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Redbirds' Haugen staying busy, helping amateur team win

Jake Haugen is a 21-year-old college student whose summer can hardly be called a vacation. He's very busy, and one of his commitments is playing for the Luverne amateur baseball team.

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Jake Haugen is a 21-year-old college student whose summer can hardly be called a vacation.

That’s a very good thing for the Luverne Redbirds and their fans.

Haugen, who will be a junior this fall at the University of Sioux Falls, is working full-time this summer while fulfilling his commitment to the South Dakota Air National Guard. He’s also coaching the Luverne junior high baseball team.

And he’s helping the Redbirds amateur baseball team climb to the top of the standings in the highly competitive Gopher League.

Haugen hopes the best is yet to come.

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“The playoffs are always a different atmosphere and it’s a lot more exciting to pitch in those big games,” Haugen said.

Haugen is 5-1 on the mound for the Redbirds. The 6-3, 200-pound right-hander has been brilliant recently, with back-to-back complete games. Last Wednesday, Luverne defeated Pipestone 3-2 as Haugen out-dueled A’s ace Brandon Alfson. The week before, Haugen went the distance as Luverne edged Windom 5-2 in a battle of southwest Minnesota baseball powers.

The hard-throwing Haugen credits his catcher, Ben Serie.

“He used to catch all the time when we were little, then played shortstop in high school,” Haugen said. “He’s starting to catch again and it’s really helping me. We always seem to be on the same page with pitch-calling and location.”

The longtime friends have a chemistry that is clicking.

“We’ve been friends as long as I can remember,” Haugen said. “We know each other pretty well, so we know what to say and when to say it.”

The two are teammates along with fellow Redbirds standout Derek Lundgren at USF. Haugen didn’t pitch much this spring, but he’s improving this summer.

“I’m able to locate my fastball better the last few games,” Haugen said.

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He’s also working as hard as ever, thanks to his Air National Guard career. He enlisted last May, then last fall spent several months in basic training and tech school in Texas. Now Haugen spends one weekend a month and two weeks a year in the service.

Plus, he’s spending the summer working for the Guard.

It’s a bit of a family tradition.

“My dad served 20 years in the Minnesota Army National Guard and my sister joined the South Dakota Air National Guard right out of high school,” Haugen said. “

He went to Minnesota-Duluth upon graduation from Luverne High in 2019, but it wasn’t a good fit. Upon transferring to USF, he decided to enlist.

“It’s been great. I’m glad I did it,” Haugen said. “I’m patriotic and there’s definitely some pride that comes with it. Basic training was a great experience for me because of the discipline you learn.”

Then he chuckled.

“Also, it makes you a lot more grateful to be playing baseball rather than being at basic training,” he said.

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He’s also thankful to be so busy this summer.

“Pretty much every night I’m either going to Luverne or a different town to play or coach,” Haugen said.

Coaching the junior high team, he said, is both enjoyable and beneficial.

“I really like being around that age group, and I learn a lot from coaching them which helps me, honestly,” Haugen said. “I try to give them advice, and then I try to put that into my own game. So it helps me while I’m playing.

“You can see when the kids actually want to learn and get better, and that’s the part I really like.”

On Sunday, the Redbirds improved to 17-1 in Gopher League play and 19-4 overall with wins over Heron Lake, 11-1, and Fox Lake, 10-0.

Ben Serie and Derek Lundgren earned mound triumphs for Luverne, with Lundgren homering against Heron Lake. Veteran slugger Phil Paquette hit two home runs against Fox Lake.

For results of last week’s Worthington and Windom games, please see other stories at www.dglobe.com . In other First Nite and Gopher League action last week it was:

Jackson’s Rasche earns milestone win

JACKSON — Veteran pitcher Ryan Rasche posted his 72nd career victory as the Bulls defeated Lakefield 8-3 on Sunday. Rasche is tied with Tom Hady for the most pitching wins in Jackson Bulls history.

Earlier in the week, Jackson defeated Blue Earth 10-4 in a non-league game as Shad Wacker went 4-for-5 and stole four bases. Payton Handevidt had three hits.

Pipestone splits, Adrian drops a pair

Pipestone defeated Adrian 13-1 Sunday in a battle of A’s. Brandon Alfson belted two homers, including a grand slam, and Mike Friese pitched eight strong innings for Pipestone.

Earlier in the week, Pipestone lost to the Milroy Irish 2-1 in 12 innings. Austin Evans pitched exceptionally well for the A’s.

The Milroy Irish also defeated Adrian earlier in the week, 21-5.

Heron Lake 11, Fox Lake 10

TRUMAN — Gabriel Robles belted a three-run home run as the Lakers defeated the Foxes last Wednesday.

Eli Becker had a game-winning, two-run single for Heron Lake.

Hadley wins three

HADLEY — Slugger Nick Bruning and the Hadley Buttermakers are heating up at the right time.

Bruning hit homers in both games on Sunday as the Buttermakers swept a league doubleheader, defeating the Milroy Irish 5-3 and blanking Heron Lake 9-0.

Earlier in the week, Hadley defeated Mountain Lake 4-3 in a game played in Truman.

Bruning hit a 3-run shot and Jacob Van Dam pitched six strong innings as Hadley knocked off Milroy. It was just the second league loss in 18 games for Milroy.

Danny Blankenship had two hits and Abe Paulzine had an RBI single for Hadley. Luke Drooger picked up the save.

Against Heron Lake, Avery Weber fired a seven-inning shutout. He scattered six hits while walking two and whiffing three.

Bruning, Alex Petersen and Chris Halbur each hit home runs for the Buttermakers. Petersen — whose homer was a 3-run shot — Joe Larson, Derek Kluis and Blankenship each had two hits as Hadley out-hit Heron Lake 12-6.

In the Hadley win over Mountain Lake, Trent Carlson earned the mound triumph and Max Zwart got the save.

Paulzine had three hits and two RBIs, while Jaden Deacon had two singles. Kluis contributed a double and two RBIs.

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