EDITOR’S NOTE: The Globe is running a semi-regular sports feature reliving area coaches’ favorite coaching memories. We encourage all area coaches to submit their stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be reprinted in The Globe sports section. Today’s favorite memory is from Derrick Jenniges, who coaches baseball and boys basketball at Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
BY DERRICK JENNIGES
Special to The Globe
My top spring sports memory is probably when Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove qualified for the state baseball tournament for the first time in 2017.
In 2016 we entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and upset Windom in the first round. After losing to No. 2 Pipestone, we had victories over Redwood Valley and Jackson County Central to put us in the final four -- where we then lost to New London Spicer.
We only had two seniors on this team, so the 2017 spring was one to look forward to. In early April of the 2017 we found out, via appeal, that we would be placed in Class A for postseason play.
This was also the first year of the pitch count regulations, so it was another distraction for coaches and players to be concerned about.
After starting the year 4-3, we were able to win 13 games in a row to finish the regular season as Red Rock Conference champions. We had nine seniors among the 11 players that had key roles.
Entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, we were able to get a combined no-hitter from our No. 2 and No. 3 pitchers vs Edgerton. In the next round vs Murray County Central we scored eight runs in the first inning and won via the 10-run rule. We left the weekend with all three pitchers available to pitch in the next game.
In the third game we faced Central Minnesota Christian, the No. 6 seed from the north. They had used their top two pitchers to win games versus higher seeds, so they were on their third pitcher.
The pitch count thing was starting to come into play. We were able to have a couple big innings the second time through the order and win again via the 10-run rule.
That left us and Wabasso as the two undefeated teams, and this is my greatest memory of the whole season. Trailing 2-1 with one out in the top of the sixth, I had to use a mound visit because our ace pitcher Taylor Bunting had just touched 74 pitches.
When I approached the mound, I explained the situation to the players, sounding something like this:
“Hey guys, I fully believe this is your team and decisions like this should come from you. If Taylor throws one more pitch, he cannot pitch on Tuesday (the loser bracket game to get back into the finals).”
As a group they took a second to look at each other and then to me with a simple response: “What do you mean coach, we're gonna win! We got this!”
I remember going back to the dugout and having our coaching staff say, “Well?”
I just responded calmly and with a chuckle, “They said they got this.”
We proceeded to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 3-2 lead. Then in the top of the seventh came another special moment in my career as Taylor Bunting reached his pitch limit with two outs and man on first base.
We went to Skylar Reddemann to get the last out. Skylar had been a solid player for us all season, but when it came to the playoffs we decided that he was most valuable pitching out of the bullpen. We had 11 players that rotated all season, someone had to take on a different role.
He came on and recorded the final out. He did this again versus Wabasso a few days later when he pitched the final inning to defeat Wabasso again, 6-2 for the section championship.
At the state tournament we won versus Fosston 11-1, then lost to eventual champ Parkers Prairie 8-3 in the semifinals. We defeated Wabasha-Kellogg in the third place game 12-0 behind the arm of senior Skylar Reddemann who tossed a five inning two hit shutout.
We finished with a record of 23-4 and a third-place finish at the state tournament. It had a lot to do with senior leadership and equally as much to do with the willingness and understanding of Skylar Reddemann to accept the role that his coaches felt gave the team the best chance to win.