The Delano Athletics have proven over the past three seasons that they are back at being one of the top teams in the North Star League.
Following a 10-year absence, the A’s returned to state in 2014, and proved their worthiness in the big dance with a return trip in 2015 and a third-consecutive trip in 2016.
The A’s fell to eventual champion Raymond 9-6 in the opening round of the 2016 tournament.
Delano entered the 2016 state tournament as the No. 3 seed out of Region 12C. Hutchinson was the No. 1 seed; Maple Lake was No. 2; and Loretto was No. 4.
Of the Region 12C teams, Hutchinson went the deepest, reaching the semifinals before losing to Sobieski.
Raymond claimed the Class C state championship with a 5-4 win over Sobieski.
This year’s Class C state tournament is at Norwood and Hamburg Aug. 18-Sept. 4.
During the 2016 regular season, Delano finished in a five-way tie for third place in the final North Star League standing.
The A’s, along with Loretto, Maple Plain, Maple Lake and Hutchinson, all finished with a 12-8 league record.
Howard Lake won the league championship with a 15-5 mark. Dassel-Cokato was second with a 13-7 record.
At the bottom of the standing were Buffalo (10-10), Cokato (8-12), Mound (4-6) and Montrose (0-20).
Delano was 16-16 overall.
The three recent trips run the number of state-tournament appearances for the A’s up to 22. The most memorable came in 1988, when Delano won the Class C championship. The A’s defeated current North Star League foe Maple Plain in the title game. Delano’s Dave Ditty was the tournament MVP.
The state-tournament win in 1988 moved Delano up to Class B, where it played through the 2010 season. The A’s moved back to Class C at the start of the 2011 season.
The win in 1988 remains as the A’s only state title, but it was not the only season in which they played in the final game of the season. Delano finished second in 1941 (A), 1942 (A), and 1971 (B).
The resurgence of the A’s has to do with the young talent that has been added to the roster in the last handful of seasons. Many of the young players in uniform joined the club with vast state-tournament experience from their high school years, and have brought that know-how-to-win attitude to the town team diamond.
Pitching was key in the three recent trips to the state tournament, and it should be good again.
Matt Arens, Zach Iten and Jake Gleason were steady starters in 2016, and will toe the rubber for the A’s again in 2017.
Gleason was 4-0 with a 3.03 earned run average in 2016 for the A’s. Arens led the league with 46 strikeouts in 2016, and was 2-5 with a 3.41 earned run average.
Trevor Jaunich’s strong, veteran arm will be valuable out of the bullpen.
The next batch of hurlers will be in an A’s uniform this season. It includes Delano high-school ace Jordan Schramel, who will wrap up his prep career this spring before joining the A’s.
The pitching staff also includes Austin Schneider, Hank Cautin, Jeremy Maschino and Jeff Althoff.
A big bat will be missing from the Delano lineup this season, as center fielder Kevin Jaunich is hanging up the spikes.
Jaunich’s overall game will be missed. Filling his shoes full time in the outfield will be Brady Miller, who was a key player in 2016, and will be coming off his sophomore season of baseball at Gustavus.
Miller’s bat should be in prime condition when he joins the A’s in June. He batted .441 a season ago for Delano, finishing fifth in the batting race.
The same can be said about the bat of slugger Hunter Hart, who showed great power in the middle of the A’s lineup a season ago, with four home runs and 22 runs batted in. When Hart joins the A’s this summer, he will have just wrapped up his junior season at St. Thomas.
Jesse Berg, Adam Schleper and Jay Stevens are consistent players with the bats and gloves in the Delano infield.
Catcher Joey Althoff can still swing the stick. He batted .364 with three home runs and 23 runs batted in for the A’s in 2016.
The A’s schedule in 2016 includes a trip to the Elrosa Tournament June 17-18. Delano opens the tournament Friday, June 17, against the Cold Spring Rockies at 10 a.m.
The addition of Litchfield to the North Star League means each of the 12 teams will play 22 league games.
Delano begins league play Sunday, May 21, at Maple Plain.
Delano’s town team is known as the Athletics now, but the team has also played under the monikers “Millers” and “Colts”. The Millers went to the state tournament in 1930, 1932, 1935; and the Colts went in 1940, 1941 (2nd place), and 1942 (2nd).
The franchise has spent time in the Wright County League, the Crow River Valley League, and the Wright Star League, and now resides in the North Star League.
Three former A’s have received the highest honor given to a Minnesota amateur baseball player — enshrinement into the Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame. Perry Ditty was inducted in 1966, Valentine “Dutch” Styrbicky was inducted in 1968, and Rich Ditty was inducted in 1981.
Those three state hall of famers are also in the North Star League Hall of Fame. In all, 15 A’s are in the North Star League Hall of Fame. They are Ralph “Buzz” Bernick, Gene Bouley, Marshall “Bud” Dainsberg, Al Juelke, Jerry Litfin, Van Merriman, Frank Muckenhirn, Dick Shaver, Tom Ditty, Richard “RT” Traen, and Todd Traen.
A’s players have claimed their share of single-season awards. Delano’s division MVPs are Bob Kosower (1973), Tim Finch (1976), Dave Ditty (1989) and Tom Traen (1992). Traen was also named the Pitcher of the Year in 1981 and 1988. Jeff Janzen won the pitching award three times; in 1997, 2003, and 2004. For his play in 2011, Joey Althoff was named MVP and pitcher of the year in the East Division.
Delano’s past batting champions are Bouley (1961), Todd Muckenhirn (1990), and Jeff Olson (2000 and 2004).