Yellowjackets baseball wants more consistency

It’s been more of an up-and-down season than Rochester Community and Technical College Yellowjackets baseball coach Steve Hucke would like. The team is 12-12 on the season, including a trip down south to play against some very good competition.

The early season strength of the Yellowjackets has been pitching. The batting order is still looking for a little more consistency, but Hucke said they’ve got the talent to hit the ball well. They’ve also been bitten by the injury bug.

Yellowjackets baseball

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke says he’s looking for more consistency from the Yellowjackets, who are 12-12 on the season going into their next action on Thursday, April 13, with a home doubleheader at 2 and 4:00. (article from wn.news.com)

“Our record says we’re .500 and that’s kind of how we’ve been playing,” Hucke said. “We’ll come out one day and play really tough and look really good. For some reason, we’ll come back and I don’t know if we’re satisfied with that or what. I’m happy with the wins but I’m not satisfied with being .500 because I think we’re a better team than that.”

The Yellowjackets baseball team had a  big question mark coming into the season, which was pitching. The team had to replace some good arms from last season but they’ve had some good kids step up and fill some of those roles. He says the unfortunate thing is the batters can’t seem to generate consistent run support.

 

 

“Our relief pitchers have come in and they understand their role that they’re supposed to fill when they enter the game,” Hucke said. “It’s been fun to see them come in and hold leads or get saves, and to pitch well enough for us to have a chance to come back and get a win.”

The first bullpen breakdown of the season didn’t happen until last Sunday when a normally reliable reliever came in, left a pitch up, and gave up three runs to Dakota County Technical College in the seventh inning. However, the Jackets did come back and win the game 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning on a walk-off base hit.

As he looks up and down the batting lineup, Hucke feels the team has a lot of potential to do some damage at the plate. The biggest challenge right now is the Yellowjackets baseball team is struggling with injuries.

 

 

“We’ve got the sticks to do it,” Hucke said, “we just need our approach at the plate to be a little more consistent and in tune with what we’re trying to do. We’re getting there.”

The team is getting much better defensively after what Hucke called a very rocky start to the season. He said the team likely has more errors to start a season than they’ve had in the last few years. A lot of it may have to do with spending most of their time inside the bubble over the football field working out to suddenly finding themselves outside in the middle of competition, switching from AstroTurf to natural grass.

“You get used to attacking the ball a little bit differently now that you’re on grass versus staying back and waiting for it to get to you on turf,” Hucke said. “We’re making some great plays in the outfield. Our outfielders have been phenomenal and we’re getting there around the infield so I think we’ll be okay.”

The team is coming off a Sunday afternoon split against Dakota County Technical College, dropping the first game 4-0 before coming back in dramatic fashion in the second game, winning 4-3. Hucke said the conference schedule is going to be as competitive as ever this spring.

“Our conference is pretty competitive and very talented,” he said. “We’ve also played one of our toughest non-conference schedules in recent years. We played a lot of tough teams on our spring trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, including a lot of Division 1 and Division 2 teams (scholarship programs). We came out of there at .500 against good teams so I can’t complain too much about that.”

Hucke said the trips down south give the team a chance to get to know each other. It’s important to find out who gets along with who and the team gets to find out about each other.

“Now, they’re forced to be together every day on a bus, in the condominiums where we stay, and out on the diamond,” Hucke said. “They’ll find out what the team is made of after a trip like that.”

The Yellowjackets baseball team is back in action on Thursday, April 13, with a home doubleheader against the St. Mary’s JV squad at 2 and 4:00. They’ll hit the road for a Friday conference doubleheader at St. Cloud Tech with games scheduled for 1 and 3:00.

 

Mayo football ends regular season Friday

The latest round of a long-time Rochester football rivalry went to Mayo high school. The Spartans knocked off the John Marshall Rockets last Friday by a 21-13 score.

Rochester Mayo Spartans

Rochester Mayo beat Rochester John Marshall last Friday night in a close contest by a score of 21-13. Both teams wrap up their regular season schedules this Friday night. (Photo from northstarfootballnews.com)

John Marshall controlled most of the game and didn’t give the Mayo offense much chance to move the ball outside of running back Greg Henry’s 126 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Both teams came into kickoff chasing the number 2 spot in the section 1AAAAA, which will likely now go to the Spartans.

Mayo Coach Don Holcomb said despite his team jumping out to a two-score lead, it was a tight game the whole way.

“We jumped out to a 14-0 lead,” Holcomb said, “and then they scored right at the half. We came out in the second half and held them on defense in the first series, got the ball back, and then put ourselves into a long down and distance situation and gave it back to them. The scored, but missed their extra point, so it was 14-13.”

The Spartans defense stepped up in the fourth quarter to help keep their lead safe.

“It was a really good defensive game,” said Holcomb, “down to the last drive when they were going to score, we held them on fourth down, and got them to turn the ball over on that last down too. It was a nice defensive stand.”

The Spartans have won 8 of their last 10 games against John Marshall, which still leads the overall series between the teams. Holcombe said it’s always a tough game when they play the Rockets.

 

 

He was very proud of the defensive effort.

“They all contributed and they all did things at different times,” Holcomb said. “We still made mistakes, but they really played tough this game. I haven’t seen them hit as hard as they did in this game with both attitude and aggressiveness.”

Holcomb credited JM for making it a tough go for the Spartan offense.

“JM has a very tough defense,” Holcomb said. “They held our offense in check, and we also had missed opportunities in the passing game, but other than that, they played a great game defensively.”

7 games into the 8 game schedule, Holcomb said his team has shown a lot of improvement.

 

 

He credits a good group of leaders for keeping the team going in the right direction.

“We’ve got a nice group of guys that all lead in different ways,” said Holcomb. “They’re growing and improving in that area too, which is important for a ball club.”

Rochester Mayo High School

Mayo quarterback Trajan Grimsrud, shown here from action early in the season, will lead his team to Northfield on Friday night in the regular season finale. (photo from post bulletin.com)

The Spartans head to Northfield to take on the Raiders in their final regular season game.

“They’re a big, physical team again this year,” he said. “We’re expecting a very tough game, and one that we’ve got to come prepared for in the right frame of mind to be able to go there and get the job done.”

Big, physical teams typically run the ball a lot, but Holcomb said the Raiders are starting to mix it up offensively.

“They’ve been throwing the ball more and more as the season’s gone by,” Don said. “They still have those big, physical linemen they like to run behind too. We’ll need to play assignment football, and not try to be a hero on every play. Trust your teammates to make plays, and when you have a chance to do something, get it done.”

Going into the last regular season game, this is a big one in terms of playoff seeding.

 

RCTC Yellowjackets football team at midseason

The Rochester and Community Technical College Yellowjackets football team is 4-0 on the year after a convincing 76-7 win over Vermillion Community College last weekend.

Rochester Community and Technical College

Yellowjackets head coach Bill Quistorff watches from the sidelines during a recent home win over Central Lakes College (Photo by Chad Smith)

Quarterback Nick Rooney led the way, throwing for 311 yards and 5 touchdowns.  The second quarter was the difference, as The Yellowjackets outscored Vermillion 35-0 in that frame alone.

The RCTC offense put up 577 yards of offense on 68 plays, but the defense also played exceptionally well, allowing Vermillion to put up only 130 total yards on just 48 plays from scrimmage.

 

I caught up with Jackets coach Bill Quistorff and talked about the first half of an unbeaten season, plus looked ahead to this week’s action at Itasca Community College.  The Yellowjackets close the second half of the year with 3 of their last 4 games on the road.

 

Rochester Community and Technical College

The RCTC Yellowjackets defense, pictured here during a win over Central Lakes Community College earlier in the season, allowed only 130 yards of total offense last week to Vermillion Community College during their homecoming win in Rochester. (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

JM Rockets fall in double OT to Owatonna

Rochester John Marshall

The Rochester John Marshall Rockets face the defending State Class 5A champion Mankato West Scarlets in their next action Friday night in Mankato. (photo from Facebook.com)

The third quarter was the difference as the Rochester John Marshall Rockets fell in double overtime to Owatonna 27-21 last Friday.

The Rockets controlled the first half, but the Huskies threw some different looks on offense against J-M coming out of the halftime locker room. Rockets Head Coach Kevin Kirkeby said his team rallied in the fourth quarter and it turned into quite a ballgame.

“Owatonna has two different styles of offense,” said Kirkeby. “They’ll go into a pistol offense and do more of a spread formation, but they also go under center. Against Mankato West (in their season opener) they only did their pistol offense, so we weren’t sure what they would do against us and prepared for both styles.”

The Rockets defense played well against the pistol during the first half.

Rochester John Marshall High School

The Rochester John Marshall 2015 football team. (Photo from johnmarshallrockets.org)

“Offensively, we didn’t really need to throw the ball much in the first half,” said Kirkeby. “We were having really good success on the ground. (Senior Running Back) Cazz Martin scored two touchdowns (on 18 carries for 102 yards) and things were going well.”

Owatonna came out of the halftime locker room and took control of the game early in the second half.

“The Huskies defense had a whole bunch of different players than what they ran out their in loss against West,” said Kirkeby, “So it probably took them a half to get used to each other. They came out fired up and we just didn’t have a whole lot of offensive continuity.”

He added, “The third quarter was all theirs. They scored twice on their first two possessions of the second half.”

Kirkeby was proud of his team for not letting up and bouncing back in the fourth quarter with some good football.

 

 

The Rockets are 1-1 on the season, and they’ve shown some flashes of good football:

 

JM is a football team with a lot of new faces in the lineup.

“We only have a couple of returning starters on offense,” he said. “On defense, we have about 7 returning starters but some of them are playing different positions.”

They do have a lot of upperclassmen on the field, but not a lot of game day experience to go with it.

“We have a nice mixture of juniors and seniors on offense and defense,” said Kirkeby. “However, it’s not like other teams that have a lot of seniors that have been playing together since tenth grade. We don’t have that.”

Kirkeby is in his third year as Head Coach, and he wants his offense to start with a solid ground game.

“My philosophy in Minnesota is we have all kinds of challenging weather,” said Kirkeby, “so you better be able to run the football. However, you can’t just run the ball or the opponent will stack the box with 9 or 10 guys and make it very difficult. I think a nice 40-60 or 30-70 blend of running and passing plays would be a good place to be at.”

JM has a tough road assignment this week. They travel to Mankato West High School for a matchup with the State Class 5A champs. Kirkeby said, in some ways, the Scarlets might be a better team than they were last year.

 

What aspects of the game do the Rockets need to improve on?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rochester Mayo football starts fast

Rochester Mayo High School

The Rochester Mayo Spartans take a 1-0 record to Rochester Century to face the Panthers in their next action on Friday night. (Photo from ww2.rochester.k12.mn.us)

 

The Rochester Mayo Spartans opened the 2015 football season with a 50-21 road victory over the Faribault Cardinals.

The game was a rematch of the Section 1AAAAA championship game from last year, which went to the Cardinals. While it didn’t take the sting away from last season’s 20-14 Overtime loss, the Spartans played well to open the new season schedule.

 

 

Spartans Coach Donny Holcomb said it’s always great to start the season with a win, but Mayo had to withstand a Cardinal comeback in the second half:

 

He said the Spartans showed some resilience in the fourth quarter.

“Definitely, I’m glad to see the way the kids finished the game,” said Holcomb. “They really came together and finished strong, without pointing fingers at each other.”

Several things stood out for the Spartans in the win:

 

Greg Henry led the rushing attack with 24 carries for 124 yards and four touchdowns.  He added 2 catches for 73 yards and another TD.

New quarterback Trajan Grimsrud was 9 of 16 passing for 141 yards and 2 TD’s through the air.

This year’s Spartans team has a whole lot of new faces in key roles.

“We actually lost 15 starters on both sides of the ball,” said Holcomb. “It’s a fairly new team with a lot of guys that learned from past players and hungry to get their chance to step in like on any high school team, so they’re ready to take over and give their best.”

Despite a lot of new faces, the Spartans did bring back a few familiar names from last year:

 

Holcomb’s offensive philosophy is balance:

 

He wants the Spartans to play aggressive defense.

“We’re going to be a base defense that’s very aggressive,” said Holcomb. “We do want to come out and blitz the other team and find an offense’s weaknesses. We like to do simple things right and blitz when we need to.”

The Spartans will be at Rochester Century in their next action Friday night. Holcomb said it’s always a challenge to play a cross-town rival:

 

What kind of challenges will the Panthers present?

“They’re a team that’s not as big,” said Holcomb, “but that means they’re going to be quick, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. They’re going to play faster than your typical O and D lines, so we’re expecting more speed. We saw some of their skill players in 7-on-7 over the summer, so we know we need to play disciplined.”

 

 

 

 

Wolves Caravan visits Rochester

Minnesota_Timberwolves

The Timberwolves Caravan made a stop in Rochester, Minnesota at the local YMCA and spent time with over 320 area kids.

The Minnesota Timberwolves Summer Caravan and Skills Clinic made an appearance in Rochester at the local YMCA.  The third floor gym was packed with 322 kids in attendance at the Caravan to work with Timberwolves Assistant Coaches Ryan Saunders and Sam Mitchell, himself a 13 year NBA veteran and former NBA Coach of the Year award winner with Toronto.

The highlight of the Caravan was an appearance by Tyus Jones, considered by some to be one of the top Minnesota players of all time.  An NCAA tournament champion in his only year at Duke University, as well as a former Mr. Basketball, Jones was a first round pick in the most recent NBA draft.

YMCA-logo

The Rochester YMCA hosted the Timberwolves Summer Caravan and Skills Clinic in their third floor gym, which was packed with over 320 young kids.

The kids in attendance worked on defensive drills as well as flexibility drills, and finished up the morning by hearing from Coach Mitchell and Jones.  There was even a question and answer session with Tyus as well.

It’s worth mentioning that Jones signed autographs for all of the kids in attendance.  That’s 322 signatures!

The Wolves open their preseason against the Chicago Bulls on October 10.

Here’s an iMovie of the event too:

RCTC softball gearing up for the postseason

YellowjacketsThe Rochester Community and Technical College softball team is 27-14 on the season and ranked at number four in the national Division 3 top ten as they finish the regular season schedule on Thursday, April 30, hosting a doubleheader with Riverland College, a team the Yellowjackets swept in their first matchup back in early April.

The 27 wins so far have come in spite of having a very young roster and a first-year head coach in Niki Peterson. The Jackets took a doubleheader from Minnesota West Community and Technical College to start the final week of the regular season on Tuesday. Peterson said they played well.

RCTC softball coach Niki Peterson (Photo from rctcyellowjackets.com)

RCTC softball coach Niki Peterson (Photo from rctcyellowjackets.com)

“It’s helps when your pitching is that on,” said Peterson. “We hit the ball well, and we’ve done that most of the season, except when we’ve faced some of the tougher Division One and Division Two competition. Overall, our hitting has been pretty solid all year.”

She said the Yellowjackets are a threat to take the ball deep up and down the lineup.

8 of the 9 players in the RCTC starting lineup have at least one home run (Photo from rctcyellowjackets.com)

8 of the 9 players in the RCTC starting lineup have at least one home run (Photo from rctcyellowjackets.com)

“I think everyone in our starting lineup but one has at least one home run,” said Peterson. “We have power, but we also have some speed on the base paths. Ashley Bunting (Redwood Falls, MN) is actually leading the nation in stolen bases with 62.”

The roster doesn’t contain a lot of experience at the college level. “We only have five sophomores on the roster,” said Peterson, “and only four are in our starting lineup. The other one is out with a torn ACL.”

“Coming in as a first year head coach, I just didn’t know what to expect,” said Peterson. “I knew the sophomore class because I was an assistant coach last year, and I knew their capabilities. With all the knew faces coming in and they weren’t my recruits, I just didn’t know a lot about them.”

Peterson added, “Two of our best players this spring are walk-ons. Kristen Erickson is a J-M (Rochester John Marshall) graduate who I actually recruited two years ago, but she took a year off and came back. Amber Gehrke is a Zumbrota-Mazeppa graduate who reached out to me and said she’d just been attending school and decided she wanted to play.”

On-field leadership is coming from a recent Stewartville high school graduate.

“Christina Stanger is a freshman who plays like a four-year senior,” said Peterson. “She leads this team off the field and on the field too. She leads vocally, physically, and keeps the team in the game mentally. She’s an all-around leader, and to have her doing that as a freshman is great for me as a coach, but it’s also great to have her for another season.”

One of the sophomore leaders is catcher Katie Gatzlaff, a native of Springfield, Minnesota.  Peterson said, “Katie runs the show behind the plate, and the team relies on her experience for leadership out on the field at gametime.”

A deep pitching staff is another strength of this spring’s team.

“We actually have five pitchers,” said Peterson. “They’re all very capable and could be starters for other teams in our conference. The two leaders on the staff are Alexis Schunke (Stewartville MN) and Laura Chalmers (Red Wing MN). Alexis actually threw a perfect game in our second win over Minnesota West on Tuesday.”

Peterson added, “She was just on. She hit her spots, and that was obviously the best she’s thrown all year.”

The Yellowjackets head to postseason action after the final doubleheader on April 30.

“We’re off to regions,” said Peterson. “It’s next week, on May 7 and 8. The conference champion will host the tournament, so as games wrap up this week, we’ll find out where we’re going.”

Update:  The YellowJackets finished the season by sweeping Minnesota West in a doubleheader, winning game one 11-1, before taking the nightcap 19-3 to finish the season at 29-14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RCTC baseball ready for conference play

The Rochester Community and Technical College baseball team is 15-6 on the season after splitting a doubleheader with Iowa Central Community College this week, winning the opener 7-4 before dropping the nightcap 5-3.

The Yellowjackets will play back-to-back doubleheaders this weekend, at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids on Saturday, April 18, before returning home to face St. Cloud Technical and Community College on Sunday. Rochester head coach Steve Hucke said the Jackets will face some good competition this year in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference.

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke is in his 12th season with the school, and sports a 228-208 career record. (photo from RCTC.edu)

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke is in his 13th season with the school, and sports a 240-230-1 career record. (photo from RCTC.edu)

“Our conference is split into north and south divisions,” said Hucke, “and the south division is really competitive. St. Cloud Tech (Sunday’s opponent, weather permitting) has been to the Junior College World Series two of the last three years; we’ve been to the World Series, Riverland Community College in Austin has been to the World Series, so the southern part of the state is very competitive.”

Pitching is a big key to the success of the Yellowjackets so far.

 

 

The pitching staff can strike batters out consistently, but recently have been putting the ball in play and letting their fielders make plays behind them.

“It’s gone back and forth, like earlier this week, it was more about putting the ball in play and letting the defense play behind them,” said Hucke. “We’re getting good help defensively, and I think the pitchers are throwing with more confidence and not afraid to attack hitters because we’re making the routine plays as well as some big plays too.”

The Jackets don’t have a lot of experience up and down this spring’s roster.

“We’re a young team with a lot of freshmen out there,” said Hucke, “But they’ve adapted pretty well and are starting to step up their game more. They’ve got a good confidence level going now.”

“Usually, we have a good mix of sophomores to go with freshmen,” said Hucke. “We usually have about 12 to 15 sophomores and about that same amount of freshmen on the roster. Unfortunately, we had a few kids decide to go somewhere else and not play baseball and just go to school. Now, we’re down to seven sophomores, and of that seven, I’d say four are our main contributors.”

The 2015 Yellowjackets roster features players from southeast Minnesota, as well as Iowa, and even as far away as New York.

“We get kids from this area as well as around Rochester,” said Hucke. “I’m originally from Iowa and I get some players from there, and we get some kids from Wisconsin. We have a few kids from the Twin Cities, and even a couple from New York, wherever we can find them.”

Pitching and defense are strengths of the team, but Hucke said the offense is going pretty well too.

“We’re batting over 300 as a team,” said Hucke. “We’re getting a lot of good quality at-bats, moving guys over and getting them into scoring position. In situational hitting, we’re doing very well. We put a lot of pressure on  RCTC baseballdefenses by having guys on base all the time.”

“We’re going deep into the count too,” said Hucke, “and making pitchers pitch well and not chasing bad pitches. When you have a young group and can get those kinds of at-bats, you’re successful. With freshmen, you’re always worried about them coming in and being free swingers and falling back into bad habits.”

Hucke talked about Saturday’s opponent and what they’ll see from Anoka-Ramsey: