Neither of these teams seem concerned with winning the Central Lakes Conference this season, but they’ll both want to have a good showing in this doubleheader to help prepare for a potential rematch in the Class 3A, Section 5 playoffs.
After splitting their regular-season series last year, these teams met again in sections. Rocori lost to St. Cloud Apollo 3-2 but won the rematch 7-0, en route to the section title and a state tournament bid. A rivalry renewed, potential postseason ramifications, and the need for each team to end April with a victory that can help either gain momentum heading into the month of May make this twofer an easy pick for our Top Game(s) of the Week.
Brady Klehr, one of Rocori’s top offensive threats last year with a .375 batting average in the section playoffs, is having a productive senior campaign. He had three hits and five RBI in a 16-6 win over Fergus Falls last Thursday. Jack Steil, who hit .318 as a sophomore for the Spartans in last year’s section tournament, provided two hits and one RBI against the Otters.
Klehr and Steil will be leaned on to help provide a veteran presence for a Rocori (2-3, 2-3) lineup that has yet to win more than two consecutive games this season.
St. Cloud Apollo (3-3, 2-3) has also been inconsistent through the first month of the season, as it has held two opponents to two runs or less, but given up eight or more runs on three occasions, including in back-to-back defeats to Brainerd (13-1 on April 23) and Sauk Rapids-Rice (12-10 two days later), before recovering to beat Holy Angels 3-2 on Saturday.
In a 3-0 win over St. Cloud Tech on April 16, the Eagles got a 16-strikeout performance from senior Isaac Benesh, who walked four and gave up three hits in six innings pitched. Benesh proved effective against Rocori last season, giving up a pair of runs in seven innings of work in his team’s 3-2 section playoff win. If he can eat some quality innings from the mound, that should help St. Cloud Apollo stabilize heading into the month of May and avoid digging itself into too deep a hole to climb out of.
-- Second game to follow.