Maple Grove Baseball Clawing Its Way Toward Unbeaten Season
The Crimson are relying on timely hits, strong pitching and a whole lot of smiles as they head toward the postseason.
It was a revelation of sorts.
After a teammate hit a home run earlier in the season, the Maple Grove Senior High varsity baseball team developed a move that would in part define the 2011 season. The Crimson player, imitating the Texas Rangers, lifted his arm while rounding third and signaled to the dugout to celebrate his homer.
The Crimson Claw was born.
“Whenever we get an extra-base hit or an RBI or a home run, we throw up the Crimson Claw,” senior Alex Naasz said. “It just kind of gets everybody smiling and back in the game.”
The claw has been active this season.
Maple Grove entered Thursday’s game against Blaine 17-0 and sat atop the Class AAA baseball polls. The Crimson are in position to take home the Northwest Suburban Conference title, and if they continue their dominance they could reach their first state tournament since 2007.
There is no secret to the Crimson’s success this year, coach Darby Carlson said. Maple Grove’s dugout enjoys playing the game, and they show it through their smiles in the dugout and their playful demeanor on the field.
“This group of guys, they have fun playing baseball,” Carlson said. “They enjoy coming to practice. They enjoy being around each other. They enjoy the competition. That’s been fun as a coach.”
The Crimson have scored 10 or more runs in seven games this season and have a team batting average hovering around .320. The offensive production is across the board, and Carlson said any given player can step up on any given day.
That offense complements a pitching staff that has a 4.00 earned-run average this season. The Crimson have held opponents to two or fewer runs in a game six times this year.
Carlson said it’s been a combination of everything, piecing together timely hitting, strong pitching and solid defense to remain unbeaten.
It’s a welcomed surprise, but not something the Crimson anticipated.
“To go undefeated throughout a season is almost unheard of,” Naasz said. “We’re not expecting to go undefeated. If we lose, we lose and we’re going to come back and play our hardest every game.”
Junior Brady Jacobs said one of the team’s biggest assets this season has been its chemistry, and it’s helped them be successful on the field.
“Everyone has been contributing this year one way or another,” Jacobs said. “(We’re) not having to focus on just one or two guys coming through every night when we have nine guys that can come through and help us win.”
The Crimson are heading into the final stretch of the regular season, and in order to reach the state tournament they must go through two Section 5AAA opponents ranked in the top 10: Robbinsdale Cooper at No. 4 and Coon Rapids at No. 9.
Jacobs said the team looks forward to that challenge—that it excites them more than anything.
Does that focused mentality mean the Crimson Claw will make it’s state debut come June?
“I’d like to hope so,” Naasz said.