Dragons look to repeat as RRC baseball champions
WORTHINGTON -- With the snow starting to disappear, the baseball season is quickly approaching for area teams.
With a perfect conference record last season, the Adrian Dragons look to repeat as champions of the Red Rock Conference, but will face heavy competition from other teams this season.
Here is a look at the Red Rock Conference baseball teams, and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton of the Camden Conference in the order in which the teams finished last season.
With a 10-0 conference record last season, the Adrian Dragons graduated just a handful of players from last season.
"We lost five seniors off a team that went 16-0 to start the 2007 season," head coach Kevin Nowotny said. "We will need some players to step up and fill those seniors' shoes. Also, we need to play better baseball at the end of the year to keep up with teams like Wabasso, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Kirkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg."
While the Dragons graduated five key players, the cupboard is far from bare this season.
Adrian will be led by Glen Kruger both offensively and defensively.
Kruger is a five-year starter and has an opportunity to be in the top five of some all-time state records. Kruger has played in 106 varsity games and has 129 career hits, with possibilities of finishing his career in the top five of both categories.
Alongside Kruger, Joey Bertrand and Jordon Kontz return to the infield. Adam Diekmann may also see some time on the infield this season.
They will be joined by Jordan Reker, Tanner Loosbrock, Ben Suedkamp and Chase Mangel on the infield.
Matt Gades, Brett Nowotny, Zach Reker and Justin Weidert will all have a chance to see some time in the outfield.
On the hill, Kruger, Gades, Bertrand, Kontz and Diekmann should all get quality innings for the Dragons this season.
Murray County Central
With a strong pitching staff returning, the Murray County Central Rebels will look to a pair of hurlers to anchor this year's team.
Senior Paul Counter and junior Justin Reinsma will lead the pitching staff, while Mike Tentinger, Brian Everson, Ben Clarke, Travis DeLong, Eric Wieneke and Tayler Streff will all have an opportunity to take the hill.
Behind the plate, Kyle DeLong returns, with Alex Peterson and Eli Ackerman pushing DeLong for some playing time.
Jake Sweetman returns at first, with Ackerman serving as a backup.
Everson will anchor second base, while Derek Platt Reinsma, Travis DeLong and Zac Swanson will each have an opportunity to see some playing time.
At shortstop, Reinsma, Platt and Clarke each have a chance to earn the start, while Streff, Clarke, Alex Peterson, Jas Bly and Ryan Prahm will all have a shot at third base.
Wieneke, Clarke, Counter, Mike Tentinger, Alex Kleve, Sean Solheim and Tyler Schreier will anchor a strong outfield for the Rebels.
"We have some speed and we should swing the bats fairly well," MCC head coach Tarry Boelter said. "The big concern is our defense. I think we should be right in the mix in the conference race and, hopefully, we can make a run in the sectional tournament."
After losing seven starters from a season ago, Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove will have many holes to fill this season.
Six of the seniors were on the all-conference team, and the Falcons will have to replace their top three pitchers and have only 20 RBI returning.
"We will be lacking depth and experience in varsity games," head coach Derrick Jenniges said. "But we will have balance throughout our lineup and have seven or eight different arms to use on the mound. Most importantly for us, will be to make plays defensively and help build confidence in our young pitchers."
Seniors Josh Fredrickson (pitcher, right field) and Eric Altermatt (catcher) return and look to make an impact this season.
Juniors Justin Knakmuhs (designated hitter, first base, and outfield), Colton Knudson (pitcher, first base) and Brian Benedict (pitcher, third base) will all have a chance to see major playing time.
Sophomores Mason Comnick (shortstop, pitcher), Shane Schoborg (pitcher, outfield), Nathan Beirman (utility) and Zach Siemer (outfield) will have to step up and fill some major roles for the Falcons.
Despite losing six key players from last year's team that finished .500 in the conference, the Southwest United Wildcats will have four solid returnees to build on this season.
Four-year starters Trevor Leopold, Lon Eichenberger, Alex Leopold and Josh Olson each left a hole to fill this season.
Senior James Anderson hit .346 last season, and will see some quality time on the mound when he's not playing center field.
Anderson finished with a 2-3 record with a 2.07 earned run average a season ago.
Behind the plate, Tyler Timko will solidify the catcher position after hitting .328 with 10 runs driven in last year.
Kirk McBreen will make the move from third base to shortstop this season after hitting .338 with 15 RBI last season.
"He has good range and a terrific baseball sense; he knows the game," SWU head coach Tim Owen said.
Ben Scheevel led the Wildcats with 20 RBI last season, and will be a strong defensive presence at first base. The junior made just four errors in 143 chances last season, and had a 1.75 ERA on the mound.
"Those four guys will be our leaders," Owen said. "We don't have much returning experience other than those four guys, so a lot of guys will be getting a chance to step in and fill some roles."
With a 7-16 record a season ago, ML/B-O returns two all-conference players and another honorable mention and will look to be competitive in a tough conference this season.
Matt Strom and Barrett Herrig were all-conference performers from last season, while Brandon Fast was an honorable mention, and all three will have to step up to lead the Wolverines this season.
Herrig will see time in the outfield and on the mound after hitting .400 last season.
Strom will solidify the catcher position, while Brandon Fast will play both the infield and outfield after hitting .392 in last year's campaign.
Seniors Kyle Schroeder and Ryan Nessler will each have an opportunity to throw some innings, while junior Doug DeFrance is also listed as a pitcher.
Senior Austin Hopwood will join Schroeder, Nessler and DeFrance in the infield.
However, even with five seniors and two juniors looking to make an impact, ML/B-O head coach Shawn Naas points to inexperience in pitching, defense and hitting as weaknesses this season.
Even though the Flying Dutchmen finished 2-13 last season, Edgerton returns nine letterwinners from a season ago.
Alex Elgersma (pitcher/third base) hit .349 last season and will look to lead the team offensively and on the mound.
Marty VanPeursem was a rock behind the plate, catching every inning for the Flying Dutchmen last season, and had a .273 average a season ago.
At shortstop, DJ Berning will have a chance to start and will also take the hill for a few innings.
Pat Kleinjan will also have a chance to start in center field and will also provide some quality innings.
Ethan Blom will see time in the outfield, while Brady Vanderwaal will play second base and pitch. Alex Van't Hof will spend some time on the bump and fill in as a utility player.
"In order to have some success this year, Elgersma, Berning and Van't Hof will need to be leaders on the mound," Edgerton head coach Jeremy Tallum said. "We will need to do a better job of putting the ball into play to force the defense to make plays. With only 13 players on the squad, we need to stay healthy if we want to compete, but I feel we can exceed our win total from last season even though we are still pretty young."
Camden Conference Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
With all-conference players David Schmidt, Isaac Dolan and Anthony Dolan returning for Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, the Panthers are looking to contend for a Camden Conference title this season.
Schmidt led the team with a .435 average last season, while driving in 29 runs. Anthony Dolan hit .392, while Isaac Dolan hit .333 and drove in 18 runs.
However, it was Isaac that anchored the pitching staff last season, and will again this year. He had a 3-3 record with a 2.87 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings.
Schmidt threw 19 innings last season, had a 2.95 ERA, and will once again see quality time on the hill.
Anthony Dolan, Alex Jones, Aaron Frisvold, Brian Schlager and Seth Swenson will all have an opportunity to see time on the mound.
Behind the plate, Frisvold and Schlager will share time when not pitching.
Taylor Hagberg, John Gervais, Erin Lanoue and Spencer Zwaschka all return as letterwinners for the Panthers.