A bye in the first round of the Class C amateur baseball state tournament may be just what Red Wing needed to make a strong run in the tournament.
The Aces were the top seed in Region 5C and didn't have to play last week as 32 teams played 16 games in an elimination round.
Sixteen more games are on tap this weekend as the 48-team, single-elimination tournament continues. The final 16 teams advance to next weekend's final round of play and the winner will need to win four straight games to earn the state title.
"It's win or go home every game," Red Wing player/manager Justin Plein said.
The Aces are playing in the state tournament for the second straight year and for the third time since 2012. Plein believes Red Wing has what it takes to make a strong run in the tournament. The Aces face Avon at 11 a.m. Sunday in Maple Lake.
"With the pitching we have, we feel if we get to three or four runs every game, we're confident that our pitchers are going to be able to shut down opposing teams," Plein said. "And if we have to go to two or three guys, we have the pitching to be able to do that."
The Aces have two main pitchers in Aaron Johnson and Wisconsin native Brady Schroeder. Johnson, a left-hander, is from Red Wing. He started his amateur career playing for the Aces, went to play for Shakopee for awhile, and returned to the Aces again this season.
"Aaron's been battling some arm issues so we're going to see how he feels," Plein said. "It's nice to get that bye to give him a little more time to get ready."
The team's No. 3 pitcher has been lefty Teddy Tauer, a 2018 Red Wing grad.
"He's a very confident No. 3 pitcher," Plein said.
Tauer is one of three players on the Aces who were core players from Red Wing's high school team that made back-to-back state appearances in 2017 and '18. The others are Grant Rolen and starting shortstop Zach Harding.
Rolen played his college ball at Division I Angelo State in 2019, but he will transfer to Northern Iowa Area Community College for the 2019-2020 school year. He leads the Aces with seven home runs.
Some of Red Wing's other top hitters this season have been veteran Corey Tauer, Dixon Irwin and Adam Thygesen. Corey Tauer — Teddy's father — had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth when Red Wing won the 1993 Class B state championship.
"He's still hitting well over .300 for us this year," Plein said of the elder Tauer.
Red Wing enters state play with a 22-14 record. It rolled to a section title by winning four straight games.
"We're playing some of our best baseball right now," Plein said.
And the tournament favorite of the 32 teams left in the field?
"New Market, they're going to be really tough," Plein said. "They have a great 1-2 pitching punch and their lineup has really been hitting the ball so I'd probably make them the favorite."