Most baseball teams hope to be peaking as they head into the American Legion Division I state baseball tournament Thursday through Sunday in Northfield.
The Brainerd Legion team, on the other hand, has been peaking all season long.
Brainerd won the District 6 title last weekend when it defeated Sartell 11-3. Brainerd boasts an overall record of 27-5 and is riding a 16-game win streak into the state tournament, its second trip to state in three years.
Brainerd, which is ranked 11th in the coaches/media poll, takes on unranked host Northfield 1 p.m. Thursday. In all, 13 ranked teams are competing in the tournament, including the Rochester A's, last year's American Legion World Series champion.
"I really feel that we've been peaking all summer long," Brainerd coach Mark Germain said. "We're just doing the same things now that we've done all summer long. We're hitting the ball consistently. If we can hit and pitch and play defense like we did in districts then I think we'll do fine."
Germain has a number of offensive weapons at his disposal. Center fielder Blake Eller leads the team with a .591 batting average, including a team-high 36 hits. Chris Klabo, who played in the spring at Concordia-Moorhead, is second with a .485 average and has hit an out-of-this-world 15 home runs.
Nate Maaske is hitting .454 and Mike Germain .400. Devin Roberts (.394), Tony Parrish (.385), Kyle Holbrook (.372) and Anthony Hennen (.343) round out Brainerd's top eight hitters.
Klabo is probably the most dangerous hitter in Brainerd's lineup. The first baseman hit two tape-measure home runs against Sartell in the district championship game in St. Cloud and is just flat out hitting the ball hard.
Next game Brainerd vs. Northfield, 1 p.m. Thursday at Northfield
Key stat: Brainerd has scored 259 runs this season, an average of 8.1 per game while compiling a 27-5 record.
"Chris is playing on another level right now," Germain said. "He started the summer out hot and then went through a bit of a slump. He changed his stance and now he's found whatever was wrong.
"Besides hitting he's a good leader and the younger kids look up to him. He's played in this tournament before so he has a lot of insight. Chris has just been such a positive influence in the dugout this season."
Brainerd has also been strong on the mound. In 32 games, it has surrendered 109 runs, an average of 3.4 runs per game.
Adian Kummet and Justin Huether lead Brainerd with identical 5-0 records. Eller is 4-0, Maaske 3-0, Kevin Mertens 2-0 and Kyle Holbrook 1-0. In all, Germain has 11 pitchers at his fingertips.
"Pitching-wise we're ready to go," Germain said. "If anything we have pitchers that need to get out and throw some. I haven't figured out the pitching rotation yet but I'm confident in whoever I put out there."
With as much talent that's on the Brainerd squad, just filling out the lineup card can be a difficult task as Germain tries to get the best combination of players on the field.
"The hardest thing about filling out the lineup card is that I have a lot of talented players to choose from," said Germain. "We have 15 to 16 kids that could start on any team. I just hope I can some make good choices and get everyone a little playing time."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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