Seniors lead Tigers to 21 wins
With nine starting seniors for every game, the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta varsity baseball team had the depth and experience to win, racking up 21 victories in 2011.
The Tigers were 21-4 overall and finished the conference schedule 14-2 to win the West Central South title. They made it to the final three of the Section 3AA Tournament, where they lost to New Ulm and Fairmont.
"We had a great season," said coach Lyle Rambow. "It was only the second Tiger team to win 20 games."
According to Rambow's records, the last time the Tigers had 20 wins was in 1991 when the team finished 21-2. Prior to his term as coach, the teams didn't play as many games.
"That's a pretty good accomplishment."
Rambow said a highlight of the season was winning six games in as many days.
As the season was winding down, the Tigers had to make up a couple rained out games and ended up playing four days in a row. Then the play-offs started with the Tigers hosting two games on Saturday, May 28 in the single-elimination tournament.
Not only did the Tigers win, but they defeated the other front-runners in the conference - BOLD, Lac qui Parle Valley, Paynesville, and Minnewaska.
"We had to win," explained Rambow. "If we'd lost, we would have had to share the conference title."
Rambow said the 15 seniors on his team did what they had to for the wins. They made each other better players throughout the season.
"Every one of those (seniors) contributed something during the season to help us win," Rambow said. "The attitude of those players was outstanding."
Along with those seniors, two juniors were also on the roster.
"They both showed that they will be solid contributors next season," Rambow added. "They will have to be our senior leaders."
Another senior mentioned by Rambow is Jenny Hennen, the team's record keeper.
"She did a tremendous job."
Also helping out this season were Rambow's assistant coaches, including varsity assistant Jim Greenwaldt.
"He's an outstanding assistant," Rambow said. "We work together so well."
The Chokio-Alberta pairing also added Spartan head coach Dave Hofland to the mix.
"How lucky is that, to have a varsity coach take over the ninth grade team," Rambow said. "He fit right in."
Don Goracke also helped out.
"Where would we be without Don around here?" asked Rambow. "He loves to work with kids. His passion is coaching baseball."
The Tigers started 3AA play-off action with wins over Redwood Valley and Montevideo. They then advanced to defeat New Ulm. However, Fairmont knocked the Tigers into the losers' bracket, where New Ulm avenged the earlier loss.
"Those last two games were a surprise," explained Rambow. "We hadn't had those type of games during the season."
The Tigers had rallied back from deficits during other regular-season games, but Rambow said the team got behind and couldn't get the runs back.
Alex Erickson, Eric Riley, and Cole Riley were recognized for their outstanding play in the play-offs, being named to the Section 3AA All-Tournament team.
It was the first season of a Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta pairing in baseball.
"It went as smooth as could be," explained Rambow. "The kids blended right in.
"We made quite a run to win the conference title and these boys really played hard and were fun to watch," concluded Rambow.