Rockford grads help Loretto town team return to state tourney



Three Rockford High School grads were big factors in helping the Loretto amateur baseball team qualifying for the state tournament for the third straight season.

The Larks won the first two playoff games last weekend to secure one of the four state tourney berths from the Region 12C tournament being played in Maple Lake.

Tyler Maher, a 2006 Rockford grad, set league and team records when emerging as one of the top hitters in the North Star League. Brother Nathan contributed as a pitcher and ranked among league leaders with his .364 batting average.

The other Rocket on the roster is George Faue, a recent Rockford grad who worked as a spot starter, but mainly as a late inning relief pitcher.

Tyler Maher set a league record for hits with 42, tied with Peter Sycks from Mound. Sycks led with a .477 batting average, while Maher was close behind at .467. Maher did lead the league with six triples, five home runs, 40 RBIs and seven game winning RBIs.

Maher set the team triple record that was held by his coach Herb Koch Sr., who coaches third base. “When I got to third Herb said I beat his record,” recalls Maher. “I said why didn’t you hold me up?”

Loretto opened the region tourney with a4-3 victory over Hutchinson last Friday. The Larks fell behind 3-0 after the first inning but picked away, scoring runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Maher drove in two runs when going 2 for 4. Ryan Schaust also was 2 for 4. Pitching for Loretto was Jake Braun, Troy Beckman and Ryan Tapani.

Loretto defeated Maple Plain 4-3 Saturday to clinch a trip to state. The task was not easy, going against pitcher Ben Hendrickson, who pitched for the Twins and Brewers in the Major Leagues.

Sacrifice bunts by Brandon Scanlon and Kent Koch produced the first two runs, followed by a solo home run by Tyler Maher.

Maple Plain rallied to tie the game at 3-3 in the eighth. In the top of the ninth Eric Schutte’s infield hit produced the winning run. Faue shut down Maple Plain in the bottom of the ninth.

Tapani had pitched the first eight innings. He has been the team’s top starter, leading the league with 65 strikeouts. The son of former Twin pitcher Kevin Tapani pitched at St. Olaf College in the spring as a freshman.

Another former Twin and current bench coach, Terry Steinbach, has two sons on the Loretto roster. Luke has been a steady outfielder. This year he was joined by younger brother Jake, a backup catcher and designated hitter. Jake will transfer from UMD to play at St. Thomas next season.

Tyler Maher says he got into a good grove at the plate as a result of more understanding of what to do in situations, not trying to over-swing.

“Fortunately, it all clicked for me this year,” said Maher. “I understand what former college coaches were talking about when they said to stay humble, play the game the right way and you should be rewarded.”

Maher said he does not drive in 40 runs without having good players around him. He came up a lot with runners on the bases and was backed up by solid hitters. One is Schutte, who played in the Region tourney 11 days after having surgery to his cheek bones when hit by a pitch.

“I worked out a little more than usual before the season,” adds Maher. “I also lost 10 pounds over the off season because I wanted to get my speed back.”

Loretto will take on Maple Lake, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8 in Maple Lake. The top team in the Region and the state is 26-3. Maple Lake won the state title two years ago.

However, the last two years Loretto beat Maple Lake in the Region to earn the No. 2 seed, sending ML to No. 3 both times. It could happen again. The winner plays in the title game at noon Sunday, Aug. 10. The loser would play at 7 p.m. Saturday to get in the title game.

Delano opened the tourney with a 4-2 victory over Cokato, but lost 4-2 to D-C in the double elimination tourney.