Rochester Royals two wins away from state championship game
The Rochester Royals are one of four teams left in the Class B amateur baseball state tournament that concludes this weekend in Miesville. A team will need to win a minimum of three games and a maximum of five to capture the state title.
ROCHESTER — The Rochester Royals have had two standout pitchers this season, but they might need a third, or even fourth or fifth if they want to win a Class B amateur baseball state championship.
The Royals will have the opportunity to achieve their season-long goal of winning a state title this weekend in Miesville, but it’s not going to be an easy task.
The Royals are in the final four of the 16-team state tournament and after winning two consecutive tournament games, they enter the double-elimination portion of the tournament. But due to rain last weekend, one round was pushed back. That means a team will need to win a minimum of three games or a maximum of five over a four-day stretch starting Friday in Miesville to be crowned champs.
Rochester has won two Class B state titles, the last coming in 2006.
“This is as close as we’ve been since I’ve been on this team,” Royals pitcher Matt Meyer said. “We had some down years and some years when we made it to state and couldn’t quite do it. This year I feel we have kind of broken through a little bit . … I feel like we can beat anybody in any game.”
The Royals (29-8) will face the Champlin Park LoGators in a winner’s bracket semifinal at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday. The game will follow the other semifinal between Miesville and Blaine at 6 p.m.
“I think it’s a little unfortunate for the last four teams to have to cram everything into the last weekend,” Royals player/manager Drew Block said. “Everyone’s in the same boat, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Meyer (8-2, 1.53 ERA) tossed 133 pitches in back-to-back complete games, which were a week apart, to win the first two state games for the Royals. He will start again against Champlin Park.
Sam Riola could start for the Champlin Park LoGators. As an infielder/pitcher for St. Cloud State University, Riola was the NSIC Player of the Year in 2022. He hit .429 with 22 homers and 66 RBIs, and was 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA on the mound. In a 13-8 second-round state win for Champlin Park over Moorhead, he was 4-for-6 with a homer, two doubles and three RBIs and he allowed one run in three innings on the mound.
“We’ve been in every game we’ve played and I think we come in with a mindset, and a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, thinking we have a chance, which is great,” Meyer said. “I love that feeling.”
Finocchi will pitch second game
The two semifinal winners play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The two losers play at 11 a.m. Saturday in an elimination round game. The winner of that game will then play the loser of the winner’s bracket final at 4:30 p.m. The title game is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday with a second championship game, if needed, scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.
“It’s going to be a lot of stress on the pitching staff,” Meyer said. “It’s a lot of baseball in a short amount of time. We have a lot of arms, but I don’t know if we have enough for five games.”
The Royals will have unbeaten left-hander Matteo Finocchi (8-0, 1.82 ERA) on deck to pitch the second game.
“Whoever goes 2-0 is going to be in the best spot because they won’t have burned all of their pitching,” Block said. “It’s going to be a battle of attrition to see who can outlast everybody.”
The Royals are expected to have virtually all of their healthy position players on hand and available to play. Bo McClintock has hit two homers and had four RBIs in the first two state games. Block and Tate Meiners also hit homers in the second-round victory over Coon Rapids.
“It’s just a testament to our guys and how much they’ve bought in the last couple of years,” Block said. “We’re all working toward the same goal, winning the whole thing. We made it to the last weekend and we definitely have a chance. Hopefully it goes our way.”
As far as pitching goes, the Royals will have Alex Rudquist and Erik Thorvilson available, but a number of others are questionable or out. Brevin Goetz, who finished the season in the Northwoods League, has been battling a hamstring injury and may not be ready to pitch. Derek Lilledahl, a reliever who also played in the Northwoods League, is not expected to pitch, while Palmer Mickelson and Drew Lingen both have injuries. And Joe Sperry has gone to college in North Carolina.
“We’ll just have to run me and Matteo back out on no rest or have these young guys jump in, too,” Meyer said. “... We’re on slim pickings right now.”
Block said if the Royals fall into the loser’s bracket and continue to win, they may have to resort to using position players on the mound.
“We’ll have to play good defense and get some hitting as the weekend goes on,” Block said. “I think everyone’s going to be thin on pitching after the first couple of games.”
Having an ace like Meyer is a good starting point for the Royals and he has been a driving force in wanting to win a state title before he steps away from amateur ball.
“We’re all in it together,” Meyer said. “We’ve got a good team mentality, which is really fun. We’ve kind of been building this rapport for three or four years now. It’s finally paying off to be relevant at state again.”