Class acts: Standouts lead teams to prep baseball titles

| July 3, 2012 | 2 Comments

Turch brings quiet leadership, strong faith to St. Agnes squad

Mike Streitz was having another sleepless night on June 15. His slumber cut short by a late quarterfinal win in the state Class A baseball tournament, the St. Agnes High School coach chose to work on his lineup card for the next night’s semifinal game rather than lay his head on the pillow.


The job was easy except for one thing — should he play senior Charlie Turch at shortstop, or put him on the mound to face Blackduck High School for the right to play in the finals at Target Field June 18?

The answer was announced the following morning: “Nine [a.m.] at Perkins,” said Turch, a senior righthander who was chosen to take the hill that day.” We were just eating breakfast at Perkins and I had an idea that I might be pitching, but he was still deciding. We had talked the whole night before. And then, over scrambled eggs, he told me I was going to be pitching that game.”

Streitz was proved right in his decision. Turch turned the Blackduck lineup into scrambled eggs, throwing a four-hit shutout in a 7-0 win that propelled his team to the championship game.

It was the second consecutive shutout for the Aggies, and they would add a third in the finals, becoming the first team since Richfield in 1971 to not allow a run in the state tournament. They defeated Lac Qui Parle Valley 6-0 for their first state baseball title since 2001, finishing the season with a record of 23-6. In addition, Turch was named the Class A Player of the Year.

Strong skills, strong faith

In 34 years of coaching high school baseball players, Streitz has held his share of hardware and developed his share of all-stars. But, not many players like Turch have come along in three-plus decades.

“He’s in the top 10,” said Streitz, 54, who came to St. Agnes seven years ago and also serves as the school’s athletic director. “Charlie is one of a handful of kids that I hope I have a lifelong friendship with.”

Sharing those sentiments is the outgoing pastor of St. Agnes, Father John Ubel, who at the moment is making a transition to his new job as rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. A passionate baseball fan, he will take with him to the Cathedral a baseball signed by all 18 members of the St. Agnes varsity squad.

“It’s going to go right on my desk for everyone to see at the Cathedral,” Father Ubel said. “It [championship] was a great way to end my time at St. Agnes.”

Father Ubel could be seen throughout his six years at St. Agnes in the front row of the bleachers at baseball games wearing a St. Agnes baseball cap. He felt a particular connection to this year’s team, as he took some of the players, including Turch, to Italy for a vocations trip in November.

“We took 16 boys . . .  and eight of them were baseball players,” said Father Ubel, noting that a similar trip for girls will be offered during the upcoming school year. “When you’re with a group for 10 days, morning, noon and night, you really do get to know them a lot better.”

Father Ubel discovered one thing first hand — Turch is fast. When the group visited San Giovanni Rotundo, Father Ubel climbed a long set of stairs and staged a race to the top among the boys. Turch got there first.

“He really is a solid, solid athlete all the way through,” Father Ubel said, of Turch. “That was no surprise that he won the race.”

Yet, Father Ubel is far more impressed by Turch’s faith. A frequent visitor to the confessional, the baseball captain made quite an impression on the St. Agnes pastor.

“I would say he’s very humble,” Father Ubel said. “He is, I think, the antithesis of what you see in some quarters today where people are out there, especially at the pro level, showing everyone just how good they are. He’s very quiet and reserved. But he’s clearly very serious about his faith.”

That is precisely why Turch was so glad that Father Ubel celebrated Mass for the team the morning of its first state-tournament game. And, why he spent seven years as an altar server at his parish, St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony.

“It’s a cool thing being involved and seeing everything that goes on [in the Mass] and being right there by the altar,” said Turch, whose brother Nick, a sophomore, also played on the varsity baseball team this year. “You just feel closer to God when you’re up there with all the priests.”

Such thoughts could get Father Ubel to hoping that Turch might one day wear the Roman collar and celebrate Mass himself. But he is keeping such tempting thoughts at bay — for now.

“I will certainly leave that up to the Lord,” the priest said. “I don’t know God’s designs. He [Turch] is very serious about his faith, but I would leave that [priesthood vocation] up to his own discernment.

“He’s going to make the right choice, whatever that choice is. We are so in need of healthy, normal, well-balanced young Catholics. I am convinced that that’s what he is. He will be a great leader.”

In the fall, Turch will attend the University of St. Thomas, where he plans to study mechanical engineering and play baseball. Streitz said that Turch is definitely on the radar screen of the Tommies new coach, Chris Olean.

“Coach Olean is well aware of him,” Streitz said. “He’s got to earn it, but I know coach Olean likes what he sees. There’s no doubt in my mind Charlie will be successful there.”

Holy Family ace throws two shutouts in state tourney

When first baseman Connor Herd of Holy Family High School in Victoria scooped up a grounder and touched first base for the final out of the game, senior pitcher Kasey Ralston’s childhood dream finally had come true.


Since the fifth grade, his sights were set on winning a state baseball championship, and he put his hands on the trophy at last after throwing a complete game, two-hit shutout as his team defeated St. Cloud Cathedral 5-0 on June 18 at Target Field in Minneapolis.

But, there’s more to this story than hoisting hardware. In the stands was his mother Chris, a breast cancer survivor who has been in Kasey’s thoughts ever since her diagnosis during his eighth-grade year. She had surgery, went through chemotherapy and was declared cancer free when he was a ninth-grader. Yet, the specter of cancer never leaves.

“It’s always in the back of your mind,” said Kasey, who will attend Indiana University in the fall on a partial baseball scholarship. “It helped me really focus on baseball and try to work my hardest.”

The fruits came this season, with Kasey going undefeated at 9-0 and pitching two complete-game shutouts in the state tournament. The other came in the quarterfinals, an 8-0 win over Cannon Falls.

His contribution didn’t end there. He hit a two-run homer in the semifinals against Fairmont, a 3-0 win. All of those highlights added up to him being selected the Class AA Player of the Year.

He’s enjoying all the rewards and awards, but his mother’s battle with cancer has changed what he puts at the top of his list in life.

“Her being cancer free is probably the biggest thing,” he said. “But a state championship helps.”

It wouldn’t be accurate to say he put the team on his shoulders — he had lots of help from his talented teammates — but his contribution to this year’s success can’t be underestimated.

“Kasey was a solid leader on our team and the players look up to him,” said coach Bryan DeLorenzo, whose team finished with a record of 25-4 and had to advance through the loser’s bracket to win the Section 2AA title and the right to go to state.

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