Former rivals unite for Blue DevilsPublished 6:35pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012
If you can’t beat them, join them.
Throughout their high school baseball careers, Hayfield grad Tyler Krekling, Southland grad Chris May and Wabasha-Kellogg grad Eric Sandstrom were always getting in each other’s way.
May’s Rebels beat Sandstrom’s Falcons in the section semifinals on their way to state in 2010 and they beat Hayfield in the section finals in 2008 to get to state, while Sandstrom’s squad beat Southland on their way to state in 2009 and beat Krekling’s Vikings in 2011 in the section title game to get to state.
This year, the three are all playing for the Riverland baseball team and they’ve become good friends despite their past battles.
“I talk to Eric (about the old days) all of the time,” said May. “I always talk about that game my senior year when he was pitching and how we beat them. We talk a little trash.”
For Krekling, he can only listen in on the Sandstrom’s and May’s stories of playing in the state baseball torunament as his Vikings were denied a trip to state by both the Rebels and Vikings.
“It try to avoid it,” Krekling said of talking about past games. “But it’s fun being friends now and playing on the same team. It’s nice to hear their stories.”
Sandstrom had a special rivalry with Southland as the Rebels and Falcons were the top two teams in the Three Rivers and Section 1A for a three-year span. Sandstrom said he always knew it was a big game whenever he matched up against Chris, and his younger brother, Alan May.
“We knew the May brothers in Southland throughout high school,” Sandstrom said. “Virtually every time we faced them a May was pitching and so was I. We always knew if we beat Southland we could have a great shot.”
This season, Krekling and May have started in Riverland’s outfield since day one and both are amongst the Blue Devils’ top hitters. RCC head coach Scott Koenigs said he’s glad to have them both in his lineup, and he’s liked the progress that Sandstrom has shown, despite missing some time due to an injury he suffered before the season.
“I didn’t think we’d get all three of them. These are the guys we wanted out of the elite teams in Section 1A and its great to have them here,” Koenigs said. “They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played and they’ve been major, major parts of our success this year. They’re getting it done and they’re holding down some spots.”
May, who graduated from Southland in 2010 but didn’t play college baseball last season while attending the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, has the third-best on-base percentage in NJCAA Divsion III and Krekling leads the Blue Devils in RBIs this season.
“I’m actually surprised how good I’m doing after taking a year off,” May said. “It’s different (than in high school). Pitchers throw a little harder and they can spot more. But we’re winning a lot of games and I was used to that in Southland.”
Krekling has also embraced the winning as the Blue Devils (26-9 overall) have a chance to lock up an MCAC South Division title with four wins this weekend.
“The reason I came here was to win a lot of games and compete to go to the world series,” he said. “ It’s nice to be able to play baseball year round and be able to be with people who care as much about the game as you do instead of just in the spring.”
RCC plays a doubleheader at Ridgewater Saturday and will host St. Cloud Tech. Sunday in a doubleheader. If the Blue Devils sweep both doubleheaders, they’ll enter regionals as a No. 1 seed.
“You wouldn’t think you would have a chance at a conference title after losing to Anoka-Ramsey earlier this year,” Koenigs said. “We still have a couple of tough games, but if we can take care of business on Saturday, it’s in our hands and we can do it.”
DELIVERING THE GOODS
Chris May — .491 batting average (first in MCAC South, ninth in the NJCAA), .620 on-base percentage (third in the NJCAA), 2 doubles, 13 RBIs, 21 runs, 9-for-10 on steals
Tyler Krekling — .354 batting average, .480 on-base percentage, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 25 RBIs (fourth in MCAC South), 28 runs, 9-for-9 on steals
Eric Sandstrom — 2-1 record, 25 innings pitched, 3.600 ERA, 30 hits, 16 walks, 22 strikeouts