Dave Rocheleau is extremely confident in Michael Weber's baseball ability.
Why else would the Pierz Pioneers head coach send Weber, a sophomore at the time, to the mound in last year's Section 6-2A semifinal game against St. Cloud Cathedral?
Weber didn't figure in that decision, a 6-5 loss, but he has made a difference in at least two Pierz victories so far this season.
The junior went 3-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs in the Pioneers' 14-4 Central Minnesota Conference victory over the Rockford Rockets April 17.
"He works hard on his swing and it's a picture-perfect swing," said Rocheleau. "It is so fun to watch because it is just like you would coach it. It's a nice short compact swing and he lines the ball to all fields. Because he gets good bat speed he's been able to hit a few home runs. He's not a home run hitter, but he has a good, quick swing."
In a 9-4 loss to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa April 19, Weber was 2-4 with a two-run homer.
So far the third baseman and left fielder is 5-of-7 with a double, home run, three runs, four RBIs and a sacrifice. Last year in 34 at bats, Weber had seven runs, one double, one home run, six walks and five RBIs.
He was hitting sixth in the lineup, but was promoted to second.
"We have a really good leadoff hitter and with Mike being left-handed he's able to pull the ball through the hole because he's such a good hitter," Rocheleau said. "We did mix up our lineup a bit though. He's really either a five or six hitter because he can drive in runs. But we moved him up against Eden Valley-Watkins and it worked."
Weber hasn't pitched much this season. In three innings of relief he has struck out two, walked none and allowed eight hits and three earned runs. He did get the win.
Position: Pitcher, left field, third base
Key stat: Finished the week 5-for-7 with a double, home run, two runs and four RBIs
"He's been one of our best pitchers," said Rocheleau. "Last year he started in the biggest game of the season for us and we probably should have won 5-3.
"He's off to a slow start this season, but he throws strikes. He keeps the ball low around the knees. He locates his fastball and curveball so well that he gets a lot of strikeouts."
Weber finished 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA last season with 14 strikeouts, eight walks, five earned runs and 16 hits allowed in 23.1 innings.
When Weber isn't hitting or pitching he's fielding well. Rocheleau said he has a good arm and soft hands. Plus, he's competitive.
"Maybe sometime too competitive because he gets upset with himself," said Rocheleau. "He expects so much of himself that when he pops up he takes it out on himself. I've talked to him and told him that things like that will happen and to go and get the next one.
"He doesn't feel pressure though. He can handle pressure, there is no doubt about that. You just have to look back to last year in the biggest game of our season and he pitched well."
Other notable performances:
Baseball: Cole Weber, Verndale, finished 2-for-2 with a triple, two runs, two stolen bases and three RBIs. He also struck out eight in five innings for the win against Ottertail Central. He added two hits and three runs against Lake Park-Audubon.
Scott Janson, Pierz, went 2-2 with two runs and four RBIs against Rockford.
Matt Christensen, Aitkin, struck out five and allowed five hits and one earned run and was 3-for-3 with three runs and three RBIs against Ogilvie.
Brandon Hilts, Pequot Lakes, was 3-for-3 against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Jordan Ackerman, Pine River-Backus, hit for the cycle as he finished 4-for-4 with five RBIs, including a two-run homer.
Golf: Robert Bell, Pierz, shot 42 to win a Central Minnesota Conference meet and 36 to win the Melrose Invite.
Tennis: Mike Lindaman, Staples-Motley, finished the week 3-0.
Derek Wolhowe-Jared Peterson, S-M, finished the week 3-0.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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