Matt Halloran remembers the first time he was behind the plate, catching for Chaska Cubs pitcher Pete Ohnsorg this summer.
"I was thumbing balls left and right. It took a few games to get used to his stuff. He's just nasty. Definitely one of the better guys I've caught in town ball," said Halloran, who previously played for the St. Paul Capitals in Class A, switching to the Cubs at the suggestion of Chaska outfielder J.T. Canakes.
Halloran, a former Eden Prairie standout, a state champion in football and hockey, knows something about handling pitchers. He played in 155 games as a Minnesota Gopher.
"We didn't know much about the other team, so it was pitch to Pete's strengths. He's got a lot of sink to his fastball, so we pounded that. He's got good off-speed, so nothing different than a normal game plan," Halloran said.
On Sunday in the Class B State Amateur Baseball Tournament opening round, Halloran saw what others before have seen from Ohnsorg at the state tournament. Consistent pitches at or below the knees. In total control of the situation.
Ohnsorg scattered five hits, striking out five batters, in a 10-0 complete-game shutout in seven innings for Chaska over Anoka.
It was a veteran bunch versus an Anoka squad at state for the first time since 1986.
For Halloran, the experience with the St. Paul Capitals and now this year with Chaska has been eye-opening. He had never been exposed to town team ball before college, Eden Prairie without a team.
"The fields here are better. Haddox in Bloomington is a decent park, but it gets beat up. With Class A, it's really top-heavy. The really good teams are really good. With Class B and C, you're seeing better parity. There is some great talent in these games," Halloran said.
From the start Ohnsorg was nasty. The first five Anoka swings were misses. Three innings in, 36 pitches thrown, Ohnsorg had four strikeouts and faced the minimum.
Meanwhile, Chaska was making plays all around the field. Halloran picked off a runner at first base in the first inning, later throwing out a runner on a steal attempt.
A relay from Jon Leighton on the warning track in center field to Kyle Geason on the right side of the infield to Halloran at home plate was in time for another tag out.
Geason, Tony Lane and Justin Johnson combined for a 6-4-3 double play that in essence buried Anoka in the fifth inning.
Chaska, which already led 3-0 on a bases-loaded walk and two-run single from Dylan Peterson, added two more runs on a Steve Edlefsen RBI-hit and a squeeze bunt from pinch hitter Tyler Polster at 5-0 through five innings.
A Chase Hentges RBI-single in the sixth followed by four runs in the seventh inning, capped by a Tyler Peterson two-out hit, walked off the Bucs in 10-0 fashion.
All nine Chaska starters collected at least one hit with Halloran reaching base four times in five plate appearances, scoring twice.
"A lot of our losses we had runners on second and third and didn't get that last hit. We had that bad stretch in July, that was what was killing us. We have a lot of guys that can hit. I know (Chaska manager Bob Poppitz) has talked a lot about it's hard to put together a line-up. There's so many options. He feels like he's going to offend someone. Everyone can hit," Halloran said.
Chaska, one of six top-two seeds to advance to next weekend's double-elimination tournament in Class B, draws 2016 and 2017 champion Miesville in the second round at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24 in Dassel.
Halloran (wedding) and Geason (birth of second child) are not expected to be available.
Second-round losing teams play an additional game next weekend at 4:30 or 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 25 in Delano.
Six of the eight remaining teams advance to Labor Day Weekend, the culmination of the 2019 State Tournament.
VICTORIA 3, COLD SPRING 1
Riley Sweeney has never been a pitcher that was going to rely on blowing away batters with his fastball. The Chaska High School graduate focused more on pitch selection and pitch selection.
Out of college now, having finished up at Concordia-St. Paul, Sweeney has had his best season yet for Victoria.
He entered the Class B State Tournament with an earned run average in the twos. A total of 10 earned runs allowed.
But this was Cold Spring, among perennial state favorites, Sweeney was facing.
Sweeney scattered six hits with one walk and two strikeouts, throwing seven shutout innings in a 3-1 upset on Aug. 18 in Dassel.
"It's been a really good season. I think it comes with experience. I've been in pressure situations before, so it didn't feel like anything new. We're having fun. We have really good team chemistry right now. That's big," Sweeney said.
The right-hander said the 2019 season has been more laid back, more relaxed not having the demands of playing collegiately. There's more in the tank this summer.
Sweeney got 13 fly ball outs, five outs on the ground. A 1-0 lead on a Trey Cavello fielder's choice in the fourth inning, Sweeney worked out of a jam in the sixth inning.
A runner on third base, one out, Sweeney induced a pop out to shortstop before a fly out to center field ended the threat.
"The plan was to throw strikes, let our team make plays, we have a good team behind me. I was able to throw strikes, make them hit my pitch," Sweeney said.
Corey Binger, Victoria's closer down the stretch, worked the final two innings, allowing a single run in the eighth inning after inheriting a 3-0 lead.
Cold Spring got the tying runs on base in the ninth inning, a running catch from Andy Andresen in the left-center gap, and a Binger strikeout advanced the Vics to the second round.
"There's definitely confidence when you have a guy like Corey coming in behind you. My pitch count was getting up there a little bit so we went with a fresh arm. (Manager Clark Poppitz) told me, 'give me one more.' I did that and we were able to close the door and win," Sweeney said.
A walk and Carter Schmidt hit to start the eighth inning, an error from Cold Spring ace Zach Femrite on a throw allowed the first of two runs from Victoria to score. A Hunter Even sacrifice fly moved the score to 3-0.
Schmidt was 2-for-4 at the plate with a double.
Victoria, the fourth seed out of Region 3, was one of two lower seeds to win along with Dundas, the Vics' second-round opponent, at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24 in Dassel.
"We're not done yet. No way. We're hoping to come out next weekend and do the same thing," Sweeney said.