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Arrows poised to make run at Class AA title

ST. CLOUD -- The trip to St. Cloud is a familiar one for the Pipestone Area baseball team.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Arrow team qualified for the Class AA state tournament, and will open its quest for a state title today.

"We've had a nice run of athletes and they've performed when they needed to," PA head coach Rick Zollner said. "It's been kind of a neat thing to go four in a row."

After finishing fourth a year ago, the Arrows (19-7) will face Annandale (18-6) at 12:30 p.m. today at Joe Faber Field.

"They have a couple of kids that were at a showtime camp with some of my kids, so I know they have a lot of team speed," Zollner said. "They have a good pitcher, and they like to go and swing the bat and score runs. That's a good formula to get to state."

The Cardinals have outscored their opponents this season 189-89, and have three different players hitting over .400 on the year.

"That's murderer's row right there," Zollner said. "If we don't pitch well and we have too many miscues, we're going to be in big trouble."

Bert Marsnik leads the team with a 9-4 record on the hill with a 2.63 earned run average. He is also tied for the team lead with a .463 average.

Graham Brown also sports a .463 average, while Tim Queck leads the team with 31 RBI and hits at a .430 clip.

"Last year, we ran into trouble because we couldn't throw strikes." Zollner said. "First and foremost, we have to be able to throw the ball over the plate. We have to change speeds and get these hitters out in front so we can make some plays defensively.

"If we fall behind and we have to lay fastballs in there, it's going to be a long day or a short two games, whichever way you want to look at it," Zollner added.

However, the Arrows will bring the experience of having qualified for the tournament in four straight seasons.

"I'm hoping my older guys will help the younger guys a little bit and help them relax and get them focused and go out and make plays," Zollner said. "I think they'll be able to slow down all the stuff that goes on up there. I think what happens is that you just get so anxious, and all of a sudden your at-bat is over, and you're like 'what just happened.'

"But with those older guys, they should be able to slow things down a little bit and understand and appreciate it and go on and play baseball," Zollner said.

Four Arrows return after starting in last year's state tournament. Greg Quist, Sammy Schneider, Doug Mead and Robbie Forde were all in the starting lineup last year.

Quist returns as the top pitcher, with a 6-2 record and a meager 1.74 ERA.

"We have a quite a few arms, but Greg is the ace and has been all year," Zollner said. "We have a lot of arms, and that's a nice option to have. We just have to be able to pull the trigger and make a switch when we need to at the right time."

He is also among the team leaders with a .375 average and 26 RBI.

Offensively, Mead leads the Arrows with a .402 average and 21 RBI. The senior also has a perfect 4-0 record on the hill.

"The one thing that I have figured out in the last few years of going is that usually your seniors play well," Zollner said. "It's the juniors that kind of decide your fate."

Juniors Jon Schelhaas (.376 average, 16 RBI), Chris Dougherty (.361, 26 RBI) and sophomore Brandon Alfson provide depth for an Arrow offense that hit .311 on the season.

"We seem to score enough runs," Zollner said. "We take some pitches and we get on base. We're going to try and put some pressure on the other team. I guess Annandale has a stud for a catcher, so that will pretty much limit that part of the game."

But with a plethora of good teams at the state tournament, Zollner is taking it one game at a time.

"Our approach is that we have that first game at 12:30, and that's the game we have to win," Zollner said. "We're not trying to look down the road and look past anybody and worry about anything."