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AREA BASEBALL NOTEBOOK: Crookston having turnaround season

Crookston has put its baseball struggles into the past.

After winning just a few games during the 2013 American Legion season and going 4-9 in high school this spring, Crookston has gained the No. 1 seed from the north in the Minnesota Sub-district 9 Division II Legion tournament.

Crookston takes an 11-2 record into the sub-district, which runs Friday through Sunday in Roseau. Its only two losses have been to Red Lake County.

Success comes a year later than anticipated, as Crookston team manager Brent Stahlecker said there were high expectations last summer.

“We had a good group of sophomores,’’ Stahlecker said. “They’re good baseball players. We just didn’t play very well last summer. I think the youth had a lot to do with that.

“The guys have matured physically and they’ve become smarter players. I think that one year of experience has made a difference, big time, for us this season.’’

The strength of the team has been the pitching staff, led by left-hander Aaron Hollcraft and right-handers Seth Desrosier and Parker Epema.

“Aaron and Seth get quite a few strikeouts,’’ first-year Crookston coach Jesse Jennings said. “They’re both hard throwers. Parker is effective by keeping the ball down and getting a lot of ground balls. And we’ve played good defense behind our pitchers.’’

There is balance in the offense, with seven players who have seen extensive playing time hitting better than .300. Leading the way are Brandon Kresl (.500), Hollcraft (.409), Joey Koenig (.370), Ryan Porter (.353) and Mikey Hijostek (.333). Desrosier has been the top run producer with 12 RBI.

RLC carries over success

Crookston had a turnaround from its high school season. Red Lake County, on the other hand, has carried over its prep success.

Red Lake County is 11-2 and the No. 1 seed from the south division going into the Sub-district 9 tournament.

Most of the players were on the Red Lake County team that won the Section 8A title this spring. The Rebels beat Norman County in the section final; Seth Schmitz, an assistant coach at Norman County, coaches the RLC Legion team.

“One of the guys sent me a text after the game saying, ‘You’re still going to coach us in Legion ball, right?’ ’’ said Schmitz, a 2007 Red Lake Falls graduate. “Once in awhile, the guys will bring that (section title game) up.

“I was looking forward to coaching this team. I expected a good run. I knew we had a lot of pitching. We have been short on numbers sometimes, but we’ve scrambled and got things done.”

Lars Brevik is the ace of a pitching staff that also includes Tristan Knott, Jake Magnell and Ryan Amiot.

“Our bats have been relatively quiet all summer,” Schmitz said. “We’ve had to rely on our pitching and defense. We’ve held teams down pretty well.”

Wright on a roll

Rakeem Wright has had a hot bat for the Grand Forks Blues.

In the Blues’ last 12 games, Wright is 22-for-39 (.564). He’s had eight multi-hit games and scored 18 runs in those 12 games.

“Rakeem’s hitting the ball well,” Blues coach Matt Palmiscno said. “He’s gotten some doubles into the gaps.

“But probably two-thirds of his hits have been ground balls that he’s slapped into holes or beaten out. He’s our fastest kid. He really uses his speed well.”