Tyler Hanson knows what it’s like to be overmatched, even though it was for a brief period of time. Now that he’s a senior on the Burnsville baseball team, expect to see role reversal from that learning situation of two years ago.
“In my 26 years of coaching, Tyler’s one of the best players I’ve seen,” Burnsville baseball coach Mick Scholl said. “He is the total package.”
Hanson, who plays third base and pitches for the Blaze, vividly recalls his first few at-bats at the varsity level his sophomore season.
“I struck out my first five or six at-bats,” Hanson said. “To go from 15-year-old traveling baseball to this [was] a big step up. I was intimidated at the beginning of the year.”
That all changed when he got his first base hit.
“I had a coach tell me, ‘Just see the ball,’ ” Hanson said. “Once I got my first hit, I knew I could play with these guys.”
2011: Unfinished business
Hanson took over at third base on a team coming off a runner-up finish in the Class 3A state tournament in 2010.
“It was a very intense season,” Hanson said. “Our captains pushed us a lot. They were disciplined. They wanted to get back to state.”
Hanson helped them do just that. The Gopher recruit finished the season hitting .354 with three home runs and 29 RBI. He wound up striking out 12 times in 105 plate appearances.
In his final at-bat of the season in the state championship game, he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning when the Blaze staged a wild comeback.
It scored six times in the inning, rallying for a 6-5 victory over Maple Grove to win its first state title.
“The championship game was kind of crazy,” Hanson said. “To this day, I still can’t believe that happened.”
2012: Tradition never graduates
With most of their starters returning from the state championship team, the Blaze was thinking repeat.
“We were the state champs,” Hanson said. “We didn’t think we had anything to prove.”
That demeanor would eventually catch up with the Blaze, which suffered back-to-back setbacks in the section tournament and failed to reach the championship.
“We were more relaxed,” Hanson said. “We didn’t have a die-hard energy to win. It was a forced energy.”
A disappointing season came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Lakeville North in the losers’ bracket of the section tournament.
“That loss summed up our season,” said Hanson, who saw his average drop to .318 with one home run and 11 RBI. “We didn’t come to play.”
The three-year starter and captain plans on providing plenty of leadership for this year’s young squad.
“We have the talent to compete,” Hanson said. “We have a lot of unknowns, but we’re going to be a good club.”
A lot will depend on the arm of the 6-2, 210-pound Hanson, who consistently throws 88 to 89 mph. Scholl has primarily used him as a closer up to this point, but will count on the veteran as his No. 1 starter in 2013.
“We have something to prove this year,” Hanson said. “We have to redeem what we should have done last year.”