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Strong pitching guides Howard into Class B tournament

May 29—SIOUX FALLS — Much of the Howard High School's success during its banner sports season has been a credit to the defenses.

The Tigers' basketball team held opponents to 41.9 points per game en route to a state championship, while their state runner-up football team posted four shutouts during the season.

Howard's baseball team is no exception.

Fueled by a pair of aces — Luke Koepsell and Nolan Mentele — the Tigers enter the Class B state baseball tournament having allowed just nine total runs through ten games this season.

It's a key reason Howard has compiled a 9-1 record and enters the state tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Tigers will face No. 6 Platte-Geddes/Dakota Christian/White Lake in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Friday at Ronken Field on the campus of Augustana.

"We got some really good pitching," coach Nick Koepsell said. "We're going to go as far as our pitching will take us. We got a couple of all-state pitchers that we're relying on to lead the way for us."

Luke Koepsell, an all-state first-team pitcher and catcher, boasts a .733 ERA and 35 strikeouts while allowing just three earned runs and two walks through 28.2 innings pitched. Mentele, an all-state second-team pitcher, adds a .969 ERA through 21.1 innings pitched, 40 strikeouts, three earned runs and five walks. Jackson Remmers has added a 1.909 ERA through 7.1 innings pitched.

According to their coach, the pitching staff's success stems from their ability to throw accurately and avoid putting runners on base.

"We want the guys to throw strikes and let the defense help you. And those guys all do a great job of that," Nick Koepsell said. " ... We want to make sure the other team earns everything they get."

With Luke Koepsell and Mentele having thrown 50 of the team's 59 total innings this year, the team's defensive dominance has been consistent. Howard hasn't allowed more than two runs in a contest and has dropped just one game, a 2-0 loss to Madison/Chester, the No. 2 seed in the Class B tournament.

Most of the Tigers' games haven't been particularly close, either, because complementing the pitching is a strong batting lineup that averages 8.7 runs per game.

The offense is led by all-state second-team shortstop Jackson Remmers, who has an OPS of 1.310 and a .485 batting average. Luke Koepsell adds a 1.249 OPS and a .480 average, while Karsyn Feldhaus and Kolt Koepsell also have averages above .300.

And Nick Koepsell has been pleased with the group, citing its balance one through nine.

"Karsyn Feldhaus, he leads off for us, and he gets on base a ton," Nick Koepsell said. "Colby Claussen bats right behind him and then you have guys that can drive in runs like Jackson Remmers, Luke Koepsell, Kolt Koepsell and Weston Remmers. Those guys bat three, four, five or six ... And then at the bottom of the order there isn't much let down either."

To win a championship requires winning three games in two days. Howard will lean on Luke Koepsell and Mentele to get the team in position, but it will take a collective effort from the offense and defense to win and advance.

And the experience of the players, either from them playing for the Canova Gang growing up, or from their success in the sanctioned sports, gives the Tigers confidence entering the weekend.

"These guys that are now juniors and seniors, they're now 17 or 18 years old, and they've been in a ton of big games whether on the baseball field, the wrestling mat, the football field or the basketball court," Nick Koepsell said. "So you just have to rely on them. They're going to be able to fall back on the fact that they've been in these spots before."