Prep baseball preview: BOLD, LQPV eye a return trip to state
Every baseball team in the area is eagerly waiting for this miserable spring to give way to sunshine and warm temps, when their fields are dry and green and an umpire says the magic words: Play ball!
Two teams are especially anxious since the last time they planted their spikes in grass it was during the Class A state tournament. Both want that feeling again.
“We feel like we have unfinished business,” said BOLD head coach Brian Kingery, whose Warriors team was 22-6, won the West Central South Conference and won six playoff games before dropping two in the state tournament.
“They’re a good group of guys,” Kingery said. “They work hard and they’ve been talking baseball the last six months.”
Lac Qui Parle Valley is in a similar spot.
The Eagles reached the Class A championship game before losing to St. Agnes. It was an interesting season for LQPV, which finished the regular season 11-9 and in fourth place in the West Central South before surging in the postseason. The Eagles won seven straight games to reach the title game.
“The kids are excited after last year,” said Eagles head coach Bart Hill, whose team moves to the Camden Conference this year. “There will be a lot of new things this year. It’s going to be different but exciting.”
A roundabout run to state
LQPV had a strange trip to collecting their second-place Class A trophy. They opened with two shutout wins, then promptly lost five of six. Then they won three straight and followed it with a modest 5-4 stretch leading into the playoffs.
But the Eagles had pitching — half of their 18 wins were shutouts — and they scored enough (almost 6 runs per game) to be dangerous once they put it together in the postseason.
This year, the Eagles lost their ace, Brandon Bornhorst — “He was a horse for us,” Hill said — and the area’s best player, center fielder Sam Haas, both of whom are playing in college.
The team suffered another setback when senior shortstop Dylan Erickson injured his knee in basketball and had season-ending surgery.
“He was a big piece for us,” Hill said. “We’ll miss him.”
But LQPV has a good nucleus back, led by pitcher Ben Morken, who beat Browerville 4-1 in the state semifinals last spring. Morken was 5-3 with a 3.86 earned-run average last season, and his battery mate, catcher Preston Kraft, returns after being one of the area’s top hitters last year (.422 with a team record-tying 34 runs batted in.
Another senior, Colby Siegert, will play shortstop and also pitch. He hit .321 and scored 26 runs last season. Morken, Siegert and sophomore second baseman Brandon Hill (.344 last year) were named to the all-state tournament team.
Sophomore Austin Haas will step in for his brother in centerfield and Jalen Baldwin, a starter last year, will man an outfield spot.
Eric Smith will start at first and Nick Burkleo steps in for Bornhorst at third base.
“I think this year will be a lot like last year,” Bart Hill said. “We play some really tough teams so I don’t think we’ll have a spectacular won-loss record. But I hope we can do well in our new conference, get through our non-conference games and make another run in the playoffs.”
BOLD new warriors
Not a lot of teams would feel confident heading into a season after losing stellar talent like Jake Marcus, Kyle Athmann and Zach Remillard.
But while BOLD certainly will miss those players, it’s in very good shape with a core of underclassmen.
“I think we’ll be a decent club,” Kingery said. “We’ve got a good group of young players. We only have three seniors but a really good crop of juniors.”
In the state tournament last year, the Warriors started four sophomores and a freshman, and of the 13 guys on the varsity roster, 12 can or have expressed an interest in pitching, Kingery said.
Junior Logan Sandgren, a solid starter and right fielder last year, will be the Warriors’ top starter and junior Riley Kramer and senior Tyler Seehusen also will get plenty of innings on the mound.
Junior Trevor Nissen is penciled in at first but the rest of the infield spots are up for grabs. Sophomore Lane Stadther and junior Brett Grund are competing for the second base job and Kramer, junior Sawyer Tersteeg and Seehusen are vying for jobs at shortstop and third base.
“There’s a lot of competition there and I don’t know what to do,” Kingery said with a laugh.
Senior Tyler Rock will start in centerfield, Sandgren will be in right when he isn’t pitching and junior Tyler Lothert, senior Luke Jacobs and sophomore Ben Steffel could all see time in left.
Paynesville and ACGC will be BOLD’s toughest competition in the West Central South, and the Warriors’ trek through Section 2A will be difficult, to say the least.
Sleepy Eye-St. Mary’s was 21-0 last year before suffering its only loss to New Ulm Cathedral in a sub-section elimination game. NUC was 19-7 last year and after losing to the Greyhounds early in the postseason, BOLD had to beat them twice to win the section championship.
And in the south end of the section, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown was 15-7 last year and BOLD needed eight innings to knock off the Buccaneers.
“There should be a lot of competition in our conference and section,” Kingery said. “We’ll have to play really well to do what we did last year.”