A season ago, Holy Family finished last in the Wright County East Conference with a 9-1 record, but head coach Bryan DeLorenzo was optimistic about the team competing for the 2023 conference title.
When the Fire were 6-3 halfway through the 2023 season, DeLorenzo said he felt the team’s chances of winning the conference shift from “hopeful” to “legitimate” as they played and competed well in six games against Class 3A foes and a game against St. Agnes, a 2022 Class 2A state tournament semifinalist.
On May 22, those legitimate chances became a certainty, as Holy Family beat Hutchinson 6-4 to win the Wright County East Conference championship. It was the Fire’s first conference championship since 2012 when the team went 17-3 and won the Class 2A state championship.
“It felt great. It’s a credit to the players for playing like a team and working together to achieve a pretty big goal,” DeLorenzo said.
Holy Family finished the regular season with a 13-5 record and went 7-3 in conference play. The Fire’s only Wright County East losses came twice to conference and section foe Southwest Christian and once to Delano.
DeLorenzo said it was a team effort and that Holy Family needed players in all areas of the game to play well. Junior Jamison Quinn and senior Paul Dorr were key to the Fire’s pitching staff, as Quinn had a 2.38 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings while Dorr had a 4-1 record, including the conference-clinching win over Hutchinson. Quinn also led the team in batting average with .431.
DeLorenzo was also happy with how senior Johnny Hussey elevated his play at the plate and in the outfield. Hussey finished with a .358 batting average and 14 RBI.
“He’s really stepped up his game and is one player that we needed to have the year he’s having to be in the situation we’re in,” DeLorenzo said.
DeLorenzo said the Fire’s defense was key in winning games, as they limited errors and extra bases given up to opponents while also avoiding giving up multiple runs an inning. The coach thought the team’s mentality at the plate was also “tough” but would still like to see a more consistent approach in the section tournament.
“Limit the strikeouts, look to attack, put the ball in play, [and] put pressure on the defense,” DeLorenzo said.
Holy Family’s ultimate goal is to win the section 5AA title, and DeLorenzo said the team has to be focused on winning its first two postseason games to do so. No matter the result, the coach is impressed with how the group has come together.
“This team is such a close knit team. They genuinely like each other, they genuinely support each other, which makes it good for a team atmosphere [and] a less threatening atmosphere so guys can go out and succeed in what is a very tough mental game of baseball,” DeLorenzo said.
Section 5AA tournament play is here for not just Holy Family but also Southwest Christian, while Chanhassen and Chaska are also set to compete in the section 2AAAA playoffs.
The Stars earned the No. 2 seed in the 15-team tournament. Southwest Christian advanced after blanking Brooklyn Center 15-0 May 25 before playing again May 30 against Glencoe-Silver Lake. The team won five of its last six games to finish the season with a winning record and earn one of the top seeds in the field.
Despite the better overall record and conference championship, Holy Family lost twice to Southwest Christian and earned the No. 3 seed in section 5AA. The Fire moved past PACT Charter School 18-1 May 25 to play Breck May 30. If both Southwest Christian and Holy Family won their first two tournament games, the Stars would host the Fire at Fritz Field in Cologne June 1 at 4:30 p.m.
Chanhassen and Chaska are set for games May 29 and 31, with a possible game June 2 if the teams win one of its first two postseason games. As of May 26, the Storm were first in the section standings and had a 7-1 record against section foes, while the Hawks were fourth and had a 5-3 record.
Chanhassen lost three of its first four games but got back on track quickly with an eight-game win streak in the middle of the season. Chaska won four of its last five games to stay firmly above the .500 mark and prepare for a possible postseason push.