A's health sparks state run

WORTHINGTON -- It took until the early part of July for the Pipestone A's amateur baseball team to look as head coach Kent Woelber expected at the beginning of the season.

WORTHINGTON -- It took until the early part of July for the Pipestone A's amateur baseball team to look as head coach Kent Woelber expected at the beginning of the season.

Injuries and both school and legion team commitments had kept players away who would otherwise play integral roles on the team.

That all changed on July 9 when the team finally was whole for the first time. The result that night was a 3-2 victory against the Jackson Bulls, and it helped spark the A's to a return to the state tournament.

Pipestone (18-13), which earned a trip to state with a four-game series victory against Fox Lake, will learn its seeding when it plays Wilmont in the Region 13C championship game Saturday in Pipestone. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start.

This will be the seventh meeting between the two teams this year, with the Cardinals holding a 5-1 advantage. Pipestone's lone victory came in the Gopher League playoffs, a 10-6 victory that sent the A's to the league finals. Wilmont got its revenge by sweeping a pair of games in the championship round to win the league.


The rematch is something Woelber expected from the beginning of the season, especially after he got all his players back.

"Once we got our team together and we played ball, we'd be right with them," he said.

In order to stay with a team like Wilmont, the A's had to have solid play from the pitching staff, and Matt Oye and Jared Thies have certainly provided that. Oye finished the year at 5-2 with an ERA of 3.24. Oye has displayed a strong level of competitiveness during the season, as well as an ability to mix his pitches well to keep guys off balance.

"Good fastball, changeup, nice curveball," Woelber said of his pitcher. "He knows how to pitch. He doesn't just go out and throw (hard)."

Thies, meanwhile, is 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA. While he can throw hard, success for Thies usually comes down to whether or not his curveball is effective.

"Once he gets it going, it's fun to watch," Woelber added.

The offense for the A's, Woelber feels, is one of the better lineups in the league -- on paper. The biggest concern for Woelber is not who is in the lineup, but whether the players bring the same intensity level to each game.

"It's just a matter of what team shows up," Woelber said.


Matt Paulsen has been one of the sparks for the offense this season, leading the team in batting at .458. Paulsen and Oye have proven more than able to set the table in the top two spots in the lineup, putting Woelber, Dan Morrison and David Steenstra in position to drive them in.

So much so, that the trio of Woelber, Morrison and Steenstra leads the team in RBIs.

The biggest question entering the game Saturday is not on offense, but on defense. Rightfielder Adam Vaux has been out of action for the past three weeks due to dizziness and heart problems. While Woelber said he expects Vaux to play Saturday, his effectiveness will certainly be of concern with the state tournament opening up Aug. 19 in Miesville.

There will be some subtle changes in the lineup for the A's Saturday. Paulsen is likely to be in the designated hitter role, with Oye expected to catch. Woelber is slated to be the starting pitcher.

The winner of the game will get the better seeding for the tournament opener. The champion faces the runner-up from Region 2 at 1:30 p.m., while the loser takes on the Region 2 champion at 11 a.m.

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