College baseball: Ridgewater rides high – West Central Tribune

WILLMAR – The Ridgewater baseball team is laid back, relaxed and having fun the way you love when you’re one of the last 32 teams left in the country.
The Warriors head to Super Regional XIII in St. Cloud this week. That puts them in the bottom four among NCJAA Division III teams in Minnesota and just a few wins away from a berth in the Junior College World Series.

Ridgewater’s Sam Lenarz, left, and Jaxon Nickels chat at the start of practice Monday, May 16, 2022 at Ridgewater College in Willmar.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Ridgewater will face Rochester Community and Technical College at 2 p.m. Thursday at Dick Putz Field at the St. Cloud Municipal Sports Complex. Central Lakes College plays St. Cloud Technical & Community College at 5 p.m. at the MAC. The losers play Friday in an elimination match and the winners also play Friday to qualify for the championship. The final round is Saturday.
The NJCAA Division III World Series runs from May 28 through June 2 in Greeneville, Tennessee.
“I think we really deserve to be here,” said Ridgewater third baseman/pitcher Brad Bickmann, a Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted freshman. “It’s hard to compete with a team like ours.
“We’re very close and picking ourselves up. Everything is really clicking right now.”
Ridgewater has been chasing its first World Series berth since 2008 under head coach Dwight Kotila. Kotila led the Warriors to six World Series appearances during his tenure at Ridgewater from 1999 to 2008, when he left to start the baseball program at Century College in White Bear Lake, where he still coaches .
Region XIII’s seventh-seeded Ridgewater upset third-seeded Century on Sunday to advance to the Super Regional.

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Ridgewater’s Tyler Traphagen chases down a swing during batting practice Monday, May 16, 2022 at Ridgewater College in Willmar.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Bickmann said the Warriors’ 16-18 record was misleading. Ridgewater, playing its first games since 2019, started 2-8 and was 5-14 at one point.
“Being the seventh seed, we don’t have much to prove, especially against the third seed (Century),” said Jack Howard, a first-year right-hander from Renville County West. “A lot of people were watching behind us.”
They do this with a formation that has a slant line with a .294 batting average, .378 on-base percentage and .466 hitting percentage. That’s a team OBP (on base plus slugging percentage) of .844.
Bickmann leads the way with seven homers, 30 RBIs and a .415/.485/.729 slash. Bennett Knapper (2 HR, 16 RBI, .333/.427/.540), Josh Robb (3 HR, 19 RBI, .329/.422/.500), Tyler Flis (3 HR, 17 RBI, .315/ .377/.505), Tyler Traphagen (5 HR, 22 RBI, .308/.409/.547), Jadrien Keavy (1 HR, 12 RBI, .291/.319/.395), Nolan Spence (3 HR , 18 RBI, .287/.385/.457), Reece Schwirtz (1 HR, 12 RBI, .254/.365/.365) and Seth Resnick (2 HR, 19 RBI, .248/.335.390).
Head coach Tyler Hebrink noted that Schwirtz hit a home run against Century in a 13-12, 10-inning win that clinched the Warriors’ super regional berth. Schwirtz is Ridgewater’s No. 9 batter.
Schwirtz, a Glencoe-Silver Lake right-hander, gets the start Thursday against Rochester, Hebrink said.
Schwirtz is 4-3 in 37-2/3 innings. He has 52 strikeouts and 12 walks to go with a 4.54 ERA.
Howard is second on staff with 37-1/3 innings. He is 2-5 with 22 strikeouts and 13 walks. he has a 7.23 ERA.
Third on the staff in innings is Bickmann, who is 5-1 with a 5.13 ERA. He pitched 33-1/3 innings with 36 strikeouts and 25 walks.
The team’s improved pitching contributed to the improvement in the second half.
Hebrink said he expects his team to see Rochester ace Drew Simmons.
The second-year right-hander from Stewartville is 6-3 with a 3.63 ERA. He has 49 strikeouts and 13 walks in 62 innings. The Yellowjackets also have Alec Dietl, a second-year left-hander from Foley who is 6-1 with a 3.57 ERA.
Rochester and Ridgewater have not met this season. The top-seeded Yellow Jackets are 28-12, including 14-2 in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference South Division.
They bat .367 with .454 hitting percentage on base and .553. Zebastian Bolduc (8 HR, 46 RBI, .481), Blake Schilling (3 HR, 41 RBI, .447), Gabe Sepulveda (5 HR, 35 RBI, .409) and Carlos Martinez (7 HR, 29 RBI, .403 ) leading the way.

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Ridgewater baseball head coach Tyler Hebrink speaks to his players at the start of practice Monday, May 16, 2022 at Ridgewater College in Willmar.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

St. Cloud (21-11) and Central Lakes (28-13) are a little more familiar to the Warriors, who finished 8-8 in MCAC Central. Ridgewater went 2-2 against St. Cloud and 1-5 against Central Lakes, although there were two one-point losses in that record against the Raiders.
Hebrink believes in his team. He calls it the closest he’s been a part of and that includes the World Series teams he was part of while an assistant coach at St. Cloud.
Players agree with the assessment. Being together for another week is one of the reasons for their joy and continuing that in a World Series berth would be even better.
“It would be crazy to be able to go to Tennessee and play,” Howard said. “Another week with these guys and no school is great.
Says Bickmann: “It’ll be cool just to do it.”

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