Lakeville’s Knippenberg has wild June
Catcher for class A state champs helps East Metro team win all-star game
Mitchell Knippenberg’s cerebral approach to baseball led him to some great heights in the past few months.
The Lakeville resident caught for the Metro East team at the Lions All-Star Tournament in Chaska in late June, an event that features the top 80 seniors in the state. His team won the tournament, beating the Southern All Stars 23-9, the Northern All Stars 4-2 and the Metro West All Stars 7-6.
Coming from St. Agnes, a Class A school from St. Paul, Knippenberg was playing with and against the big-school players and Division I baseball prospects, but he wasn’t fazed thanks to his time spent playing with Lakeville programs when he was younger.
“When I went to Lakeville I played against all those guys from Burnsville and Eden Prairie,” Knippenberg said. “I hadn’t played them in three-four years, but it wasn’t as weird as you would think.”
Looking for a smaller school and a change of scenery, Knippenberg transferred from Lakeville North to St. Agnes, a private Catholic school, after his freshman year. He wasn’t expecting baseball greatness.
Knippenberg was named All-State a few weeks ago for his work with the St. Agnes baseball team, which went 23-6 and last month won the Class A state championship.
He had two RBI, two stolen bases, and five putouts in a 6-0 win over Lac qui Parle Valley in the state final at Target Field in Minneapolis. As the team’s captain, catcher and co-MVP with a .480 batting average during the season, Knippenberg was the maestro behind the catcher’s mask.
“(The seniors) knew at the end of last year that this would be a big year,” St. Agnes baseball head coach Mike Streitz said. “Mitch was the driving force behind a lot of what we did. He helped organize a lot of off-season workouts. Having him was like having another coach.”
St. Agnes wasn’t the favorite to win the Class A title despite being ranked No. 5 when playoffs began. The Aggies earned the No. 2 seed in the Section 4 tournament in May but went on to defeat top-seeded West Lutheran, which came in with a 19-1 record. The Aggies felt a little jilted when they got the No. 2 seed.
“We were (West Lutheran’s) only loss,” Streitz said. “We thought that should mean something. Every day we play 2A schools and they’re playing single A. We were under the radar a bit, but we liked it that way.”
St. Agnes finished sixth in the 12-team Tri-Metro Conference that features mainly Class AA teams, one level above St. Agnes. Streitz said the competition level helped the Aggies immensely.
“We faced better pitching and hitting every day,” Streitz said.
At state, St. Agnes defeated previously undefeated New York Mills 1-0, Blackduck 7-0 and Lac qui Parle 6-0 to win the Class A title.
“No one gave us a prayer there, but we knew in our hearts we were pretty good,” Streitz said.
Sophomore pitcher Jack Fossand won the quarterfinal and final game for St. Agnes with Knippenberg catching every pitch.
Playing in a venue such as Target Field can be a bit intimidating for anyone.
“I try to keep my teammates from not getting too high or too low and keep them from throwing balls they wouldn’t normally throw,” Knippenberg said. “My first at-bat, I admit I was nervous, but we still really wanted to win that game.”
Knippenberg’s baseball career isn’t over. He made the decision to play for Luther College in Iowa a few weeks ago.
“That’s the one hard part about picking a college when you’re into a sport. You can’t just look at the teams, you have to look at the academics and the campus,” he said.
For now he’s playing on a Lakeville team in the Metro Baseball League and for a St. Agnes RBI League team.