The Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars were ranked 10th in the state in the latest Class 2A Coaches Poll but received the No. 2 seed in the state tournament opening Thursday.

The defending state champions have some impressive team statistics considering they play in the super tough Hiawatha Valley League. The league boasts teams from three of the four classes in the state and the Cougars always have a tough schedule to prepare them for the post-season.

They just might be peaking at the right time.

Coach Kevin Nelson knew his team would be different this season because they are young, but boy have they blossomed in the past couple of weeks.

Zumbrota-Mazeppa is 8-1 on a neutral field and comes into the state tournament bristling with confidence after wins over highly ranked Chatfield and Rochester Lourdes.

The Cougars have averaged about five runs a game while giving up just two runs per contest. They sport a team batting average of .317 while opponents are hitting just .170 off Zumbrota-Mazeppa pitching. The Cougars pitchers don't strike out a ton of batters, according to their statistics, and rely heavily on their excellent fielding with just 41 errors in 27 games.

Zumbrota-Mazeppa has 10 team homers compared to their opponents' three, and one of the most impressive statistics has the Cougars with 46 stolen bases and their opponents with seven going into state tournament play in North Mankato.

Their first opponent, St. Agnes, appears to rely on scoring a lot of runs with almost 100 runs more than the Cougars.

The Aggies have a team batting average of .347, but opponents are hitting .302 off their pitching.

The Catholic school in St. Paul is making its first state tournament appearance since 1983 and Zumbrota-Mazeppa has been in five of the past 10 state tournaments.

St. Agnes has a 16-10 record while the Cougars are 21-6.

The Aggies are averaging about nine runs a game and giving up nearly seven runs per game. St. Agnes does not have a single senior on their team. The best ERA of their three pitchers is 5.15.

If the No. 2 seed and No. 10 ranked Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars win their first game, they would play the winner of the No. 3 seed and No. 3 rated Pipestone Area Arrows and No. 12 ranked Esko Eskomoes at 5PM.

If the Cougars lose their opener at 11AM, then they play at 7PM Thursday.

Wherever Zumbrota-Mazeppa is at state, we will have the games on KDHL Radio, 920AM, and on the RadioPup app. So tell everyone who can't be there to tune in and we'll do our best to describe the action.

The Arrows are 24-1 and have given up just 27 runs in 25 games while scoring 229. Pipestone Area has a team batting average of .343 and their opponents are hitting just .154. The Arrows have 137 stolen bases and their opponents just nine. Pipestone Area also has just 20 errors on the season.

The Eskomos are 21-3 and have hit the ball at a .375 clip while their opponents have batted .226. Esko is very proud that eight players have smacked 18 homers in 24 games.

The other side of the bracket sports top-rated, top seed and unbeaten Maple Lake playing No. 8 ranked Albany, with just three losses, at 9AM.

The other early game finds No. 4 seed and No. 7 rated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton playing No. 5 seed and No. 12 ranked St. Peter.

Coverage on KDHL begins about 10:45AM, with the first pitch scheduled for 11AM but there are 9AM games that could run a little long. The beauty of radio is we are flexible and can hit the airwaves from North Mankato whenever needed.

I'll also keep you updated on how Hayfield, Mankato West, Winona and Farmington are doing.

Zumbrtota-Mazeppa 2016 State Class AA Champions- photo by Gordy Kosfeld