John’s Journal: A Perfect Spring On The Diamond In Randolph
Rockets Are Undefeated In Softball And Baseball
Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2021 - 9:48 AM
The kids in Randolph, Minnesota, know how to play ball. With the postseason looming, neither the Rockets softball team nor the baseball team has been beaten in 2021. The softball squad improved to 18-0 with a doubleheader sweep of visiting Southland on Monday and the baseball nine moved to 19-0 with a win over Southland. That’s a combined mark of 37-0.
In softball, the Rockets are No. 1 in the Class 1A coaches rankings; the baseball team is ranked third in that sport’s coaches poll. No other school in the state, regardless of class, has unbeaten teams in both sports.
After the lost spring of 2020, when no sports were held because of Covid-19, there are lots of smiles and plenty of pride in Randolph, a town of 500 residents located 40 miles south of the Twin Cities. If all goes very well, both teams could play in state tournaments, which was the hoped-for plan last spring.
“I think it might have been the best team I’ve ever had,” seventh-year softball coach Dennis Trom said of the 2020 squad.
The softball team went to state in 2018 and 2019 and the baseball squad did the same in 2019. That kind of success made 2020’s non-season even harder to take, but a new season means newfound goals.
“The kids get to play, they’re thankful that it’s normal,” said Chris Stanton, the Rockets baseball coach since 2006. “I think it’s just that feeling of getting to compete and that makes it special. I know for the seniors, you can see they’re having fun, they get to play a game they love and they take it seriously. Kids are resilient. They are willing to look at the positive side.”
In Monday’s 5-2 baseball win over Southland, the Rockets took the lead by scoring three runs, aided by two bunts, in the sixth inning. Nathan Weckop, Brandon Gerster and Drew Jenkins each had two hits and Gerster went the distance with eight strikeouts.
On the nearby softball field, Randolph swept Southland 15-0 in four innings and 13-2 in five innings. Senior Morgyn Otte had a 47-pitch perfect game in the opener, giving her 11 career no-hitters. Senior Megan Erickson hit two home runs Monday, giving her 10 this season.
Erickson is Randolph’s all-time scoring leader in basketball (girls and boys) and holds all the softball hitting records.
“She’s just a phenomenal athlete,” Trom said. “I think she’s hands down the second-best athlete I’ve ever seen come out of Randolph” … with Twins pitcher Caleb Thielbar topping the list.
The softball team includes 10 seniors, and Otte and Erickson have been on the varsity since they were in seventh grade.
“They said, ‘This is it. Let’s go get it,’ ” Trom said of the team’s attitude this spring, led by Otte, Erickson and fellow captains Meredith Taylor and Chloe Kimmes.
“We’ve had this group for quite a while now. They work hard. They want to be the best. They’re in the weight room all the time, they get after it. Kids are dedicating themselves. They’re better athletes.”
Stanton also said work in the weight room has been key to the baseball team’s success, helping produce stronger athletes.
“Our football coach (Mike Schmidt) and one of my assistant coaches, Braxton Lindow, have done a good job of honing the weight room. Our kids are bigger and stronger. Once they were able to open the weight room last spring, that’s all the kids did.”
Before Monday’s win, eight Rocket baseball players were hitting between .326 and .544, with Weckop at .544 and his twin brother Jacob at .362. They both pitch, as does Brandon Gerster, and the highest earned-run average among the three is Jacob Weckop’s 1.33.
“We have great coaches in Jared Rowan and Braxton Lindow, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Stanton said. “Guys stick around after practice, bringing up some of the sophomores. We’ve always depended on older guys coaching younger guys, and that’s really worked.”
The softball team is scheduled to close the regular season with a doubleheader at Lyle-Pacelli on Friday. The baseball team’s schedule has been twisted around by the weather, and there are hopes for possibly squeezing in one more game before the Section 4 playoffs begin.
The baseball team made its only trip to state in 2019, and we all know what happened in 2020.
“I thought that would be our best squad coming back,” said Stanton, echoing Trom’s words about last year’s possibilities. “We had six seniors who played a ton and were key contributors to our 2019 team.”
But the past is the past, and coaches and players on both Randolph teams are excited about the possibilities before them.
“We have kids who really buy into it,” Stanton said. “We’ve been blessed with community involvement and parents who know the game, and we’re lucky to get kids who are blessed with an arm. We just try to coach them up. It takes a village.”
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org