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Pierz Pioneers Win Class 2A Quarterfinal

ST. CLOUD -- Prior to the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament, Pierz Pioneers coach considered Preston Rocheleau and Matt Tautges No. 1 and No. 1A in his pitching rotation. Rocheleau got the nod Thursday at Putz Field against the New London-Spicer Wildcats and didn’t disappoint, scattering two runs and five hits in 6.1 innings and pitching the third-seeded Pioneers into Friday’s semifinals against Duluth Marshall. He struck out six and walked five and allowed five hits and two earned runs. “To be honest, Preston didn’t have his best stuff,” Pierz coach Danny Saehr said, “but that’s being really picky when you give up just two runs on five hits. He wasn’t as sharp as he has been the last two weeks but Preston has pitched phenomenal for us all year long.” Matt Kummet came on to seal the deal for the Pioneers, recording the final two outs. Lane Girtz, Rocheleau and Brandon Dickmann each had two hits for Pierz which won for the 25th time in 27 games this season. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Pierz's Lane Girtz led off by slashing a triple to the gap in right-center. He scored on Kummet's sacrifice fly to center. Pierz surged ahead 3-2 in the fifth. Dickmann walked, was bunted to second, took third on a ground out and scored on Tautges' single to left. Lane Girtz scored Tautges, who stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, on an infield single. The Pioneers tacked on three runs in the sixth on Brett Kapsner’s RBI single and Dickmann’s 2-run single. Dickmann, the Pioneers’ first baseman, entered the game hitting .167. “Brandon’s average is probably not where he would like it to be,” Saehr said, “but the kid just ropes the ball in batting practice. I have a ton of confidence in him, his teammates have confidence in him. “I went up and talked to him with runners on second and third and I said, ‘Brandon, go up and be aggressive and get a pitch to handle.’ That was a huge single to right field to score two runs. I’m very happy for Brandon because he’s been waiting for that moment.” Kummet and Rocheleau traded places with out one in the seventh after Rocheleau issued a walk. Kummet struck out losing pitcher Will Roguske before Wyatt White skied to shallow center. Pierz second baseman Lane Girtz backpedaled, center fielder Brett Kapsner ran in, they collided and the ball dropped. “I’ve seen more fly balls like that that were misplayed today than I have in the previous two weeks combined,” Saehr said. “Between wind and sun, balls are kind of drifting up there.