It’s rare for a nonconference matchup with this much pedigree to be scheduled this early in the season. But when you’re considered among the best programs in your class, like Maple Lake and Minnehaha Academy are, challenges are welcome — and Tuesday's contest will showcase two proven winners in what was an easy selection for our Top Game of the Week.
Maple Lake, last season's Class 2A champion, is coming off its third straight trip to state. Minnehaha Academy has made the last four Class 2A tournaments, and won titles in 2017 and 2016.
The Irish (0-1, 0-0) graduated their top pitcher from last year’s tournament run, Grant Mergen, but they still have plenty of experienced talent returning. Mitch Hoistad will need to help shoulder the load on the mound and at the plate, as he showed signs of being a standout competitor a season ago. In a 6-5 season-opening loss to St. Cloud Cathedral on April 5, the senior had mixed results, walking twice in three at-bats but giving up four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
Minnehaha Academy (1-0, 0-0) looked unstoppable early last season, when it compiled a 7-0 record while outscoring its opponents 57-4. However, the Redhawks appeared mortal later in the year and posted a 1-0 loss to Caledonia in the state quarterfinals, ending their chance to three-peat as Class 2A champions.
Noah Dehne and Bennett Theisen should be key pieces of this year’s lineup. Dehne, a senior shortstop, hit .391 in the regular season a year ago, slugging .587 with seven doubles, a triple and a home run, while Theisen, a senior third baseman, hit .271.