The Champlin Park baseball team hoped to play its first game under the new lights at its home field at Champlin Park High School against Elk River April 27, but poor weather conditions pushed back the Rebels’ first home night game of the season.
The postponement turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Champlin Park baseball community, as the Rebels played under the lights for the first time against Wayzata May 5, in a rematch of last season’s state title game rematch.
“This was really fun, this is why we put the lights up,” Champlin Park head baseball coach Cory Davis said. “We put the lights up to give everybody in the community an opportunity to watch us play.
“It’s tough when you start at 4:30 in the afternoon, with parents still working. It’s tough to take in the atmosphere when you’re concentrated on the baseball game, but it’s great to have lights and this is a great addition to our baseball program, for sure.”
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Wayzata was able to earn a 3-0 win.
“We had some opportunities early on that we didn’t capitalize on,” Davis said. “We hit the ball well, Zach Loven absolutely crushed the ball and it bounced off the yellow lining at the top of the fence and came back in, otherwise it was a 2-2 ball game and we were feeling pretty good about things.
“We made a couple mistakes in the field that we can’t make. They didn’t cost us much in terms of runs, but we have to clean that up.”
For the second game against Wayzata in a row, Champlin Park had to go up against the Trojans’ senior ace pitcher. After facing current Kansas State freshman Tom Skoro last season, the Rebels faced current Wayzata ace Will Oberg.
“Their kid threw well and it was the same deal as last year’s state championship,” Davis said. “Today that was their No. 1 guy who had a good day and we couldn’t do much with his breaking ball.
“He started to lose it there a bit in the seventh, but it was too late for us.”
Facing Oberg threw off a Champlin Park offense that scored 26 runs in its previous two games.
“We have to hopefully continue to hit the baseball,” Davis said. “The two games prior to Wayzata we felt pretty good about where our sticks were.
“We need to hit the ball and produce offensively, and clean up things on defense. Pitching has been solid, we expect that to be there.”
Cole Albers took the mound for Champlin Park and bounced back after a rough start to allow just three runs (one earned) in six innings. Albers allowed three hits, two walks and struck out six batters. Brady Higgins entered the game in the seventh and struck out two in a perfect inning.
“He can pitch better than that, he’ll be the first one to tell you that,” Davis said. “We started off the first, second and third innings with their leadoff guy on and that’s something we rarely do and something Cole never does.
“It’s tough, but I thought he did a good job of crawling back and giving us a quality outing.”
Albers said his fastball command was off the whole game, and it took him too long to find his secondary pitches.
“I just didn’t have it today,” Albers said. “I struggled in the first two innings, just missing the strike zone and when I did hit it, it was up.
“I just had to gut it out and give my team the best chance to win as I could. I found the curveball and the change-up in the later innings, but I found it too late.”
Despite the outcome, Albers was happy to finally play under the lights at his home field.
“This is awesome,” Albers said. “Obviously the outcome isn’t what we want, but coming out here, this school has been around for 25 years and we have never had a night like this.
“Especially it being 75 degrees out here, you couldn’t ask for a better night.”
With a rough upcoming schedule, Champlin Park feels now is the time for it to begin to play its best baseball of the season.
“Next week we have four games in five days, with two of those games against top-10 teams in Blaine and Edina,” Davis said. “It doesn’t get any easier for us, but after each game we talk about things we need to get better at.
“Hopefully these guys take this as a learning experience and then flush this one out.”
The Rebels will take on Park Center at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 11, at Champlin Park High School.
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.