It’s still early in the season but you can expect the players in this juggernaut of a matchup to compete as if it’s a postseason contest when Stillwater collides with Suburban East Conference rival Mounds View on Wednesday.
Stillwater, ranked No. 2 in the Class 4A coaches’ poll from April 15, has been one of the top big-school programs in the state for several years running and the Ponies (6-0, 6-0) aren’t looking to come up short this year. Winners of six straight, the Ponies aim to claim a conference crown and sprint through the postseason to clinch their third consecutive state tournament appearance.
Alex Ritzer, a senior shortstop committed to North Carolina, powers Stillwater. The Mr. Baseball candidate is hitting .450 with four RBIs and five walks. Pitcher Gavin Zurn, a senior and North Dakota State commit, leads the team in RBIs with six and he’s hitting .381. From the mound, Zurn has given up just two hits and a pair of runs — both of which were unearned — in 12 innings thrown.
Mounds View (2-3, 2-3) doesn’t boast a dominant start to the season like the Ponies, but the top-ranked team in Class 4A packs all the necessary firepower to contend, starting with senior Will Rogers. An elite catcher who also does respectable work from the mound, the Arizona State commit came into this spring a heavy favorite to be Minnesota’s next Mr. Baseball. In 11 innings thrown, he’s given up six hits, three earned runs and he’s struck out 23 batters.
Rogers, however, is one of just three Mounds View players hitting .270 or higher. If the Mustangs are to heat up and be true contenders, they’ll need to get more of the team’s bats going in order to keep up in a conference that’s chock-full of standout players.