Cobras playing for pride

Already qualified for next weekend’s state Legion tournament in Burnsville, Cobras still have plenty to play for

by Jason Olson
Thisweek Newspapers

Burnsville’s sixth-ranked Cobras 17-and 18-year-old baseball team
already has one thing the competition doesn’t have at this weekend’s
District 3 tournament: a spot in the state tournament.

Burnsville is the host for the American Legion’s state tournament,
which runs Aug. 7-10, and has a spot reserved in the tournament as the
host. The games will be played at Alimagnet Park,

“We’ve gone to the state tournament for the last two years as coaches,
but these players haven’t,” coach Greg Nesbitt said. “When they were
younger, they’ve all gone to a state tournament, but this is a little
bit different because it’s against the best high school teams in the
state, instead of the best 14-year-olds.”

Coming off a 14-10 high school baseball season, Burnsville Cobras head
coach Greg Nesbitt was accordingly pleased with his team’s 24-8 record
so far this season.

The Cobras won the league title for the first time in Nesbitt’s four seasons with the team.

“We really didn’t expect that, but the team just picked up where they left off from the high school season,” Nesbitt said.

The Cobras overcame the losses of last year with only four returning seniors, including Anders Engberg, Craig Harazin, John Means and Andrew Zetah. Classmate Dylan Peterson played a limited role last season after tearing a muscle in his forearm. He was used sparingly as a batter last summer, and Evan Walker dealt with a badly sprained ankle for a majority of the season.

The other seniors playing this summer include Dan Hansen and Dan Opitz, along with a cast of juniors and seniors.

The Cobras swept Apple Valley in both its games and beat a top-20 nationally ranked team from Omaha, Neb.

Burnsville’s Jack Lassonde’s three-run game-wining home run in the first meeting helped set a winning tone for the rest of the season.

“We lost a lot of talent from last year, and we used to be an offense that would get up on teams offensively and clamp down on defense,” Nesbitt said. “We changed around a little bit to more of a small-ball team. But the one thing we haven’t had to do is make changes in the lineup this year.”

The Cobras beat nationally ranked high school power Creighton Prep School in Omaha 10-0 at a New Ulm tournament over the Fourth of July weekend.

The capstone victory came on the shoulders of staff ace Engberg, who gave up six singles and struck out 10 for the complete-game win.

Nesbitt said the best way to coach Engberg is to leave him alone.

“I go down to the bullpen before each game, and every time I ask him how he’s feeling, and he has yet to be 100 percent,” Nesbitt said.

Engberg told his coach he was feeling only about 75 percent prior to stepping up on the mound.

“Anything above 50 percent I’ll take,” he said.

Nesbitt said Engberg developed a slider he likes to throw more and more while mixing in a change-up with his power curve and fastball.

Burnsville began the district tournament Wednesday at Red Wing with a 4-2 win over Red Wing.

Engberg was on the mound for Burnsville, going eight innings giving up two runs and five hits and striking out 15. Larson picked up the save in the ninth inning.

Early in the game Means his a two-run single followed by a one-run single by Walker.

Oakdale today, played them twice this season New Ulm 9-6, and lost 9-5 in a non-league game.

“They have one of the best players in the state in catcher Sam Ryan who can pitch for them,” Nesbitt said. “But the guy who has killed us has been Luke Abrahamson. They’re just a solid team one through nine who can hit the ball and pick it up.”

Prior to the district tournament, Burnsville held the seeded spot that takes on the No. 3 seed from District 10, which includes Chaska, Bloomington, Wayzata and Hopkins.
Rattlers win state

Burnsville’s B.A. 191 Association Rattlers completed its undefeated run at the Junior American Legion state championship July 19-26 in St. Louis Park.

The Rattlers beat Eden Prairie 5-2 in the title game.

The team will move on to the regional tournament July 31-Aug. 4 in Blair, Neb.

Jason Olson is at sports.thisweek@ecm-inc.com.

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