Although it wasn’t quite as productive on offense this year as it’s been in the past, the Saint Paul Capitals men’s Class A amateur baseball team found itself right where it wanted to be as the postseason commenced late last week.

Player/coach Rick Tossey, who helped Phil McDermott run the club for the past several years, is now managing a still pretty solid team that was 10-8 in the Saint Paul League this year and 15-10 overall heading into the postseason.

In their best-of-three playoff series at Dunning Field against the Twin Cities Saints, the Capitals lost their first game 5-2 on July 28, despite a three-for-four performance from Kyle Oswold, who also drove in a run.

Saint Paul Capitals
The Saint Paul Capitals’ Andy Sammon slides safely into second as Highland Park’s Andy Devine reaches for a throw in the Capitals’ 5-1 win on July 21. Photo by Brad Stauffer

The Capitals came back with an 11-1 win two days later to even the series, with home runs from Ryan Abrahamson and Chris Zeller. Grant Taival pitched six scoreless innings and Weston Germain closed the game out while allowing just one run. 

Tossey said there was reason for optimism heading into the series final on August 1 with ace pitcher Josh Kubitschek, who had been out of town, available for duty.

 

“Our team has some good depth and we hope to use it to our advantage,” Tossey said.

Air Freight, last year’s state champion, ranks as the favorite to win it all once again. However, the Capitals defeated Air Freight in a 3-2 thriller in the regular-season finale, which gave them an extra boost heading into the postseason.

 

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Kubitschek, who played ball for the University of Saint Thomas and Minnesota-Mankato, missed about a month earlier this summer with a bad shoulder. But Tossey said he’s back now and could make a big difference.

“If Josh is healthy, we’ve always got a chance,” Tossey said.

Pitcher Dylan Welter, another UST product, ate up a lot of innings this year and has been solid since joining the team in 2019. Welter also plays center and swings a good bat when he’s not pitching.

Mitch Nordin, a veteran since 2018 from Gustavus Adolphus, is another good pitcher for the Capitals. And Trent Schoeberl, who pitches for the Gophers, has taken over as a smoke-throwing reliever to close out games.

Michael Busch, who played first base and outfield for the Capitals in 2016, was the No. 1 draft choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019 and is currently playing for the team’s Triple A affiliate. Pitcher Adam Mazur, who played for the Capitals in 2020, was taken in the second round of this year’s draft by the San Diego Padres.

Chuck Bartholomew (UST) is a great defensive catcher who doesn’t strike out much and was hitting in the upper .300s.

First base is shared by brothers Tom and Dan Petersen from White Bear, who have nine homers between them. Dan had 24 RBI and was batting almost .400. He plays left field when he’s not at first.

At second is Andy Sammon, who joined the team from the now-defunct KF Diesel squad a year ago. He’s a Hamline University and East Ridge High School product.

Veteran players Derek Jacobson (UST) and third baseman Abrahamson (U of M) man short and third, respectively. Jacobson is solid in the field, gets on base a lot and can run. Abrahamson is a stalwart in the third spot in the order and a long-ball threat who was batting above .300.

Right fielder and designated hitter Mark Groebner, an ex-Gopher and baseball assistant at Eastview, still answers the bell. He was hitting about .300 and playing good defense—at age 47.

Zeller, who plays nearly every infield position, has been a welcome addition after arriving from KF Diesel this year. And fellow Capitals rookie Oswold has been a find whether he’s catching or playing the outfield. Oswold, a current college player at Saint Scholastica, is hitting over .400.

Tossey, who has battled a back injury this season, said he’s only had “about a dozen” at-bats this summer.

The Capitals took third at state in 2012, won the title in 2014, finished second in 2015 and were third in 2019. Last year, they also came in third after losing to an upset-minded Highland team in the semifinals.

A couple of Capitals have piqued the interest of the major leagues. Michael Busch, who played first base and outfield for the Capitals in 2016, was the No. 1 draft choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019 and is currently playing for the team’s Triple A affiliate. Busch is a Simley High graduate who went on to a fine college career at North Carolina.

Pitcher Adam Mazur, who played for the Capitals in 2020, was taken in the second round of this year’s draft by the San Diego Padres. He was a Big Ten pitcher of the Year at Iowa.

— Bill Wagner

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