With approval in hand and the schedules set, it’s looking like the regular-season and playoff slate for teams in Section 1B will be brutal.
Combine that with condensing a season’s worth of action into one month and it will be tough to predict which four teams emerge from Section 1B and into the Minnesota Baseball Association state tournament.
In addition to recent state tournament mainstays the Dundas Dukes, Miesville Mudhens and Northfield Knights, the section also features the Rochester Royals, last year’s bottom-ranked team in the section that surprisingly snatched the section’s final qualifying spot for the 2019 state tournament away from the tradition-rich Elko Express and third-seeded Hampton Cardinals.
Add in the New Market Muskies — a Class C power that was reclassified into Class B this summer — and quality teams will be stuck on the sidelines in August and September.
“Who knows what’s going to happen now,” Northfield manager Troy Deden said. “Section 1 is just a buzzsaw. There’s good team after good team after good team.”
The route to the Section 1 playoffs will be shortened, but the general number of meaningful games will still remain the same.
Section 1B Commissioner and Classic Cannon Valley League Treasurer Dan Swanson released the league and section schedules Tuesday. The CCVL consists of five Class B teams (Dundas, Hampton, Miesville, Northfield and Rochester) and four Class C teams (Cannon Falls, Hastings, Lake City and Red Wing), while Section 1B also includes Elko and New Market, which compete in the Dakota-Rice-Scott League.
With limited available dates, the CCVL slate was trimmed so all the Class B and Class C teams will play their classmates twice, but won’t cross over class lines for official games this year.
While some teams are starting their official 2020 season Wednesday night, when Northfield will host Stewartville-Racine at Sechler Park, the official league slate begins Sunday.
As for the Section 1B playoffs, the general structure will be unchanged, other than the fact it needs to include an additional team this year. After the teams are seeded based on regular season results, the bottom two teams will partake in a one-game playoff on Aug. 2.
That will then lead to the three traditional best-of-3 series, with the three winners earning state tournament berths. The two worst of the three losers will then play in an elimination game, with the winner advancing to play at the top-seeded loser for the final state tournament berth.
“The section is really, really tough,” Dundas manager Mike Ludwig said. “There’s really no good matchup to get in the playoffs. We’re going to do our best to win games, but knowing we haven’t had an opportunity to play yet — some teams have, some teams haven’t — there’s just a lot of question marks out there in terms of what we’re able to do and what everyone’s going to be able to do.”
In the preseason Class B rankings published by the MBA, Miesville starts as the second-ranked team in the state behind the Chanhassen Redbirds, the state champs the last two years.
Last year’s state runner-up, Dundas, is ranked fifth, while Northfield is slotted into sixth. New Market starts in a tie for the 10th-ranked team in the state based on its impressive Class C resume. Elko, Hampton and Rochester start outside the state’s top 10.
“It’ll be interesting,” Deden said. “Our section didn’t get weaker by adding New Market, that’s for certain. I don’t know who’s all in the other sections, but I would assume ours is near the top in the entire state. You can take the top four teams, or even top six teams in everyone’s section and put them against the top six teams in ours and we would fare very well.”