Cologne Hollanders - Clemensen

Carter Clemensen has been playing with Cologne since he was 16, batting over .400 this season. Clemensen and his brother, Casey, grew up just down the park from the city's ball park.

Having the ball park in Cologne within walking distance from home was always something special for Casey and Carter Clemensen.

Wearing the Hollander uniform, Casey first in 2014, Carter as a 16-year-old a year later in 2015, was a moment neither will forget.

How about leading Cologne to its first state tournament appearance since 1972? Well, that would be on a whole another level.

"It's been a long time," Carter said.

Cologne, the No. 4 seed in the Region 7C Tournament, boasting the third-best regular season Crow River Valley League record at 12-6, can get closer to realizing that moment Friday at its own field.

The Hollanders play Watertown at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round of the Region 7C Tournament. The winner plays top seed Carver at 3 p.m. Saturday for a spot in state.

"I'm excited. We'd love to win the first game here. It's huge to have our first game here versus playing in Carver," Casey said.

"We're ready to play," Carter added.

Cologne is having its best season in years. The Clemensens are a big part of that. Carter, a junior-to-be at Gustavus Adolphus College, is hitting .410 with 14 extra-base hits and a team-high 26 RBIs.

"I was jealous of him. We had a rule in high school that we couldn't play until after we graduated. It's been fun playing with him," Casey said of Carter.

Casey, second on the team with 23 runs scored, is second on the team in innings pitched, a WHIP (walks and hits versus innings pitched) is a solid 1.27.

"It's been nice pitching behind Christian (Johnson), not having to be the workhorse. My arm has tired out by the end of the year the last couple of years. I didn't have to throw so many innings, so I think that helped me be more successful," Casey said.

Additionally, both are responsible for helping shape the current Hollander roster. Their cousin, Tanner Luebke, came over from Mayer in 2017 and now is the team's lead-off hitter.

Starting shortstop Cole Pengilly and pitchers Torben Urdahl and Christian Johnson play with Carter at Gustavus. Cole and Carter make up quite possibly the best middle infield in the league.

Johnson, before leaving to play in Michigan in the Northwoods League, and Urdahl, another cousin of the Clemensens, have six wins on the mound this season.

"(Torben) is a distant relative, too. He's been out to the field a couple of times and he loved the atmosphere, the hill. Christian, too. Me, Cole and Christian have been really close at Gustavus, and (Christian) wanted us behind him in the middle infield again," Carter said.

Cologne's roster is maturing, and with the additions in recent years, including middle-of-the-order power in Kyle Brazil -- a team-best .480 hitter -- the Hollanders have their best shot in many years to reach the Class C State Tournament.

And that's exciting to the hometown kids.

"It's been a blast. Seeing the team turnaround these last few years. You see it tonight, there's a good crowd here, the field looks phenomenal. The new deck in front of the Shack. It's what we all hoped for," Carter said.

"This year has definitely been my best. Every year since I started really has been my best. We just get a little better each year. We've pulled in some good players, made ourselves more competitive," Casey said.

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