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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL

High school baseball: La Crescent-Hokah's success backed by experience and chemistry

La Crescent Lewiston-Altura Baseball

Senior pitcher Sam Erpenbach delivers against Lewiston-Altura in La Crescent-Hokah's 11-0 victory Friday in La Crescent. Erpenbach pitched a complete five innings and only allowed one hit.

LA CRESCENT, Minn. — The La Crescent-Hokah High School baseball team is off to a 12-2 start with a perfect Three Rivers Conference record and attributes that make it a contender come postseason time.

One of those attributes coach Ryan Niedfeldt pointed to after Friday’s 11-0 win over Lewiston-Altura was experience. The Lancers having eight seniors, including four of the team’s seven pitchers. Another key for the Lancers (12-2, 12-0) has been team chemistry, according to Niedfeldt.

“We have great senior leadership and great team chemistry overall,” Niedfeldt said at Horihan Field. “Players are usually beating me to the ballpark, and usually it’s tough to get them off the field. That’s how much they love the game and love each other.”

The leadership of seniors is ever present at the plate. Senior second baseman Karson Pape — described by Niedfeldt as a “pesky hitter” — is batting better than .550 and getting on base over 60 percent of the time. Senior catcher Jack Welch is batting over .450. The Lancers have scored at least 10 runs eight times.

On Friday, senior shortstop and pitcher Sam Erpenbach held the Cardinals to one hit in a five-inning appearance. Chemistry with fellow catchers is something that’s been vital in the success of Erpenbach’s success on the mound.

“(Erpenbach) just comes out and goes after it,” said Niedfeldt, whose team had a big game against Chatfield on Saturday. “He attacks it. He’s become best friends with the catchers so they get on the same page and always know what to throw. Today was poetry. I just sat back and hoped I didn’t screw it up.”

The only losses on the Lancers record are both in nonconference meetings, including one on May 7 to an Aquinas squad that started the year 14-0.

The Lancers are far from comfortable, despite their record. Their win Friday marked their first of seven games in seven days, including five straight road games.

While the likes of Pape, Welch and Erpenbach have led La Crescent-Hokah to this point, success over the last week of the regular season will be dependent on everyone.

“We need help from everyone,” Niedfeldt said. “Whether it’s a starter or a kid off the bench. We still haven’t played our best baseball. With playoffs in two weeks, we want to capitalize and finish the right way.”

Chief among the Lancers remaining games is their Saturday meeting against a Chatfield team that started the year 10-0. First pitch is scheduled for noon at Chatfield.

James Krause can be reached at James.Krause@lee.net or on Twitter @jkrausepro.

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