Baseball: Wadena-Deer Creek cruises past Spectrum in 6-2A first round behind combined no-hitter
The Wadena-Deer Creek baseball team is in a new section that poses tougher challenges. The third-seeded Wolverines got past their first test ahead of a loaded playoff field filled with teams ready to compete for a section championship.
WADENA – The Wadena-Deer Creek baseball team has its sights set on another trip to the Class 2A state baseball tournament. However, the Wolverines know this year's road will present more challenges in the Section 6-2A field.
On Tuesday afternoon, Wadena-Deer Creek advanced to the double-elimination portion of the postseason tournament with a 9-1 win over 14th-seeded Spectrum High School. The third-seeded Wolverines threw a combined no-hitter in a dominating effort from start to finish.
"Get out and score early," head coach Kyle Dykhoff said on the game plan coming into the Section 6-2A tournament. "We were able to do that early in the game. We wanted to score runs to get Josh out of there and keep him under the pitch count. We had to get him out of there for him to pitch on Thursday. You don't like to look ahead, but you have to with these potential games."
Senior Josh Dykhoff mowed down the Sting on the mound over the first three innings until the Wolverines built a cushion.
After Wadena-Deer Creek broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning with a sacrifice fly, Payton Rondestvedt ripped a bases-clearing double to take a 3-0 lead in the third. Connor Davis and Tyson Barthel also drove in runs with singles to give the Wolverines a five-run advantage.
Isaac Hamann came in relief for Josh Dykhoff before Peyton Church closed out the no-hit victory. Spectrum's lone run came on an error in the top of the fifth inning to cut the lead to 8-1. Carson Kern drove in a pair of runs in the fourth inning with a single.
"I was happy with the guys that came in relief," Kyle Dykhoff said. "Isaac and Peyton did a good job. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was a combined no-hitter. I was happy with our performance. It would've been nice to get a couple more runs there late to save some pitches from our pitchers. I felt good about the way we played, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Wadena-Deer Creek didn't play Spectrum before Tuesday afternoon. In fact, the Wolverines didn't share a common opponent. While some teams like the chance to scout an opponent with a head-to-head regular-season matchup, Dykhoff believes the lack of familiarity forced his guys not to take the Sting for granted.
"The nice thing about drawing Spectrum was we didn't know a lot about them," Dykhoff said. "We had zero like-opponents, so we had nothing to compare us with other than records. We go and face a team like Pillager, who we beat twice soundly, and those become the trap games. We had to show up today because we didn't know what we would get."
If Tuesday's matchup were a regular-season game, Josh Dykhoff might have had a chance to throw the no-hitter on his own. However, in the postseason, personal accomplishments are put on the back burner.
"Baseball is the only game like this where you have to look ahead at the matchups and how it changes what you do in certain scenarios," Dykhoff said. "I usually have a game plan going into the game. I tell the kids who might be pitching, but it always depends on the game flow. The game flow, momentum and score dictate what we do in each situation."
Dykhoff's approach to the Section 6-2A tournament will likely be different than if the Wolverines were in Section 8-2A, and it starts on Wednesday against sixth-seeded Kimball at Putz Field at The MAC in St. Cloud at 7 p.m.
"One thing we know in stepping from 8-2A to 6-2A is that 6-2A is much deeper," Dykhoff said. "This is probably the top section in the state at this level. You're going to see 6-8 teams in this section that are really good ball teams, whereas in 8-2A, you might get 2-3. We're embracing the competition because we have competitors on this team who want to play the best team out there every single game. That's what drives them. You notice that in games when you're playing a top seed compared to a 14-seed. I'm looking forward to that ramping up game-by-game here."
When the cream rises to the top, the section champions typically have a deep pitching staff to survive a multi-game war. Dykhoff is ready to stack his arm arsenal against any other team in the section.
"The strong point of this team is our pitching depth," Dykhoff said. "We have a number of guys that can throw and throw well. Guys on this team have to know their role. Peyton Church is a younger 10th grader coming in today to eat up innings. Even though the game wasn't tight, those were still big innings because we could save some arms going forward."
Wadena-Deer Creek is a team that has been there and done that. After battling through the loser's bracket to knock off Perham in back-to-back Section 8-2A title games last spring, there's not an obstacle the Wolverines have yet to face. Now it's time to take care of business.
"With what we battled to get through the section last year to beat Perham two times–in what was probably the greatest baseball game I've ever been a part of to win the section final–these kids have dealt with adversity," Dykhoff said. "Most of them have been part of a 13 and 15-year-old Babe Ruth state championship. A lot of these kids have played in those big games. Make the plays that should be made, throw strikes and put the ball in play."