Greyhounds learning from last year#039;s run

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Members of the Austin Greyhounds have been around long enough to know what the regular season really means.

The Greyhounds, the defending Minnesota Baseball Association's Class B runners-up, went 26-17 last season en route to winning the Southern Minny League and advancing to the state tournament in Red Wing and Miesville. Austin doesn't expect to get back to state, they simply expect nothing less than what they're capable of.

The Austin Greyhounds, with their 48-game season already underway, have a head start on the rest of the league because of what they've learned over the years. But don't think the 'Hounds, who went 4-2 at state en route to a second-place showing, don't want something to show for their travels.

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"We have a big schedule and it's demanding to players," said 41-year-old player/coach Joe Serratore. "Last year we used our regular season to get better and prepare for the playoffs. This year we play 48 games, and we want to win 40 games before we get to the state tournament."

"We have expectations, but we don't have expectations to win the state tournament. All you can do is put yourself into a position to win the state tournament."

Road trip

The Greyhounds (14-4) bring together a group of Austinites who work all over Southern Minnesota, even some who drive from the Twin Cities to play three-hour games on weeknights and three-day tournaments over weekends. Austin's roster of 20 players brings at least nine players to the ballpark -- the aged wonder at Marcusen Park -- and Coach Serratore can field a team that can and so far does compete.

"The key to this team is its depth," he said. "We played without three starters at the Dundas Tournament and we won, and that's playing any combination of our 12 hitters. In any game we play I'm comfortable enough playing what nine guys we've got there."

"We do not have any of these 20 guys who are non-contributors. They are all very valuable."

The Greyhounds' learning curve spiked during the finals of the 2001 Minnesota Baseball Association Class B State Tournament, where Austin ran headstrong into defending champion Cold Spring. The Springers served up Austin's seemingly untouchable pitching for 16 runs in two games to come back from the losers' bracket for the state title.

Renown for its offensive output year-in and year-out, Cold Spring taught the 'Hounds a thing or two.

"We're deep, but not necessarily for bench strength," Serratore explained. "We rotate, we adapted a little bit of the mentality of Cold Spring, who uses a lineup of guys who are hot at the plate."

"We know that we can play, we just need to test the waters with the rest of the state to see where we stand. By the time we hit the Cold Spring Tournament (June 28-30), we should be pretty established and we should know if we're the real deal."

Prolific pitching

A little bit of offense should turn into a lot of success for the Greyhounds, who have the pitching staff to keep opposing hitters in check. Chris Pack, the Hayfield High School boys' basketball and baseball coach, hits over 90 miles per hour with his fastball and mixes in a slider to keep already weary hitters off-balance.

Pack compiled a 9-4 win/loss record last year for Austin, charting a 2.30 earned run average over 90 innings. He was 3-0 with one save and a 1.59 ERA, striking out 21 with no walks and 22 hits over 28 1/3 innings pitched in five appearances at state. Pack pitched complete games in the Greyhounds' first two wins at state and went seven more innings in the third game.

"We pitch and pick the ball up every night," Serratore said. "When we hit we're good."

In addition to offensive depth, Austin can dig into a bullpen full of talent and savvy. Scott Meyer and Nick Dolan each posted ERA's below 4.00 last year, as did Nick Rohne and Serratore in limited appearances. Bryan Toov has shown super stuff so far this summer, and Dave Meyer and Erik Goodmanson are home to help out the club as well.

Dolan and Dave Meyer both pitched for the Washington (Penn.) Wild Things in the Frontier League, while Goodmanson is a St. Olaf student.

Adding on

Another addition is Justin Berg, an Owatonna native now in the area to aid the Austin pitching staff. Berg was one of the Greyhounds' draftees after winning the Section 2B playoffs last year, and he has so far been delegated to Austin's Class C team -- the Hayfield/Austin Athletics.

The A's will be joined in Class C action by Austin's newcomer third team, the Austin Merchants. Both teams will play in the Zumbro Division of the Twin Rivers League. Another change has amateur baseball throughout the state swinging wood bats instead of the offense-inflating aluminum used in the recent past.

Coach Serratore is confident in his hitters, including last season's home-run leaders Craig Selk and Tate Cummins. Selk hit nine homers with a .358 batting average, while Cummins crushed seven homers with a .302 average. Serratore (.348) will take occasional swings, while Toov (.342) and Raso (.341) will be regulars. Ryan Hanson, Garrett Swank, Tim Kaplan and John Frein were also key run-producers last season. Nick Rohne, an Austin graduate going from Waldorf Community College (Forest City, Iowa) to Southwest State in Marshall, will play as many games as possible while he is home.

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at