by Mike Nistler
After finishing the regular season in fourth place in the Sauk Valley League, the St. Joseph Joes have advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
After defeating Sauk Rapids Jimmy’s 2-0 in a best-of-three playoff series this past weekend, the Joes now advance to play the No. 1-seeded Sartell Muskies in another best-of-three series. The first game of that series is 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Champion Field in Sartell. The second game will be at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Schneider Field in St. Joseph. The third game, if needed, will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday back at Champion Field.
If the Joes win the series, they would then advance to the regional tournament.
However, it will be a momentous challenge to defeat the Muskies, who finished the league season a perfect 12-0 and sport one of the state’s best pitchers in David Deminsky, a former St. Cloud State University pitcher who was drafted in the 44th round of the Major League Draft by the Minnesota Twins and spent a short time in their minor league system. The last time the Joes faced the Muskies in St. Joseph on July 13, Deminsky shut them down in a 6-0 Muskies win, allowing only three hits.
Deminsky, a 2006 Sartell High School graduate and former St. Cloud River Bat and Northwoods League All-Star, is 7-0 this season. In his Muskie career he is 18-3 with an ERA of 1.23.
The Joes know they have their work cut out for them if they are to beat Deminsky and the Muskies.
“Sartell was already arguably one of the best teams in the area, if not the state, so adding a dominant left-handed pitcher like Deminsky this year made them a lot better and serious state-tournament contenders in Class C,” said the Joes Brent Schloe. “They mash at the plate, have a lot of speed, a solid defense and a very deep pitching staff outside of Deminsky as well, so we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
Schloe said in both games against the Muskies this year, Deminsky was “on his game,” able to locate his pitches no matter what he threw and no matter what the count.
“We only had two hits against him the first time back in May, one of which was a solo home run by Brandon Bloch, and we managed just three singles the second time around two weeks ago when he shut us out. In our defense, though, it’s not like he just has our number . . . He’s dominated every team he’s faced this year as evidenced by his 0.60 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 60 innings.”
Schloe said it’s important for the Joes to stay aggressive at the plate.
“He’s always around the zone, and we can’t let the mental part of facing him get the best of us either because it’s still baseball and any team can beat any other team on any given day.”
Joe’s Manager Pat Schneider said the two teams are very familiar with one another.
“We have played them quite often over the years, and each team respects each other and is well aware of player personnel on both teams,” Schneider said. “I’d say we have a very healthy rivalry. Regarding pitching, there certainly is some truth to the fact Deminsky is always a challenge for us. His professional baseball career has certainly been impressive. However, our Chad Schwegel will be a significant challenge for them as well. In Chad’s eight-year career with St. Joseph, he has earned a 2.17 ERA and this year he is 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA. Those numbers bode well for his ability to shut teams down. It’s a best-of-3 playoff series so anything can happen. We hit the ball well in our series with Sauk Rapids this past weekend, so we hope we are peaking at the right time.”
Schneider said the team’s season has been a bit of a rollercoaster, mainly due to injuries to pitcher Scott Sand (back) and Bubba Hollenhorst (torn labrum).
“Plus, for the first time we signed seven very talented local high school seniors from Apollo and St. John’s Prep to our roster,” he said. “Their legion and high school schedule came first before playing amateur baseball. Thus, we struggled with available players early in the season causing our win/loss record to suffer. Our 20-man roster is now in tack and we plan to make a serious bid for the 2013 region tournament held in Hinckley, beginning Aug. 3. Of course, to do that we need to beat Sartell two out of three games starting this Saturday.”