By Nick Gerhardt
The Class A state tournament is finally upon us and opens with first-round action Thursday at Dunning Field in St. Paul as the single-elimination games start. The bracket can be found here.
Everyone will watch closely to see if Minnetonka can capture an unprecedented fourth consecutive Class A title, spoiler alert, one prognosticator didn’t pick them as the favorite.
The Millers will face a stiff test at this year’s tournament and perhaps some doubt has crept in as to whether it’s a forgone conclusion they will indeed hoist the trophy for the fourth straight time.
St. Louis Park had Minnetonka on the ropes earlier in the season but lost on a two-run walk-off home run back on July 17. The Pirates fell to the Millers in last year’s championship.
Then there’s Rosetown, which finished third last year, and the St. Paul Capitals, who finished third in the final poll of the season.
No matter what, it’ll be another tremendous tournament with a lot of parity.
Special thanks to the four gentlemen who put together the rankings throughout the season and this prediction piece. They did tremendous work researching their polls each time and provided excellent analysis throughout the year.
Jon-Eric Urseth — Park National League, Minneapolis Cobras
The Favorite: Minnetonka Millers - 35 wins and 6 losses makes it nearly a down season to their standards. They have won three titles in a row and are going for title 15. You have to believe that the scare of not making the state tourney against Edina gave them the same jumpstart that BARC did in single elimination last year. How did that work out? One for the pinky toe?
The Dark Horse: St. Paul Capitals - Not really a "dark horse"... but they have just as good of a chance as any to unseat Tonka and bring the title to the East Side. This team is really slugging right now, and their top end arms can shut down any lineup.
The Upset: St. Anthony Hogs - Let's see how long this run can go. My "upset" over Rosetown leads them to Tonka. Get through them somehow and your Cinderella has a glass slipper.
Ryan Meehan — Skyline League, Metro Knights
The Favorite: Minnetonka Millers. Perhaps not as invincible as in years past, but it's hard to argue with a 35-6 record. The bracket shapes up favorably for them as well. They'll face a pair of solid teams that first weekend, but all five potential opponents have struggled with inconsistency at times. Can one of them earn the upset? Absolutely, but it's going to take a perfectly executed game.
The Dark Horse: Minneapolis Cobras. They have a very deep lineup and a much improved pitching staff. If they can keep their head above water that first weekend, they may press their hitting advantage in the nine-inning format and shock some teams late in games.
The Upset: Tri-City Shark. I'll show some love to a fellow Skyline team. They've made a deep tournament run before and are fresh off a dominant performance in the Skyline League playoffs, in which they outscored their opponents 44-11 and proved capable of winning both pitchers' duels and slugfests. The key to the Shark's longevity in the tournament will be their defense. If they play a clean game, they're tough to beat. I'm not convinced they'll get past the Diesel (who are a dangerous team in their own right), but if they do, they'll face Lyon's Pub on Saturday at 10 a.m. Maybe it's just me, but that early start time carries with it a certain sense of foreboding for the higher seed. It's common knowledge that Sharks frequently hunt in the early morning hours, when the high rod-to-cone ratio in their retinas give them an advantage in low light conditions.
Phil McDermott — St. Paul League, St. Paul Capitals
The Favorite: Until someone knocks the three-time defending champion Minnetonka Millers out the tourney they are the favorite.
The Dark Horse: Stockmen’s Irish has the balance and pitching depth to make a run at the title. Rosetown A’s have a chance to best their third-place finish but will have to beat a hot Hogs team and defending champ Minnetonka on the first weekend.
The Upset: The 2018 tournament field is a strong one. If any single team winning could be considered an “upset” it would have to be the St. Anthony Hogs. St. Anthony Hogs have a deep pitching staff, a strong lineup, and are the lowest regular season seed to advance to the tourney this year.
Matt Paulsen — Riverview League, St. Louis Park (check out Matt’s work at mnamateurbaseball.com)
The Favorite: St. Paul Capitals. That's right, I didn't pick the Millers. Mostly just to be different. I march to my own drummer man. But also because the Capitals are really hot and when this team is hot they are a scary lineup. The Millers are not so hot. They got almost all they could handle with Edina in the playoffs and have half of their season losses in the last two weeks.
The Dark Horse: Minnetonka Millers! Ha! I can't just leave the Millers out! They are 36-6 for cripes sake. While the Millers have maybe been a little down lately. They still have great pitching, defense and Shallenberger.
The Upset: St. Anthony Hogs. The Hogs have always been a good team. They have great pitching and great defense. But they have matured as hitters and have some really tough outs in the line-up. I predict the Hogs will make a deep run this year.