Head Coach Ryan Stoffel gives his senior son, Connor, an emotional hug after the Raiders season ended at Rosemount in the Section 3AAAA tournament. After the dust settled and the team started cleaning up, Stoffel said “I will definitely be back,” regarding his plans for coaching next year. Photo by Bruce Karnick
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Baseball season ends with Section loss at Rosemount

By Bruce Karnick

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The Raider baseball team finished the 2022 season with a regular season record of 173 and an overall record of 185. They entered the Section 3AAAA tournament as the fourth seed and faced the five seed Eagan, losing 54. The second game was against the eighth seeded, Apple Valley Eagles, where they won 111. The final game of the season was at number two Rosemount, where they fell 64.

The tournament was a double elimination setup, which gave Hastings a chance to make it back to the right side of the bracket after dropping a close one against Eagan.

Hastings was at Rosemount for the second year in a row with a huge game. Starting shortstop Jackson Schaffer explained what it meant to be in that spot.

“I think it's huge! Last year here in the same position within a regular season game, we barely beat them, and I think we came at this game with a lot of energy as well. But it was a bigger situation being the third game of Sections. We played as hard as we could. We battled until the end if we didn't really get the final outcome we wanted,” said Schaffer.

The game at Rosemount started with three quick outs for Hastings. The Irish struck first in the bottom of the first. The leadoff batter walked and a hard double to right scored the runner giving Rosemount the 10 lead.

Rosemount did the rest of the damage in the third inning. Starting pitcher Connor Stoffel was fighting soreness to start the game and that not only affected his velocity, but it also affected his control. There was also a key throwing error in the inning and by the time the third was over, Hastings was down 60.

Stoffel finished the day with 65 pitches in two and two thirds’ innings pitched.

The top of the fourth was the most exciting moment for the Raiders. Alex Hendrickson popped up to second for the first out. Tanner Anselment and Mitch Iliff were both hit by pitch to put two runners on. Eddie Peine came to the plate. Peine took the second pitch and crushed it over the left field fence to cut Rosemount’s lead in half. The Raiders trailed 63.

The bottom of the fourth became a bit interesting with the umpires giving both teams a warning for chirping at each other.

In the top of the fifth, Schaffer hit a single up the middle, then stole second. Hendrickson’s sacrifice fly moved Schaffer to third. He then scored with a single from Anselment. A passed ball moved Anselment up a base, and Iliff walked. The rally ended with a strikeout.

The Irish did enough damage in the third to hang on for the 64 win, ending the Raiders season.

“We put Connor out there on the mound to start,” Head Coach Ryan Stoffel said after the game. “We felt that with his craftiness at times, it would be a lot more effective with a team like Rosemont who comes in and out of a conference who sees velocity a lot day in and day out. So, we felt that he could give us the start we needed to keep them off balanced and, for the most part, he did that. We made a couple of mental mistakes in the field that allowed some free bases that then resulted in some runs. But hey, we battled back. The threerun home run by Eddie sparks the energy again, we scratch another one in the following inning. We just couldn't get the key base runners, down the stretch. That's baseball sometimes.”

In the emotional postgame meeting with the players, Coach Stoffel had to step away for a moment when the reality of the moment overtook him.

“I told them I was proud of them. They believed in the program from day one to where we're at today. We're going in the right direction. Obviously, the seven seniors mean an awful lot to me, I've been coaching them for quite some time, they are like my own kids. With the underclassmen, the juniors and sophomores, this program is going to be in great shape, you're going to see this team win a lot of Section playoff games in the future. They are better because of our seven seniors and those seven, they are going to do great things out there, but they set the stage for us and laid the base of what we expect for this program. I'm so proud of them and they'll forever be with us,” added Stoffel.

“You know, losing sucks and losing a game to end your season sucks, but it's part of life,” explained Stoffel. “It's part of baseball. It's part of the game and a part of sports. So, we'll work hard and get better. The sun will come up tomorrow, we'll enjoy the summer and be back next year.”

And the big question with all the recent Raider coaching changes was answered by Stoffel, 'I will definitely be back next year.'

As a senior, having played his final game in a Raider uniform, what does that mean to Schaffer?

“I am so, so happy with everyone and how they played this year. This is a team I haven't really played with before with a bunch of younger guys, a lot of talent coming from them, from the next two years coming up. Hastings baseball is going to be a team to watch,” Schaffer said.

What’s next for Schaffer? He is going to continue playing baseball this summer with the Hastings Hawks where fellow Raider senior Connor Stoffel will join him, then Schaffer will continue to play baseball in college for Bemidji State.

June 8, 2022