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East Metro players fuel perennial contender Mudhens

Deryk Marks throws to first base to retire a batter in the ninth inning of an Aug. 6 game against the Hastings Hawks. Marks is from Cottage Grove. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Miesville’s Brian Sprout takes off his batting gloves after an at-bat on Aug. 6 against the Hastings Hawks. Sprout is also the head coach of the East Ridge baseball team. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

There are no Minnesota Baseball Association teams to call Woodbury or Cottage Grove home this summer.

Take a look at the Miesville Mudhens roster, however, and you will see where some of the area's best ballplayers are playing.

The Mudhens punched their tickets to the Class B state tournament with a 12-3 win against the Hastings Hawks on Sunday, Aug. 6. They are headed back to defend their state title from last season, clinched with a 6-3 win against the Moorhead Brewers in the Class B championship game on Labor Day.

Many of the team’s statistical leaders are from the East Metro, with five hometown Woodbury players on the roster and one from Cottage Grove.

Brian Sprout, a native of Lake City, Minn., has his hand on the pulse of local baseball as the head coach of the East Ridge baseball team. Sprout, a former minor league baseball player, joined the Mudhens three seasons ago because of his familiarity with manager Chris Olean — also the head coach of the St. Thomas baseball team.

“I knew Olean, the manager, because he is the St. Thomas coach and we talk,” Sprout said after Miesville’s win Sunday at Hastings. “I had known Miesville growing up as a kid because I’m from down around that area a little bit, and it is a good place to be.”

Sprout played college baseball at St. Olaf College before embarking on a six-year professional baseball career from 2002-08, including parts of three seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system. He also played for the St. Paul Saints from 2006-08.

He looks back fondly on memories of playing professional baseball in his 20s.

“Everything is stories you want to hold onto because it’s an experience most people don’t get to do,” said Sprout, who has a .632 slugging percentage for the Mudhens this season. “I don’t know, there’s just tons of stuff that make it a unique thing for you to go through. I enjoyed it a lot, and when it was done, it was done.”

Sprout helps keep an eye out for talent within the East Metro, within the radius that Miesville can draw its players. This includes recent Woodbury High School graduate Ronnie Sweeny, an all-state baseball player who is headed to Iowa Western Community College next season to play junior college ball.

“I can’t really describe it,” said Sweeny, who plays first base for the Mudhens. “It’s just a lot of fun playing with older people. It’s good experience, I’ve learned a lot.”

Cottage Grove’s Deryk Marks, who played two years of college ball at Augustana University in South Dakota, has played the past three seasons for the Mudhens. He was once the manager of the Hastings Hawks but has since made the switch to the Mudhens.

Marks’ brother, Jaryd Marks, still pitches and plays first base for the Hawks. Jaryd was able to retire his brother in the Aug. 6 matchup between the two teams, but Deryk recalled a different outcome in their last at-bat before Sunday.

“He got me out today, but last game I hit a home run off him,” Deryk said, with a laugh. “You can put that in the paper.”

Woodbury's Sebastian Holte-Mancera also is a regular in the Miesville lineup this season, as is former Royal Jacob Dickmeyer who is among the team leaders in innings pitched.

The Mudhens have been ranked No. 1 in Class B most of the season, and they figure to have the No. 1 seed heading into the state tournament. As the defending state champions with 20 consecutive wins, there is plenty of confidence for Miesville heading into state.

“I’d say we are one of the deeper teams in the state, in the lineup one through nine,” said Marks, who has 42 hits this season. “I don’t think anybody can match the bats that we have when everybody shows up. And our pitching is pretty deep as well.”

The Class B state tournament will be held Aug. 18 through Sept. 4 at baseball fields in Green Isle, Hamburg and Norwood-Young America.