Despite dealing with key injuries, the Mora Mustangs made a deep run in Section 7 AA playoffs. With a core of experienced players returning, the team looks forward to another deep run in 2020.
“We had a tough year, and ultimately it was disappointing,” said head coach Jayson Pautzke. “We started out at 5-1, and we were also 6-3 at one point. We suffered a number of injuries that knocked players out for the season. There wasn’t one game this spring that we had our full roster available, and that was frustrating.”
Pautzke said that the Mustangs’ pitching and defense are ready for improvement next spring. “The good news is that our core players were all sophomores and juniors. We’ll return almost all of our pitching. So if we’re healthy next season, we should be pretty darn good,” he said.
The Mustangs finished the regular season with a 7-12 record, sixth place in the Granite Ridge Conference and seventh in Section 7 AA. They defeated Pine City 7-1 and Esko 7-5 in the first Section playoff games, but lost to Aitkin 7-6 and to Esko again 11-1. Last spring the team finished second in Section 7 AA Subsection 1 and fifth in the GRC.
“Our best regular season win was at Albany, 5-4 on April 23, as they had a very good team this year. We also defeated Esko 7-5 in the second Section playoff game, which was also a highlight of the season,” Pautzke said.
Junior Caleb Koch led the Mustangs in hitting this season, with a .405 batting average. Junior pitcher Jaden Ponto had the team’s lowest ERA at 3.86, with three wins.
“Lucas Athey, a junior, got the toughest pitching assignments this season. He improved late in the year, and pitched his best in the playoffs,” said Pautzke. “And senior Brycen Schritz did a nice job at shortstop, and batting in the leadoff spot.”
“Our Section foes Esko and Aitkin will return very good teams next year. Duluth Marshall graduates everyone, though, and shouldn’t be a factor. Our expectation heading into next season will be to win the Section tournament. We should be ready to contend next spring, and make a run at winning it.”