WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers have started building their 2013 squad, announcing five players from the 2012 team will return next season.
The 2012 Stingers won the Northwoods League North Division in the second half to advance to the playoffs for the first time in team history. They were eliminated in the first round by the Mankato MoonDogs.
Signed on for 2013 are sophomore outfielder Michael Suchy (Florida Gulf Coast), sophomore pitcher Brady Anderson (Florida Gulf Coast), junior outfielder Steven Brault (Regis), sophomore infielder Max Kuhn (Kentucky) and redshirt freshman infielder Karl Sorensen (St. Cloud State), the team announced Tuesday.
Suchy, a 6-foot-3, 221-pounder out of Bradenton, Fla., turned in an All-Star 2012 season batting in the middle of a powerful Stingers lineup.
Stingers' manager Matt Hollod said there was no way to predict Suchy's success.
"With guys who already have stats compiled who are sophomores or juniors, there are things that I look for (when recruiting), but with freshmen it's a wild card because you don't know how they're going to do," Hollod said. "More often than not you sign them before their spring season and they haven't had any college at bats. (Suchy) didn't hit well at Florida Gulf Coast so we had no idea what we were getting into."
Suchy hit a team-high .349 with a .510 slugging percentage and .452 on-base percentage. He clubbed eight home runs and drove in 62 runs. The RBI total tied Suchy for second in the league and was the third-highest in NWL history. He was named the No. 4 prospect in the NWL by Baseball America and the League's No. 21 prospect by Perfect Game USA.
"The thing that stands out to me is his toughness," Hollod said. "Wanting to play every day, playing as much as he can through injuries, playing multiple positions ... It makes it a pleasure to coach when you work with guys like that."
Joining Suchy is Florida Gulf Coast teammate and Stingers' closer Anderson, who also made the 2012 NWL All-Star team. Anderson struck out 35 batters in 30 innings with a 3.00 ERA and 15 saves. The right-hander appeared in 20 games for Florida Gulf Coast in 2012, tossing 39-1/3 innings with a 4.08 ERA and 26 strikeouts. Perfect Game USA ranked him the No. 28 prospect in the NWL.
Brault played for the Stingers in June but left at the end of the month for family reasons.
"(Brault) said right when he left that he wanted to come back on a full contract," Hollod said.
He excelled in his short time in Willmar, particularly as a two-way player, racking up 22 innings pitched and 110 at-bats in 27 games. He batted .327, and put up a 1.22 ERA on the mound. He struck out 27 batters, including a 10-strikeout performance on June 30 that tied the Stingers' single-game strikeout record.
"Not only does he hit well (but) I think he could be a dominant back end of the bullpen pitcher," Hollod said.
The product of El Cajon, Calif., was a 2011 NWL All-Star while playing for the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers.
Kuhn played sparingly for Kentucky his freshman season but saw playing time for the Stingers, mostly at third base and shortstop. He batted .261 with five home runs and 30 RBIs in 47 games.
Though it's early, Hollod said Kuhn has a shot at being the Stingers' starting third baseman in 2013.
"I think Kuhn is going to take a big jump at Kentucky," Hollod said. "He improved dramatically before our eyes."
Kuhn was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 24th round of the 2011 MLB draft out of high school in Zionsville, Ind., but didn't sign.
Sorensen came to the Stingers as a fill-in early in the season and again for the playoffs and got into seven games after taking a redshirt for the Huskies in 2012.
He's signed to a temporary contract for 2013, but Hollod said he'll be in the mix to play first or third base.
"If we lose anybody along the way, (Sorensen) will be the first guy I talk to about moving to a full contract," he said.
Hollod said the five who have committed will likely be the only returning players, but he has talked with pitcher/outfielder Andre Wheeler about coming back for 2013.