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Amateur Baseball: Aces rest up for playoff run

Dixon Irwin takes a hack at a pitch against Northfield on Tuesday. Irwin wasn't able to record a hit, but did reach on a fielder's choice and came around to score. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia

It's playoff time for the Red Wing Aces. Finishing the year with an 11-4 loss to Northfield on Tuesday, the Aces will now look ahead to its playoff opener against either Waseca or Owatonna on Sunday at the Ath.

Red Wing concluded its regular-season slate with a torrid four-games-in-five-days stretch. The result of the condensed schedule was a 1-3 record. However, the Aces started the season 7-1, good enough to give them the No. 2 seed in the Region 5C playoffs.

"We've got that bye on Saturday, which is big," Aces head coach Justin Plein said. "We'll get to watch everyone play on Saturday which is nice, because we don't know a lot about the Twin Rivers teams."

The extra day of rest is huge not only for scouting purposes, but also getting the players healthy and ready for a playoff push. It's one thing to play four games in five days, it's another when those games add up to 40 total innings. Even an MLB-caliber team would feel the fatigue from a stretch like that.

But the amount of baseball played isn't exactly a bad thing either. Players that may not have seen a ton of time throughout the season got some action with hopes of everyone being at their best when it matters the most.

"We're a little tired, but it's nice to get some guys at bats that haven't had a ton," Plein said. "We also got some guys in situations that they may be playing come playoff time."

Although Red Wing hasn't faced any Twin Rivers teams except Rochester and Wanamingo, the Aces are sporting a 7-2 record against opponents in the Region 5C bracket.

Plein isn't concerning himself with the opponents ahead, however. Rather, he's looking inward at what his team needs to excel at to make a successful run.

"It's all going to come down to our pitching and defense," Plein said. "With Brady and Spencer Schroeder and Teddy Tauer; if they can throw strikes and keep us in games. And then offensively, coming up with those big two-out hits."

Everything else, Plein said, will take care of itself, including team chemistry. Red Wing, a team that has utilized recent high school graduates frequently in the past couple of years is starting to see the chemistry of its young and veteran players mesh.

Part of Red Wing's midseason struggles can be attributed to incorporating young players into the lineup and finding the right balance, while part is the result of injuries and general fatigue. No matter which way the struggles are portrayed, it was all part of a long-term plan that has the Aces putting together a playoff run this year and in future years as well.

"We played 24 games now, some of these other teams have only played 14 or 15 games, so we've gotten everyone a lot of at bats," Plein said. "We have 23 guys on this roster and we expect 23 guys to contribute in the playoffs to get us into the state tournament."

Red Wing will kick off its playoff run at 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 29 against the winner of Waseca and Owatonna at the Ath. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for students and free for children 12 and under.

Jake Pfeifer

Jake Pfeifer is a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, which encompasses the Hastings Star Gazette, Farmington-Rosemount Independent Town Pages, South Washington County Bulletin and Woodbury Bulletin. He previously worked as a sports reporter and outdoors editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and as a multimedia artist/editor for Detroit Lakes Newspapers.

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