Greyhounds' opponent has record of success
The Austin Greyhounds' first opponent in the Class B state amateur baseball tournament shares the Greyhounds' tradition of success.
The Sauk Rapids Cyclones — who the Greyhounds meet Saturday at 5 p.m. in Hutchinson — are in the state tournament for the fifth straight year. They won the state Class C championship in 1995 and were second in C in 2007 and 2008, and third in Class B in 2009.
The Cyclones opened Super Sectional play a week ago by knocking off two-time defending state Class B champion Shakopee 9-3. They then beat Savage 5-3 and later earned the top seed out of the Cold Spring Super Sectional by beating Savage 11-5 Sunday.
The Cyclones (29-4) had 18 hits in that game. Leading the way was Paul Schlangen, a Sauk Rapids native who played college ball at Wis.-Superior. He was 4-for-6 with three RBI.
Jeff Hille got the pitching win, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing five hits and three runs. Hille, a 6-foot-9 right-hander who is head coach at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School (his alma mater), was a Division I recruit (Northern Iowa) and pitcher for the St. Cloud team in the Northwoods League. He had Tommy John surgery in 2003 (a year after finishing high school) and finished his college career with two seasons at North Dakota State.
Another of the Cyclones' pitchers is Bryce Gapinski, a junior left-hander at St. Thomas who earned all-MIAC honors. St. Thomas He struck out eight and walked none in eight innings in the 5-3 win over Savage. He went to high school in Foley, where he was all-state.
Or the Greyhounds might see right-hander Nick Anderson, who is a junior at St. Cloud State. In 2010, he was a Northwoods League all-star while playing for the Lunkers in his native town of Brainerd.
Saturday's game is only the start as the eight-team double-elimination tournament continues with four more games on Sunday. The surviving six teams come back for two loser-out games Aug. 26, three contests on Aug. 27 and the championship game(s) on Aug. 28.
In relief, Sauk Rapids can call on Matt Petrusek, a former St. Cloud River Bat who played professionally last year for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks.
Manager Joe Nemec has been quoted as saying this might be the Cyclones' best team.
Cold Spring — a traditional Minnesota amateur baseball force — failed to advance to the Super Sectional, so Sauk Rapids got to play 20 minutes from home in the games last weekend.
Of course the Greyhounds (27-12) counter with tradition and talent of their own. Although this is their first trip to state since 2008, they won back-to-back Class B state titles in 2002 and 2003 and were runners-up in 2001, 2005 and 2007.