Hartke earns spot as staff ace

Sports Editor

With Bailey Olson (Class of 2015) and Tommy Fallon (Class of 2016) having graduated in the past two years, the Richfield baseball team was in need of an ace this season.

Richfield senior pitcher Jake Hartke delivers a pitch during game action from earlier this season. (Sun Current staff photo by Chris Chesky)

While team captain Matt McGlinn, who excelled as the team’s No. 2 starter in 2016, was back with the team, the Spartans needed him to play shortstop, which kept the team’s No. 1 slot open.

Enter Jake Hartke.

“We had him slotted to be our No. 1 guy to start the year, with Matt [McGlinn] playing shortstop,” Peterson said. “He pitched as a sophomore and a junior, and he started slow this year, but he made some adjustments, started thinking and matured on the mound.

“He started thinking through at-bats and connected with Nick Ulmer behind the plate.”

Hartke pitched to a 10.02 ERA in 2016, but he believed he was capable of pitching better after learning from former aces like Fallon and Olson.

“Even when Tommy was here I believed we all were good pitchers,” Hartke said. “I looked at what Tommy did for some things that did and did not work and he did the same, so we all learned from each other.

“We all came in with the mindset of coming in and being ready, I knew I had enough stuff to put us in contention for games. You have to have the confidence to put the team in contention for games.”

Hartke ended the 2017 season with a 1.57 ERA, and was able to pitch effectively in big games, such as Richfield’s 1-0 loss to defending state champion Henry Sibley in the Section 3AAA opener.

“Looking at those numbers, learning from what I did over the last couple of years, I was trying to go inning by inning and out by out,” Hartke said. “I was just trying to keep the team in place to win a game.”

Hartke’s tremendous season culminated in him earning a spot on the All-Metro Conference honorable mention squad.

“My senior year was a great experience,” Hartke said. “Growing up through the program, playing varsity from a young age, it was fun to play with the guys, and it was nice to have one last season with them.”

While he had a great baseball season, Hartke’s future will be in basketball, as he will play at St. Mary’s University next season. No matter the sport, Hartke said he will maintain the same mindset.

“I am looking to get to St. Mary’s and work hard,” Hartke said. ‘I’m happy and excited to play on the St. Mary’s basketball team, I know a couple guys who played with that team, I played against a few of them and I just want to go there and work hard at it.

“I just want to bring energy, hustle, whatever they need.”

While he signed with the school to play basketball, he hopes there is a chance he can extend his baseball career, as well.

“I talked to the St. Mary’s coach a couple times and we have been in contact and we still might be in contact through Legion ball as we see where that goes,” Hartke said. “It’s something I might look into doing, but it’s a bigger if than a when.

“I would love to play baseball in college because that’s something I love doing, but we’ll see where the chips fall.”

Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.