Baseball: Bombers lineup poised for state tripLosing 8-4 to Winona Cotter on May 14 was a turning point for Cannon Falls.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Losing 8-4 to Winona Cotter on May 14 was a turning point for Cannon Falls.
The Bombers didn’t play well but it was a loss that helped spur them to the Class 2A state baseball tournament.
“We kind of took them lightly,” senior Tyler Boyle-Hoban said. “We lost that game and regrouped from there. We realized we’re not unbeatable.”
Don’t tell the competition that. Cannon Falls has not lost since.
“We probably played our last nine games that felt like it was a playoff battle,” Cannon Falls head coach Bucky Lindow said. “The guys have a quiet, intense confidence. … That Tuesday we went down to Austin, they were so quietly focused and quietly confident. They had a sense of purpose. I think that will keep carrying on.”
The Bombers’ 7-3 win against Stewartville last Tuesday during the Section 1AA finale secured their first trip to the state tournament since 1997. A major reason for Cannon Falls’ current eight-game winning streak is its offensive punch through the lineup.
Six starters hit better than .300 this season while junior Paul Rolfes, senior Trevor Sullivan and senior Cedric Dicke also played crucial roles in the team’s success. Rolfes scored a team-leading 24 runs and hit .276, Sullivan batted .286 with seven stolen bases, 20 runs scored and 16 RBI and Dicke led the team with 27 RBI while hitting .267 as the starting shortstop.
“We feel we can put up runs against anyone,” Boyle-Hoban said. “We have a really strong lineup 1-9. We’re really confident in each other. We know we can score runs, it’s only a matter of time.”
The Bombers (20-5, 10-2 HVL) scored 181 runs this season with a .313 team batting average and 36 stolen bases. Eight players had 10 or more RBI. Senior Michael Growette hit .403 with 11 RBI, junior Noah Callister had 17 RBI and Boyle-Hoban finished with a .377 batting average with a home run and 10 RBI.
Cannon Falls also welcomed the recovery of senior Braxton Lindow from an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Lindow tore his knee during football season in October but returned to give the Bombers another potent bat in the middle of the lineup. The St. Olaf recruit hit .370 in 18 games, scoring 15 runs and knocking in 16 while hitting third in the order.
“It added a punch in the middle of the lineup that allowed other people to move around,” Bucky Lindow said.
But Cannon Falls is not simply an offensive juggernaut. The Bombers boast three starters with winning records and a team ERA of 2.46. Seniors Growette and Boyle-Hoban were dominant all year long. Growette was 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA and Boyle-Hoban went 8-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. Callister also finished 4-2 with 34 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings.
Bucky Lindow also inserted sophomore Brock Peterson at catcher part way through the year and it helped strengthen Cannon Falls’ defense. Sullivan moved from behind the plate to center field and was stellar while Peterson blocked everything in his first year playing catcher.
“That’s huge because I feel like I can throw anything in the dirt and Brock will block it,” Boyle-Hoban said. “When you’re struggling you know you can just throw it in there and your defense will make a play.”
Despite the Bombers’ success, it hasn’t been an easy year for the Lindow family. After Braxton’s injury, the family’s house caught fire in January. Making the state tournament isn’t a by-product of the trials they went through, Bucky Lindow said, but it allowed the family to find some sense of normalcy.
“All I know is we’ve been incredibly blessed through this whole process,” Bucky Lindow said. “So many people have been supporting us and praying for us.”
The Lindows are part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and their Christian faith, they regularly attend St. Pius V Church in Cannon Falls, helped temper the tribulations but also helps them find joy in the successes.
“Our faith in Jesus is just right there,” Bucky Lindow said. “We know that helps you through the struggles and helps you enjoy the joys in the proper way; hopefully in a humble way. We feel blessed to be in this situation.”
During their run to the Class 2A state baseball tournament, the Bombers defeated 14th-ranked Stewartville and 18th-ranked Kasson-Mantorville. Now, Cannon Falls will need to keep its momentum going against second-ranked Holy Family Catholic Thursday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud at 10 a.m.
“We definitely saw those really good hitters and really good pitchers already,” Boyle-Hoban said. “It won’t be that much of a difference. We feel like we’ve played some of the best teams in that state already. If other teams are equivalent, we can play our game and we can come out on top.”