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College baseball: Minnesota West entertaining high hopes

WORTHINGTON -- Contemplating goals for the 2018 baseball season this week, Minnesota West head coach TD Hostikka seemed a little bit unsure whether to temper his enthusiasm with caution.

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Some key members of the Minnesota West baseball team this year are (front, from left) Jeremie Garcia, Carlo Zorola, Nelson Hopkins, Tucker Sorenson, (back Row) Izak Davenport, Jean Perez, Jorge Marcano, Joel Barker and Decker Quintana. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Contemplating goals for the 2018 baseball season this week, Minnesota West head coach TD Hostikka seemed a little bit unsure whether to temper his enthusiasm with caution.

“It’s tough, ‘cuz I think we’re going to have this big target on our back,” he said.

A year ago, the Bluejays turned their program around with a 29-17 overall win-loss record that included a first-place 14-2 division record. Opponents surely remember.

Home this week after opening the new season with a 10-game road schedule in Florida, the Jays feel they have every reason to retain high hopes -- notwithstanding all those teams vying to knock them down a peg.

“Our first goal is to get to the regional tournament. And to do that we gotta be in the top two in the division,” Hostikka said.

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Hostikka’s hardball players had a good start in Florida, going 3-7 against higher-class competition. They knocked off a Division I team from Illinois. “Six of the seven losses were by four runs or less. Overall assessment, it was the best Florida trip that we ever had,” maintained the coach.

This new 2018 team figures to be strong at pitching, strong at defense, and fast. Players to watch include:

  • Sophomore centerfielder Jeremie Garcia, a Miami native who shows exceptional speed from the left side of the batter’s box. He hits for average and has a good arm. He had seven steals during the Florida trip.
  • Freshman catcher Nelson Hopkins, a Puerto Rico product with good power. He also calls a good game from behind the plate. He threw our five of six baserunners in Florida and picked off another runner on first base.
  • Freshman outfielder/pitcher/first baseman Tucker Sorenson, a Worthington High School graduate. “His athleticism is going to keep him in the game. He needs to figure out college pitching, but he will do it,” said Hostikka.
  • Sophomore first baseman/left-handed pitcher Isaac Davenport, who produced a 0.00 earned run average in Florida, striking out 17 batters in nine innings pitched. Davenport, from California, throws between 85 and 87 miles per hour, hits spots, and can fool batters.
  • Freshman right-handed pitcher Jean Perez, who may become the ace of the staff. The Puerto Rican hurls a high-80s fastball and has outstanding off-speed stuff.
  • Sophomore third baseman Carlo Zorlo Gonzalez, who is outstanding on defense and is also a very good contact hitter. Hostikka says he leads by example both in the classroom and on the field.
  • Freshman third baseman Easton Sauerbrei, another Worthington High School grad. Sauerbrei, son of WHS baseball coach Stacy Sauerbrei, led the Bluejays in hitting during the Florida trip. “The thing Easton will always do, he’ll always be able to hit,” said Hostikka.
  • Freshman first baseman Darrius Johnson of Jackson County Central High School. Johnson belted two home runs in Florida and Hostikka said it will be hard to keep his bat out of the lineup. “He doesn’t swing hard, just makes excellent contact,” said his new coach.

“Defensively, we’re going to be stronger than we were last year,” said Hostikka. “We’re deeper, so if an injury happens this year, we’re not going to be affected as much, and they are already good defensive players.”
Likewise, Hostikka said the pitching will be deeper than it was a year ago, though as a group they’re not harder throwers. Almost all the hurlers are 84 mph or higher. And there are four dependable left-handers among them.

Once again, the Bluejays will use their speed. The team swiped 174 bases last season after leading the nation two years ago with more than 200 thefts. They stole 47 bases in the 10-game Florida trip.

Hitting is still unproven, since the Florida trip was the team’s first time outdoors.

Minnesota West returns to action today (Saturday) and Sunday at Southwestern Community College in Clarinda, Iowa.

 

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Minnesota West's Jeremie Garcia takes his turn at batting practice indoors at MC Fitness. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Related Topics: COLLEGE BASEBALL
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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