One of the favorite childhood games is King of the Mountain in which the object is to stay on top of a large hill as other players attempt to knock the current king off the hill and take their place as the new king.
The current king is MACCRAY after the Wolverines' baseball team won the Class A state title last spring and now is trying to stay on top while other teams attempt to knock them off the mound.
MACCRAY, again rated No. 1, has six starters back from last year's 24-3 team, The Wolverines graduated their top three pitchers and their catcher. But the JV team went 12-3 and some players from that squad should help fill in some of the holes.
"I would expect us to struggle a little early on as we train in a couple of new catchers and our pitchers find their form," said MACCRAY coach Ted Perry. "I would also expect us to be quite competitive by the end of the year because we still are loaded with good athletes."
Six senior starters back are Branden Madsen (catcher/center field), Jordan Ruter (outfield/pitcher), Shaun Condon (shortstop), Tyler Wrede (third base/outfield), Caleb Hanson (first base/catcher) and Dylan Aeikens (second base/first base). Juniors Jamie Boonstra, Darren Eschen, John Hirman, Seth Hinrichs, Jarrod Holmgren and Darren Westerman, plus sophomore Riley Aeikens are all expected to help.
Perry feels the success of last year's team, plus the basketball team being rated No. 1 this past winter takes some off the pressure off the current team, which was ranked No. 1 in the pre-season poll.
I don't think the kids feel any added pressure," he said. "This is the third time in four years they have been rated number one at some point in the season and most of the players were on the basketball team. It would be a lot more pressure if we were coming off a winless season or something like that."
Ruter and Hanson are expected to be the top two pitchers this season. They combined to limit Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg to four hits in the Wolverines' 4-3 season-opening win on Tuesday.
"They didn't pitch much during the high school season (last year)," said Perry. "But they pitched a fair amount during the Legion season."
They Wolverines started out slow against KMS, falling behind 2-0 before scoring three times in the bottom of the sixth. KMS then tied it in the top of the seventh before MACCRAY eventually scoring the winning run in bottom of the seventh on a throwing error.
"Don't write us off if we lose a couple early because we should really improve as the season goes on," Perry insisted. "Defending is kind of a misnomer because this really isn't the same team."
Maybe not the same team as last year, but opponents are still trying to knock them off the mountain and take the crown away.
Central Minnesota Christian did not field enough players for a varsity baseball or softball team this spring, but the school district is attempting to restock for the future.
"Our plan is to return to varsity baseball next spring," said CMCS athletic director Daryl VanderWell. "We will have four juniors and eight to ten sophomores."
CMCS checked into pairing varsity baseball with Renville County West, but the Bluejays only wanted a one-year agreement because they will try to field a team next spring. Understandably, RCW did not agree to the idea. So the Bluejays will field a JV team this spring with Bob Stoel as the coach.
"And we are starting a junior high softball team again this spring and hopefully we can get back to varsity in a few years," VanderWell said.