PREP BASEBALL: RRC baseball back in the swing of things
SLAYTON -- One season ago, the Murray County Central Rebels won the Red Rock Conference baseball title by compiling a 9-1 conference record during the regular season.
However, repeating as conference champions will not be an easy task for the Rebels this season.
"We lost three of our top four pitchers, our catcher, our entire infield and 2 starting outfielders," MCC coach Tarry Boelter said. "Sam Erickson will be back on the mound and keep us in ballgames, but it definitely will be a rebuilding year."
With so many holes to fill across the diamond, Boelter will need to rely on his upperclassman for their experience and leadership.
"We are relying on Mitchell Reinsma to anchor us at shortstop, Seth Bass to man centerfield, and Jordan Alhers to shore up the catching duties," Boelter said. "Nick Peterson and Darien Schreiber also saw a lot of action last year and will provide leadership to the team."
So far, many positions are up in the air for Murray County Central, but Boelter believes his team will work out the kinks as the season goes on.
"Many positions are unsettled right now," Boelter said, "but as the year goes on hopefully we will find some arms and people who can play defense."
The Rebels are scheduled to host the Windom Area Eagles April 6, and then open up Red Rock Conference play against Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove on April 9.
Falcons hope to improve on last season
LAMBERTON -- The Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove Falcons got off to a fast start last season and finished as co-runners in the RRC up alongside Mountain Lake Area last season.
If the Falcons can repeat their start from a season ago, coach Derrick Jenniges feels that his team will once again find themselves sitting near the top of the Red Rock Conference.
"Last spring we got off to a fast start by throwing strikes and being aggressive on the base paths," Jenniges said. "It will be important for our pitchers to attack the strike zone to keep our young fielders on their toes."
RRC/W-WG returns two of their top pitchers along with five letter winners, but it also lost six long-time starts from that second place squad as well.
"We are bringing back Brady Bierl and Colby Davis who were two of our top pitchers last season, while letter-winners Brian Hagberg and Andrew Merrick are back in the outfield and Henry Rogotzke will man first base," Jenniges said. "The rest of our infield will be seeing their first varsity action."
One area of the game that Jenniges feels his team needs to improve on this season is their ability to stay focused through a full season.
"We have to do a better job of maintaining our focus throughout the season," Jenniges said. "The timely hit is always one that sways the outcome of a game; a couple key hits early in the season will benefit our rookies greatly in May."
The Falcons are scheduled to host Windom Area April 4 and will begin RRC play April 9 against Murray County Central.
MLA picking up where it left off last season
MOUNTAIN LAKE -- With a strong class of juniors returning to their lineup, Mountain Lake Area coach Tim Snyder believes his team has what it takes to be dangerous come the postseason.
"These juniors are getting their chance to step up with major playing time," Snyder, in his first year as head coach, said. "They have had success all along the way, but now is where we will look for them to reach that next level. We should have some good pitching, hitting and defense so we could be a team that could be dangerous come playoff time."
The Wolverines finished tied for second in the Red Rock Conference last season with Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove using strong pitching and solid hitting, which is something Snyder hopes his team can replicate again this year.
"We got better pitching and more quality starts last year and this will be something we will look to continue this season as well," Snyder said. "We hit the ball very well and some of this year's team was a big part of that."
An area where Snyder feels his team can take a step forward this season is with their defense and situational hitting.
"I believe defense and situational hitting is always an area to improve upon," Snyder said. "Our pitching staff will need to step up to the varsity level and be more aggressive in their pitching."
The Wolverines are scheduled to travel to Adrian for their first game of the season on April 9.
Youth movement on for Dragon baseball
ADRIAN -- Last season, the Adrian Dragons finished third in the Red Rock Conference with a 4-6 record.
With a plethora of starters returning to the team this season, coach Kevin Nowotny felt confident his team could improve on that record this season.
However, the Dragons won't be starting with seven of its top starters from last year's squad.
"We had five returning players that started for two years decide not to play baseball this season," Nowotny said. "And then Logan Rogers had knee surgery and our only senior, Nate Loosbrock, hurt his elbow during wrestling season. So, seven returning starters are on the shelf right now."
Without many of its starters from a season ago, Adrian will be forced to rely on its juniors and sophomores to power the team this season.
One thing the Dragons have going in their favor is that they only graduated one All-Conference player last season, which means many of younger players saw time on the field last year.
"We will be young this year," Nowotny said. "But I think we have a nice team despite that."
Adrian opens the season against Luverne Tuesday, weather permitting. The Dragons open RRC play against Mountain Lake Area on April 9.
Expectations high for Dutchmen
EDGERTON -- Despite finishing fifth in the Red Rock Conference with a 4-11 record last year, Edgerton/Southwest Christian coach Ron Zwart believes his team could be something special this season.
"Our expectations for this team are as high as they have ever been since I have been here," Zwart said. "Our goal is to win the conference and then go from there."
The Flying Dutchmen lose just one key player from last year's squad in second baseman Damon Vander Matten, but they gain three new promising players who should be able to have an immediate impact.
"Senior Klint Knutson, sophomore Tyus Jannsen, and freshman Luke Drooger will be new additions to this year's team," Zwart said. "I've been impressed with Knutson so far in just the first few days. We have an outfield spot that is wide open, and I hope to be able to plug him into that spot to utilize his speed both offensively and defensively."
For E/SWC to find its way to the top of the Red Rock Conference Zwart knows that his team will need to continue to improve on defense and find more consistent pitching.
"We need to be more consistent with our pitching, and we are also working a lot on our base running this spring," Zwart said. "We took ourselves out of a lot of potentially good innings last year just because of mental mistakes on the base paths. Another area we are putting more emphasis on this spring is our bunting game."
The Dutchmen are scheduled to face off with Luverne Thursday before hosting Russell-Tyler-Ruthton April 8.
Wildcats look to improve from last season
OKABENA -- In his first year as head coach of the Southwestern United baseball team, Blaise Jacobsen hopes to help his team improve on its 2-8 conference record last season.
"My expectations for this team this year is to get better every game," Jacobsen said. "There is a lot of learning that is going to take place."
Jacobsen plays on breaking down the season into three parts to help the Wildcats focus on what is important in every stage of the season.
"I am going to break the season into 3 seasons just like Scott Bahr did with the Jackson Bulls amateur team," Jacobsen said. "The first half of the season is where a lot of lineup changes and opportunities for players to prove themselves will be. Then the second half of the season we will be playing to win with the best players we have. Finally, the playoffs are where we will try to do what it takes to make a run."
In order to succeed this season, the Wildcats will need to improve on every side of the ball.
"We have really been working a lot on the mental part of the game while practicing inside," Jacobsen said. "From the on deck circle, to foot work on turning a double play, to the back hand side of the shortstop. Everything is being covered."
One area of the game Jacobsen hopes his team will be able to carry over from last season is their offense and hitting.
"We had flashes of good hitting and were an offensive threat in streaks last year," Jacobsen said. "But we have a lot of new blood in our lineup this year, so it's hard to really compare last year to this year."
Southwestern United was scheduled to open up the season today against Worthington in Heron Lake, but the game was rescheduled to Thursday. The Wildcats will start their RRC season against Edgerton/Southwest Christian April 9, in Edgerton.