Amateur Baseball: Red Wing prepares for first state tourney since 2006Red Wing faces the Mankato Twins at 8 p.m. Friday during the first round of the Minnesota Baseball Association Class B state tournament at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Failure is engrained in the game of baseball and the Red Wing Aces dealt with plenty to start the year.
The Aces (25-19) stumbled out of the gate, suffering through a seven-game losing streak from May 18-June 3, but after qualifying for the Minnesota Baseball Association Class B state tournament for the first time since 2006, the struggles were worth the end product.
“When you’re going through what we were going through, especially the section games where we’d be competitive and virtually give the game away, it was tough to envision the state tournament,” Red Wing player/co-manager Andy Gibart said. “I think it helped us not because they were close games but it let us know even though we played terribly we could stay in games. What would happen if we put a full game together?”
It all fell into place for the Aces during the Shakopee/Jordan Tournament July 13-15 as Red Wing finished a seven-game winning streak by going 4-0. The Aces scored 33 runs in the tourney and fixed the late-game collapses that plagued them in the season’s first months. A veteran squad also sealed up the defensive holes and it carried throughout the rest of the season.
“The mistakes were so glaring,” Gibart said. “It took solving one of those things before the other one was going to come. There are three key things to any baseball game: You have to throw the ball, field the ball and hit the ball. Fielding came second and the bats took the longest. It took until July but it didn’t stop and it hasn’t stopped.”
Red Wing won 13 of 15 games to make the Section 1B tournament finale and earned a spot in the state tourney with a 7-5 victory against Duluth Aug. 18 in Red Wing.
The Aces’ climb can be credited in large part to their experience playing together. Red Wing’s roster boasts numerous players that have felt the highs and lows together since 2006.
“We have unbelievable chemistry,” outfielder Steve Boldt said. “We’ve been doing it for years and years it seems like. It kind of feels like everyone knows where people are going to be before they get there. Something just finally clicked.”
Boldt was a big reason why the Aces were able to get hot at the right time, Gibart said. Boldt, along with player/co-manager Jimmy Bohmbach, scuffled at the beginning of the season while dealing with rust that comes from not playing during the offseason. Once Red Wing’s No. 3 and No. 4 hitters caught fire, the offense took off.
“Personally, I know that it was not doing anything all winter time,” Boldt said. “I think that was the way it was with a lot of guys. … When I was struggling a lot, I was hitting all the time with (my brother) Ryan (Boldt). It’s about taking it upon yourself to do the extra work. The only way you can get out of funks is to keep hitting.”
Boldt finished with a .281 batting average but led the team with three triples and 11 stolen bases. He also tallied 25 RBI, tied for third on the team, and hit four home runs. Bohmbach had a .314 batting average with a team-leading 22 walks and 30 RBI.
“It’s interesting because in most cases, if you have a leadoff hitter on a tear for the beginning of the season, like Adam Thygesen was, you’re generally going to have success,” Gibart said. “But that wasn’t the case and that’s because our No. 3 and No.4 hitters weren’t hitting at all. They started hitting right before that Shakopee tourney. There’s no coincidence that we started winning games when our No. 3 and No. 4 hitters starting hitting. … Steve and Jimmy were the catalysts.”
Once the bats awoke, an already stellar pitching staff was able to relax. Gibart and Aaron Johnson both carry ERAs under three into the state tournament with Johnson slated to start against the Mankato Twins Friday.
Gibart is 8-3 with a 2.18 ERA and Johnson has seven wins, three saves and a 2.33 ERA while striking out 92 hitters in 92 2/3 innings.
“Aaron has been dominating whoever he pitches against,” Steve Boldt said.
During a year that’s seen the Red Wing High School baseball team make the state tournament for the first time since 1977 and Ryan Boldt selected to the USA Baseball 18-and-under National Team for the first time since Joe Mauer in 2000, the Aces are another baseball success story for Red Wing.
“It just stems from the high school baseball tournament,” Steve Boldt said. “It’s just good for the whole community.”
Red Wing will aim to keep the fun going a little longer Friday at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud. The game begins at 8 p.m.
“I think we’ve gained (experience) with the stress we’ve had to go through,” Gibart said. “We’ve grown up a lot in this section and super section tournament. We are pretty good friends and that’s showed when we get to stress or competition where we either fold or we kick it into the next gear. We’ve learned to come together to win baseball games.
“It’s going to be an intense game. It’ll be an absolute battle Friday night.”