Lyle/Pacelli baseball team makes program history and memories by earning state berth

Jun. 12—AUSTIN — The Lyle/Austin Pacelli baseball team has already made some program history during the 2023 season. Now the Athletics hope to add some more hardware to their trophy case.

Pacelli High School, in Austin, and Lyle High School, in nearby Lyle, formed a sports co-op in the 1990s. And for the first time ever, Lyle/Pacelli is going to the state baseball tournament as a co-op.

Pacelli's last state baseball appearance was 40 years ago in 1983.

"It's something the kids will never forget and something I'll probably never forget," 12th-year L/P coach Brock Meyer said. "The first one's always special."

The Athletics are the No. 3 seed. They have won 12 games in a row since their only loss of the season and are 22-1.

L/P will face unseeded Hinckley-Finlayson at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the state quarterfinals at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud.

"Our mindset is that we're going to win," Meyer said. "Flat out, we aren't going just because we're happy to be there. We're preparing to win and get as far as we can."

The L/P baseball players do not have any state experience, but Meyer doesn't believe that will phase the Athletics. Many of the players played deep into the Section 1A basketball tournament during the 2022-23 season.

"I think it will be more excitement than nerves," Meyer said. "They've been in big games, and big games in basketball, too. They know how to win these types of games."

L/P also has standout Hunter VaDeer. The hard-throwing right-hander will start on the mound in the state quarterfinals. The sophomore can throw his fastball more than 90 miles per hour. He is 8-1 with a 1.15 ERA with a whopping 104 strikeouts in just 42 2/3 innings.

"Every time he steps on the mound you expect one- or two-hit ball," Meyer said. "That's just kind of what he's been doing all year. And 10 to 15 strikeouts every game."

Meyer said the key for the Athletics will be pitching and defense.

"If we throw strikes, there's not a ton of people who are going to be able to hit Hunter," he said. "But our defense has got to come to play, too, when they do put it in play."

Either Isaac Nelsen (7-0, 1.30 ERA) or Mac Nelson (1-0, 2.63 ERA) will likely start on the mound in the second game at state. Jake Truckenmiller (3-0, 1.00 ERA) has also been a key pitcher for the team.

L/P's offensive production has actually been down in 2023 from some recent seasons. But Meyer said the Athletics have done a very good job of situational hitting.

"We've come up in big spots and had some big hits, some clutch hits," he said.

Top offensive guys include VaDeer (.463 average, two homers, 27 RBIs), Nelsen (.360, 22 RBIs), Landon Meyer (.333, 21 RBIs), Nelson (.306, two homers, 27 RBIs), Logyn Brooks (.281, 12 RBIs) and Truckenmiller (17 RBIs).

Meyer said he is not very familiar with the other seven teams in the Class A field. South Ridge is the No. 1 seed and New Ulm Cathedral, L/P's possible second-round foe, is the No. 2 seed. Fosston is seeded fourth and Legacy Christian Academy is No. 5.

"We're going to go in there with an open mind and just go after it," Meyer said. "We're going to give it everything we've got."

The state semifinals are Wednesday in St. Cloud and the championship game is on Friday at CHS Field in St. Paul. There is also a consolation round for teams that lose in the first round.