RCTC baseball, softball teams are among contenders in Region 13 Tournaments

May 8—ROCHESTER — The Rochester Community and Technical College baseball and softball teams are peaking at the right time and that could pay off during the postseason.

Both RCTC teams will be playing in a Region 13 Tournament this week with national berths on the line.

The Yellowjackets baseball team takes a 27-14 record into region play, but they have gone 20-5 over their past 25 games.

The RCTC softball team is a modest 16-18, but the Yellowjackets have gone 13-6 since a 3-12 start and they were the co-champs of the South Division in the MCAC.

Here is a look at the two RCTC teams as they head into Region 13 play.

The 10-team Region 13 Tournament will be played in two stages. This Wednesday-Friday 10 teams will play a double-elimination event with the top four moving on to the next stage. That will include another double-elimination format on March 16-17 with the winner advancing to the Division III NJCAA World Series.

"Since I've been doing this, there's more parity now across the state than there's ever been," RCTC coach Clark Jones said. "It seems like everyone's really good. It's a war."

RCTC is the No. 2 seed and among the teams to beat in the tournament along with No. 1 Alexandria Technical and Community College, No. 3 St. Cloud Technical and Community College, No. 4 Minnesota North College-Itasca, No. 5 Century College and No. 6 Riverland Community College.

The Yellowjackets were the South Division champions. They open at 4 p.m. Thursday against the No. 10 Minnesota North College-Hibbing and No. 7 Ridgewater College winner.

Alexandria (26-10) was the Central Division champion while Itasca (27-10) won the North Division. Eight of the 10 teams in the tournament have 20-plus wins.

"We try not to focus on other people, we just focus on us," Jones said.

Jones wasn't worried when the Yellowjackets got off to a 7-9 start. He tries to play his whole roster early in the season to develop depth and to determine the best lineup for the crucial stages of the regular and postseason.

"We're more about development, so I play my whole roster," he said. "... We're just learning about our team and taking notes and storing data."

What he learned was the Yellowjackets have a strong hitting team with solid pitching depth, which can be crucial when playing in a double-elimination tournament.

"We just need to continue playing how we play," Jones said. "We score runs. If we play defense and get good pitching, we're probably as good as anybody."

Offensively the Yellowjackets have the ability to hit with power (45 home runs) and use their speed (68 stolen bases).

"That's what makes us tough to defend," Jones said. "We have some talent."

The Yellowjackets have three players who received Division I offers. Griffin Olson has signed with Moorhead State University in Kentucky and Rees Campanale has signed with Central Michigan University. Clement Febus opted to sign with Division II Wayne State University.

Augusto Mungarrieta leads RCTC in home runs (13), RBIs (49), batting average (.405) and OPS (1.286). Griffin is hitting .362 with seven homers and 24 RBIs, Campanale is batting .397 with eight homers and 42 RBIs and Luis Rodriguez is hitting .404 with nine homers and 39 RBIs.

"We do have some good players so that helps," Jones said.

RCTC will host the four-team Region 13A Tournament on Thursday and Friday at the Rochester Youth Fastpitch Softball Complex. The winner of the double-elimination event earns a berth in the Division III NJCAA National Tournament.

"It's exciting," RCTC coach Jami Stejskal said.

Top-seeded RCTC plays No. 4 Minnesota State-Fergus Falls at 1 p.m. Thursday in first-round action. The first game features No. 2 Rainy River Community College against No. 3 St. Cloud Technical and Community College at 11 a.m.

RCTC went 2-0 vs. Fergus Falls during the regular season.

Losers of the first round meet at 3 p.m. and the winners play at 5 p.m. Three teams then advance to Friday's second round with the semifinal game at 11 a.m. and the championship game at 1 p.m. with another game to follow at 3 p.m., if needed.

The Yellowjackets enter with a .344 team batting average and are averaging 7.8 runs per game.

"We've had a lot of success at the plate," Stejskal said. "It's the small things that make a big difference."

Kasson-Mantorville grad Abby Zahn is batting .450 with 31 RBIs. Zoey Clark (.435 average), Aubrey Grove (.327) and Bailey Monson (.330) also have 31 RBIs each.

Stejskal said that strong defense will also be a key for the Yellowjackets. Clark (10-6 record, 4.52 ERA) and Taylor Draeger (5-10, 6-19 ERA) have been the team's top pitchers.

"We're coming together at the right time," Stejskal said. "The bats are working, the team's playing together. We're playing together as a team and we're supporting each other and our communications better."

Stejskal expects RCTC and St. Cloud to meet in the region title game. The two teams split four games during the regular season.

"We're looking forward to playing really good ball against all of the teams that we're facing," Stejskal said.

The national tournament will be held in Chattanooga, Tenn., from March 22-25.