As the regular season begins its final month, the Hutchinson Huskies are positioned as one of the top teams in the North Star League. They’ve won eight of their last 11 games and sit in second place in the standings.
One of the biggest contributing factors to the team’s success this year has been the pitching staff. The Huskies went 26 innings without allowing a run to start the season, and following Sunday’s game against Maple Lake they have a team ERA of 2.72. That’s one-run difference from last season’s mark of 3.81.
“Honestly, it’s a little bit surprising being that we lost a lot of innings between (Jayden) Juergensen and (Matt) Timm,” head coach Mike Kutter said about two of the team’s aces last year who did not return in 2019. “I think (Jacob) Kraft and (Jeremiah) Van De Steeg have done a nice job just filling in those gaps. We’ve kind of jumped on their shoulders, and obviously (Evan) Kohli has been really good, too. Those three have really been our horses so far.”
That trio has logged approximately two-thirds of the total innings for the Huskies and have a combined 9-4 record. They’re also responsible for four of the team’s five shutouts.
“I think we have a great staff,” Van De Steeg said. “(We’re) just working really hard to give our team the best chance to win. It’s working out, we’re winning games.”
Evan Kohli has allowed just four runs in six starts and 40 innings pitched. Van De Steeg took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Dassel-Cokato June 26, adding eight strikeouts to his team-high total of 33. It’s a different role for Van De Steeg, as he primarily came out of the bullpen last year.
“The difference would be that I kind of have a routine down now,” he said. “It starts the night before as well. I’ve got to do arm care.”
Kraft has made three starts but has the most game appearances of any pitcher on the staff. He closed out Hutch’s win against the Saints.
“We’ve got some guys that will strike out a lot of guys, but we got some really good people behind us that make all the plays,” Kraft said. “Not really being a velocity guy, I need those guys to make plays for me, and night in night out they always do. So that’s what I accredit it to.”
It’s not just those three who are performing well, either. Veteran Connor Kern and Noah Corrow have thrown key innings, and Daniel Lyons made his debut on the mound this year, including a 2-1 win over Windom in the Green Isle/Hamburg tournament. Of course there is also the ageless Kyle Messner, who continues to provide relief from the bullpen.
Hutchinson’s offense has also played its role supporting the pitchers. The Huskies are posting more than seven runs per game and touting a .301 batting average, on track to beat last year’s .298 average.
“We’re hitting the ball really well, which on the pitching side, that really helps us,” Kraft said. “If you go out there and you got six runs every single game you go out, that helps you a ton. You don’t have to be as perfect out there.”
The Huskies’ momentum held true even during a 10-game road stretch that they finished with an 8-2 record. Hutch’s home contest Sunday against Maple Lake was the first Huskies game at Veterans Memorial Field in more than three weeks. That marked the beginning of five home contests in seven games for Hutch, which also has the benefit of hosting this year’s Region 12C tournament.
“We talk a lot about playing well in July and into August with the playoffs,” Kutter said. “(It’s) a big advantage, I think, just being home in July. Just a better atmosphere for us, just more comfort. We’re looking forward to it, finishing off strong and having a good July.”
The Huskies had the week off until they host Buffalo at 2 p.m. Sunday. Their next game after that is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Cokato.