A new baseball coach, a sparkling new diamond plus some old-fashioned horses on the mound have Anoka flying high this spring.
The Tornadoes entered this week 10-3 and tops among teams in Class 3A, Section 7. First-year coach Shannon Blansette didn’t expect such a surge but he knows it starts with solid pitching.
Junior Alex Glick (4-0) pitched three consecutive complete games. Two of those were 1-0 victories in eight innings. Junior Trevor Smith, the designated closer, handled an emergency start last Friday with aplomb, going the distance in a victory against Maple Grove.
“We’ve got talented arms,” Blansette said. “Our pitching has kept us in games while the offense finds its identity.”
Blansette, the former Park Center coach, wasn’t sure what to expect from his new players. Graduation claimed 14 seniors, and only three varsity starters returned. Undaunted, the Tornadoes jumped out to a 8-1 start.
Bad weather forced teams to play a compressed schedule. A long stretch caught up with Anoka in a doubleheader sweep at the hands of Robbinsdale Armstrong.
But the Tornadoes rallied for a 9-1 victory against Coon Rapids the next day.
“The guys didn’t fold, and that was good to see,” Blansette said.
Equally encouraging, the hitters are starting to come around. Nine runs against Coon Rapids was followed by a 6-2 victory over Maple Grove. Senior Jason Brumbaugh, “one of the state’s best power hitters,” Blansette said, provides some punch.
Strong crowds for home games at the new Castle Field had added to Blansette’s pleasure this season. And players are starting to dream a little bigger.
“They believe we can make a run in the section tournament, which would be great because we’re the Section 7 host,” Blansette said. “We might as well be playing.”
Busy week at the plate
The Coon Rapids softball team struggled to win games last week, but not for a lack of effort from senior first baseman Megan Mensen. She swung a hot bat, going 13-for-29 (.448 batting average) with a double and a triple, two walks, five RBI and seven runs scored. The Cardinals (3-10) went 2-6 last week, including three one-run losses.