Van De Steeg pitches

Hutchinson pitcher Jeremiah Van De Steeg faced Maple Plain once this year and may start against them again in the playoff opener Thursday. Otherwise the Huskies could use him this weekend.

The past three months and 30 games have all led up to this week, as the Hutchinson Huskies baseball team prepares to kick off the Region 12C playoffs.

The Huskies haven’t played since they wrapped up the regular season on July 25, preferring to let guys rest and practice rather than scheduling a game in the lead-up to playoffs. They’ve earned the No. 1 seed, which means they’ll face the No. 8 seed, Maple Plain, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Delano.

“At this point we’re just preparing for a tough game,” manager Mike Kutter said about Hutch’s date with the Diamond Devils. “This is a team we’re obviously familiar with, played them twice this year, and we just need to play our game. I’m not sure who we’re going to see (pitching) from their team yet, but regardless we’ve got to be ready to go.”

Maple Plain finished eighth in the North Star League standings and had to beat out three other teams this past weekend to earn the final spot in regions. The Diamond Devils defeated Waverly 6-2 on Saturday and then took down Cokato 8-7 Sunday to move on and face the Huskies.

Hutchinson beat Maple Plain twice during the regular season, but they were two very different games. In mid-June, the Huskies came from behind to win 10-7 with Jeremiah Van De Steeg earning the win on the mound. A month later in mid-July, the Huskies pummeled the Diamond Devils 13-0 with Jon DeRock on the bump.

Win or lose, the Huskies will play another game this weekend. If they beat Maple Plain, they’ll play at 7 p.m. Saturday for a spot in the Class C State Tournament. If they lose to Maple Plain, they’ll play at noon Sunday to keep their season alive for another shot at state the following week.

The Huskies have come a long way since last year. In 2020 they were the No. 3 seed in playoffs and fell one win short of state, missing out on the big dance for the first time since 2015. Now they’re the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2017 and playing their best ball in years, Kutter said. They’re confident, and they just need to finish what they set out to do back in May.

“I think this team has progressed and gotten better throughout the season,” Kutter said. “It kind of goes back to the way we had to figure some things out defensively, move some people around, and that seemed to work. Now we’ve got our lineup set, we’ve got our defense set, our pitchers have done a good job on the mound of keeping us in games and not letting the big inning happen and have things spin out of control. We’ve done the work we needed to do to get to this point, now we just need to go a little bit further.”