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Worthington's Joe Ahrens performs well at all-star game

WORTHINGTON -- It was a whirlwind of a weekend for Worthington's Joe Ahrens.

In the span of five days, Ahrens played with some of the best talent in Minnesota, then with his Worthington Legion teammates, watched a College World Series game and finally, was part of the coaching staff for a VFW game.

"It makes you think of the minor leagues -- traveling non-stop, going from one place to another," Ahrens said. "But it's been a lot of fun. I played with a lot of great guys, then I got to come back and play with my teammates and then do all the coaching, all in a five-day span."

And on the sixth day, Ahrens played amateur ball -- getting two hits and driving in three runs for the Wilmont Cardinals.

The baseball weekend all started June 20 for Ahrens, as the Worthington graduate was selected for the Lions All-Star game in Chaska.

"It was a bit of a surprise," Ahrens said. "I wasn't expecting to make it. I was told that I was nominated, but I wasn't expecting to be selected. It's an honor, and it's humbling to be able to play with the best in Minnesota."

Ahrens joined Pipestone Area's Doug Mead and Greg Quist, along with Redwood Valley's Mahlon Zimmerman on the Southern team in the four-team format.

"I think we represented the Southwest Conference well," Ahrens said. "Greg came out and pitched well, and Doug hit the ball well. Mahlon started a game and pitched well."

With a round-robin competition, the Southern team finished 0-3 against the Northern team, and a Metro East and Metro West team.

"We could have just as easily been 3-0," Ahrens explained. "We competed with all the teams. We stuck right with the Metro East and Metro West teams and the North team. We were there until the end, and we basically lost all of the games in the last couple of innings."

As an infielder, Ahrens was able to get his turn in the field and at the plate. Although he didn't have a hit in the three games, he still made solid contact in every trip.

"I didn't get a hit in the book all weekend, but I hit the ball hard all three or four times," Ahrens said. "It just felt good to hit off of some of the best pitchers in the state. I was about 10 feet from hitting a grand slam, so I hit the ball fine."

While at Worthington, Ahrens was the ace of the Trojan staff and had a chance to show off his pitching prowess as well.

"I threw an inning and a third," Ahrens said. "I gave up a home run that probably still hasn't landed yet. They wanted to get me in there to get some work. I gave up a big home run, but I got a couple outs and got a strikeout in there, too, so it wasn't too rough."

Even though his experience on the mound wasn't too harsh, not everything went as smoothly.

"The biggest memory is going to be that almost everybody got food poisoning," Ahrens said. "Everybody was hugging the toilet Saturday at 3:30 in the morning. A few lucky kids didn't get it. Everybody was just sicker than a dog at the tournament."

After recovering from three games and the illness, Ahrens booked it to Sioux City, Iowa, to play with the Worthington Legion team Sunday.

"It wasn't our day," Ahrens said of the legion games Sunday. "Our pitchers did fine, but it just wasn't our day at the plate. It's tough when the other teams put the ball in play and just barely gets past the shortstop. They made us make plays, and we just didn't make all of them."

From there, Ahrens went to Omaha, Neb., to take in a College World Series game before returning Tuesday to be a coach for the Worthington VFW team in a doubleheader.

However, somewhere in his hectic schedule, Ahrens found the time to commit to the University of Wisconsin-Superior to continue his baseball career.

"It takes a lot of pressure off, so hopefully, I'll be able to enjoy baseball and get things tied away," Ahrens said of his commitment. "It feels good that I've committed to a program, and I know where I'm going. I just have to keep playing ball and get better."

Former Trojan and current Wilmont Cardinal Justin Saufley will be a familiar face for Ahrens, but that wasn't the sole reason for his selection.

"It helps to have a guy that you know, and he's been friends with my brother for as long as I can remember," Ahrens explained. "I know him pretty well, and I've played with him a few times, so that will help the transition."

Even through the long process of finding a place to continue his athletic and academic progression, Ahrens believes he made the right decision.

"I just felt that I was blessed that this program found me, and they wanted me to come and play for them," Ahrens said. "They kept after me, even though I took so long to make my decision. They have a bright future, and they have a great coaching staff."

While UW-Superior hasn't been a national power in baseball in the past, Ahrens hopes to be a part of the new tradition at UW-Superior.

"In the past, they haven't been known for their baseball, but they've tripled their wins, and they are getting a lot more guys coming," Ahrens said. "They are increasing the competitiveness of the team."

Ahrens plans to major in teaching or sports administration with the hopes of becoming a coach sometime in the future. But until he's managing the team, Ahrens still has a lot of baseball left to play.

And with his success at the all-star game, the tall right-hander will become a Yellowjacket with a high level of confidence.

"I could have come into the all-star game and struck out every time," Ahrens said. "But I hit the ball fine, and that gives you confidence that you can hit and field and pitch with the best. It was pretty much a preview for what you're going to see at the college level."