Saints baseball looking to get past district tournament funk
Despite a near-decade of never losing more than nine games and never winning less than 10 games, the Saint Paul Lutheran High School baseball team will be looking to get over the hump and back into the state tournament.
The Saints have been a model of consistency in the regular season, finishing over .500 every season since at least 2009. However, they’ve been dually consistent in the playoffs, getting bounced in the district tournament’s second round every season from 2009 through 2013. The next three seasons came to absolutely brutal endings: a 17-inning (that’s 10 more innings than the usual seven), 6-5 loss to Lexington High School in 2014, followed by an eight-inning, 3-2 loss to Carrollton High School in 2015, and a 16-inning, 5-4 loss to Carrollton again in 2016, before dropping another second-round matchup to Lafayette County High School last season.
In his seventh year with SPLHS — sixth as head coach — Eric Gramenz believes that this could be a solid season for the Saints.
“We lost some very good seniors from last year’s team that will be hard to replace,” Gramenz says, in reference to Evan Johnson, Derrick Woodall, Ryan Kollbaum, Tanner Lark and Caleb Hentges. “We do have some talented players coming back who can help the team reach our goals of competing for a conference championship and having a winning record overall for the year.”
In addition to finishing 12-7, last year’s team finished third in the I-70 Conference Tournament. Returners Micah Lemmons (junior) and Brett Mueller (senior) will give them the best chances of eclipsing last season’s campaign.
Lemmons, one of the top players in the conference, will play critical roles from the mound and the batter’s box, as will Mueller. Other contributors — including senior Micah Gerdts, junior Aiden Muehler, and sophomores Josiah Kunkel and Aaron Kirby — will be in position to help the team succeed in beating their goals.
A tough conference schedule is compounded by a solid non-conference slate. While this could cost the Saints — and every other team with a similar schedule — a game or two down the stretch, it should also prepare them for tough matchups in the late-season conference tournament, as well as the Class 3, District 15 tourney.
If the Saints work hard and get production where it’s needed, there is no reason to think that this team couldn’t be dangerous come postseason-tourney time.
“I want us to play hard and compete in every game,” Gramenz says. “I believe if we have good pitching and defense that will give us an opportunity to reach our goals this year. We lost some key players on offense, so we will need to be opportunistic and take advantage of any scoring opportunities we have. Ultimately, we need to play hard and have some fun while doing everything to God’s glory.”