Stewartville-Racine is getting used to qualifying for the Class C amateur baseball state tournament. Now the Sharks would like to make a little noise at the event.
The 48-team, single-elimination state tournament begins on Saturday in Delano and Maple Lake, and will be played over the next three weekends. Stewartville-Racine is making its second straight state appearance and third in four years. The Sharks were eliminated by losing in the first round a year ago and in 2016.
"It's always nice to get back," Sharks pitcher Jade Boettcher said. "We just want to do a little damage when we get there."
The Sharks enter as the second of three seeded teams from Region 5C. Red Wing is the top seed from the region and Lake City is No. 3. Stewartville-Racine opens against Buckman at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Delano.
"We haven't won a game in the state tournament since we've been here, so we're hoping to get that first win up there," Sharks player-manager Tyler Schmitz said.
Schmitz, 25, is likely to start on the mound in the state opener with Boettcher being the second option. Andrew Simmons, a 2019 Stewartille grad, is the Sharks' No. 3 pitcher.
Schmitz played college ball at RCTC and Concordia-St. Paul. Boettcher, the head baseball coach at John Marshall, is in his 19th season playing amateur baseball. The 38-year-old has played the last 18 seasons with Stewartville-Racine.
"We have younger better athletes now days," he said.
The Sharks have a mix of veterans and current college players such as St. Charles' Derek McCready (Luther College) and Chatfield's Ben Ihrke (Augustana). There are also a trio of key players from Hayfield in brothers Tyler Nelson, Connor Nelson and Josh Evans. Tyler Nelson is a former Bemidji State player while Evans, a stepbrother to the two Nelsons, is one of the team's oldest players at 30.
"It's a pretty good mix of everyone," Schmitz said of veterans and younger players. "And they all get along really well so it's kind of nice."
The Sharks have posted a 22-5 record. McCready has having a strong season at the plate and hitting about .350.
"We have a solid crew of about 15 guys," Schmitz said. "But we haven't won. We've been in the state tournament like five or six years since we've been part of the organization and I think most of the guys are feeling good that we might get the first win."
Pitching is always a key so the Sharks will have to rely on Schmitz and Boettcher on the mound, among other things.
"We definitely want to win that first game and hopefully make a run after that," Schmitz said. "If we can get some timely hitting, because we've all been hitting the ball pretty well, that will be big for us."
The Sharks lost to Faribault in the first round a year ago. Faribault was eliminated in region play this season. New Market enters as the top-ranked team in Class C.
"A lot of the teams from last year didn't make it back so it's kind of open," Schmitz said. "But there's tons of good teams up there."
Buckman is the No. 3 seed from Region 8C. The winner of the Sharks and Buckman game will play Farming at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 24 in Delano.