High school baseball: Area teams prepare for spring battles
ADRIAN — The sights, sounds and smells of the high school baseball season will all be welcome signs to naysayers of the brutal winter southwest Minnesota has endured.
First games are Tuesday and Thursday, weather willing.
Here’s a brief preview of what’s to come:
The Adrian Dragons won a piece of the Red Rock Conference last season, with Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian, and they bring seven seniors back. The Dragons were 7-3 in the league last year and 8-7 overall. The Dragons open their season Tuesday when they host Luverne.
Coming back for Adrian are all-conference players sophomore pitcher Logan Rogers, senior catcher Jacob Diekmann-Bullerman and senior infielder Jordan Dingmann.
One point of emphasis for Adrian will be to be playing better ball once the section tournament rolls around. The Dragons committed 12 errors in a tournament-opening 19-2 loss last year to Springfield.
“Last year we really showed our youth in the section playoffs, so we’re going into this year with the mindset that we want to do better once we get there,” Adrian head coach Kevin Nowotny explained. “We lost just one senior on that team, so we have a lot of experience coming back and that should help with some depth.”
Edgerton/Southwest Christian will have three seniors, including second baseman Evan Blom, Jonathan Kroll and first baseman Brogan Mohlenkamp. Outfielder Luke Nibbelink was the only all-conference team member the Dutchmen had last spring, when head coach Ron Zwart’s crew went 7-3 in the conference and 9-8 overall. Edgerton/Southwest Christian also has seven juniors out this year.
Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove will be led by a group of four seniors and eight juniors. The team finished 7-12 overall last season and was 6-4 in the Red Rock Conference. Seniors out for baseball for the Falcons are first baseman Austin Price, infielder Colby Davis, infielder Tyler Martius and outfielder Matt Otto.
Mountain Lake Area has nine seniors this spring as it looks to improve from last year’s fourth-place finish in the league. Now a junior for the Wolverines, infielder Levi Jahnke received all-conference honors last season as did returning outfielder Austin Watkins, who is now a senior. Solid all-around athlete Carter Kirk, a senior at MLA, is on the roster as one of the pitchers.
Also senior laden will be Murray County Central, which brings six veterans into its season opener April 5 at Windom Area. The Rebels were fifth in the league last year and won just five games overall, but key pieces returning include junior catcher Jordan Ahlers and senior outfielder Seth Bass.
Southwestern United, the sixth team in the conference a year ago, brings one senior into the 2014 season. Aaron Fest, one of the team’s pitchers, made all-conference last year after his Wildcats won four games overall and went 1-9 in the Red Rock Conference.
SWU opens with a trip to Worthington Tuesday.
Windom Area hopes to reload from state tournament run. One of two teams to reach the state baseball tournament in 2013 from the Southwest Conference, Windom Area will have big shoes to fill heading into its season opener, a game set for Thursday in Lamberton against Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
The Eagles finished 5-7 in the league last year, winning their first six games in a row but then losing the last seven of the regular season. They then went 5-0, allowing a collective five runs in those games, to win Section 3A’s tournament and reach the state tourney, where they lost 1-0 to St. Agnes and 5-0 the following day to Wabasha-Kellogg. Two key returning veterans for the team will be Andrew Larson and Zach Bartosh.
Also reaching the state tournament, but in Class AA, was Luverne in 2013. The Cardinals went 22-5 and won the Southwest Conference. They were also Class AA’s consolation champions. Luverne brings back excitement, high expectations and key players at several positions, including almost its entire battery, such as top catcher Logan Norman and senior pitchers Josh Slieter, Zane Hiller and Gunnar Olson.
Jackson County Central brings seven seniors into its season after going 4-8 in the Southwest Conference and going 8-11 overall in 2013. Key returning pieces for the Huskies include letter winners Zach Paulsen, Josh Christopher, Jordan Biehn, Jeremiah Flatgard, Mitchell Macek and Peter Nasby. The team is under the direction of first-year head coach Mike Wierson and seeks to rebuild the bulk of its hitting and pitching load from the duties of last year’s seniors.
Pipestone Area totes a group of seven seniors into this spring. The Arrows finished with eight wins last season and brings back four outfielders, including seniors Travon Fletcher, Walker Kor, Hayden Kerkaert and Jaymes Zollner. The team also features a junior group of eight players.