Tigers earn No. 2 seed at state tourney starting June 13
by Dave Pedersen
Sun PRESS Newspapers
As has been the case the past three Delano baseball seasons, Zach Muchenhirn had a hand in helping the Tigers earn a spot in the state Class AA tournament.
In the Section 5AA title game against Providence Academy last Thursday, Muchenhirn slammed out two doubles and his first career home run, driving in three runs on way to the 11-3 victory. He also pitched two shutout innings in relief.
In four Section 5AA tourney games, the senior drove in nine runs and pitched his first career no-hitter against Litchfield in the battle of sub-section champions. In the sub-section final, Muchenhirn was 3 for 4 with 5 RBIs.
Delano takes a 17-2 record to its fourth straight state tourney starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 against Perham (16-5) in St. Cloud. The winner takes on either Minnehaha Academy (17-5) or Watertown-Mayer (16-8) at 2:30 p.m. Friday, June 14. The state title game is 1 p.m. Monday, June 17 at Target Field.
The other bracket has St. Cloud Cathedral (23-2), Hermantown (20-2), Luverne (20-4) and Kasson-Mantorville (23-5).
Against Providence Academy in the section title game, Hunter Hart pitched five innings, allowing five hits. He also homered and drove in three runs. Jon Dahl was 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs and Toby Hanson drove in a run when going 2 for 3. Justin Oja and Brett Norling accounted for the other two runs.
Muchenhirn would love another crack against St. Cloud Cathedral, who “ruffed me up” in the first round at state last season. The teams could meet in the state title game. The idea crossed Muchenhirn’s mind even before the season started.
“I have been pretty lucky to play on three good teams,” said the senior captain. “In the beginning of this season I told the team I thought this was the deepest team we had of the three and the most talented. I was fully expecting this team to go to state.”
After Delano finished as state consolation champs last spring, Muchenhirn started to work on improving every aspect of his game to prepare for his final prep season. He said he hit the weight room harder and did more to take care of his arm after pitching so he could recover faster and maintain his arm strength. He said he became bigger, stronger and was throwing harder. In the no-hitter this year, his fast ball touched 87 miles per hour.
“This season I was relied on as the guy who needed to pitch a lot of innings,” adds Muchenhirn about being the ace of the staff. “If I was pitching, I wanted to help the team win every single time out. Closing games was a new thing for me and it was kind of fun.”
Muchenhirn was 5-0 as a starter with four saves in relief. In 37.2 innings he allowed 23 hits with an earned run average of 1.12 to go with 45 strikeouts. At the plate, he batted .387 with 24 hits and drove in 23 runs.
The outstanding pitching and hitting stats is why Muchenhirn was named to play in the state All-Star series just like his brother Josh did five years ago.
Baseball has been a huge part of Muchenhirn’s family life. His grandfather Frank, who attends most of Zach’s games and calls to talk about each one, has been inducted to the state amateur baseball Hall of Fame. Zach’s father Keith played for the Delano town team and fastpitch softball. Josh has played for the Delano A’s the past five years.
Muchenhirn helped the football team get to the section title game as a quarterback and was the first player off the bench for Delano’s basketball team that qualified for state.
When Muchenhirn talks about having a talented baseball team, he starts with junior catcher Toby Hanson who is batting .571 with 32 hits, 32 RBIs, seven homers and 13 walks, while only striking out 13 times.
“Toby is probably one of most natural talented athletes I have ever seen,” said Muchenhirn. “Plus, he has such a competitive mind set. He knows what he can do and always tries to play up to his ability. He has gotten more disciplined this year, waiting for the pitch he knows he can handle.”
Muchenhirn calls senior Jon Dahl a pleasant surprise, batting .422 as the leadoff hitter. Delano has other .300 hitters like Adam Schleper (385), Noah Stone .361, Hart .346, Justin Oja .326 and Christian Triplett (.311).
Coach Dan Paulson said his team got better all season, with players working hard, staying focused and still having fun. Add a little talent to the mix and “the sky is the limit.”
Contact Dave Pedersen at [email protected]