.92. The Yellowjackets are hitting .277 as a team.

"I think our hitting's been coming on," Hucke said. "It's been pretty much a strong team effort. Guys have stepped up at the right time."

Sean Hohmeister of Stewartville leads the team in both batting average (.347) and RBIs (29) and Rochester's Matt Stubbs in second in both categories (.326, 25) and has one home run. Lead-off hitter Mitch Anderson leads the team with 35 runs scored and is batting .321 with 14 RBIs and a homer.


Beachler is batting .296 with 18 RBIs and has two of the team's five home runs. Robley is hitting .333 while playing a little more than half of the time. He has 11 RBIs and one home run.

"We've been playing pretty well defensively," Hucke said. "We're going to have to have some guys step up (at the plate).

"It's going to come down to pitching and clutch hitting," he added.

RCTC won the region title in 2011 and qualified for the Division III World Series. The Yellowjackets were the region runner-ups last season.

The region will be held from Thursday to Sunday. Sunday's title game is set for 1 p.m.

The national tournament is May 25-30 in Tyler, Texas.

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