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Amateur baseball: Horned Frogs sharpening up for competitive season

LAKEFIELD -- In the area amateur baseball ranks, the Lakefield Horned Frogs have rarely factored in as a team to reckon with. Until this year, at least, players and fans have had to content themselves with the nickname -- one of the coolest in a ...

LAKEFIELD -- In the area amateur baseball ranks, the Lakefield Horned Frogs have rarely factored in as a team to reckon with.

Until this year, at least, players and fans have had to content themselves with the nickname -- one of the coolest in a sport known for unique monikers. But now, in 2018, the Frogs have gotten off to a great start. Even with Sunday’s 8-3 loss to Jackson, the team owns an 8-3 mark, which places it right on top of the First Nite League standings along with Fairmont and Windom.

Lakefield is not flashy. It doesn’t possess any legitimate power hitters. The pitching is pretty good, but not overpowering. Defense -- something the team needs to do well in order to win -- has been good, except for Sunday.

The approach is very basic, according to head coach Brent Christopher.

“Just play good baseball and not make mistakes,” he said on Monday.

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“Till yesterday,” he added. “I think (Jackson) had four or five unearned runs.”

Nobody’s perfect. But when you’ve got a team like Lakefield, there’s (pardon the pun) little room for error. Basically, the same outfit that the Horned Frogs put on the field last season is back for 2018, and last year the team won just barely more than it lost.

It’s a young team, and the home-grown core group has been together since high school days.

The oldest player, Jon Hummel, is in his early 30s and comes down to play whenever he can from his home in Columbia Heights.

Christopher, who is just a year shy of 60, has not played amateur ball since hanging it up with the Jackson Bulls in 1998. Now his job is to manage the next generation, which includes his son Taylor, who is one of the top hitters on the team. Dustin Pronk and Tyler Schwarting are also hitting well in June.

A couple of years ago, said Brent, the Horned Frogs hit 13 or 14 home runs. They only hit about three last year, and this year the preferred style remains manufacturing runs through base hits and intelligent base running.

Phil Pronk is the Frogs’ pitching ace, a crafty right-hander who works the edges of the plate.

“He’s kind of been the workhorse. He tries to get them to hit his pitch,” said the elder Christopher.

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Another Christopher, Ryan, is also a top pitcher. But the Horned Frogs figure to be without his services for the remainder of the amateur baseball season. The property of Concordia University of St. Paul, Ryan will spend the rest of his summer playing in a New York summer league.

Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs continue attempting to play smart baseball while hoping to stay among the leaders in the First Nite League.

“That’s always been a goal, to do well in the league. We’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve been together long enough so you expect to do some things,” said Brent.

And it’s all the same to him if other teams don’t notice the Horned Frogs much.

“We’re kind of enjoying flying under the radar and having some fun,” said the coach.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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