Prep Baseball: Tribune area prep previews
RETURNING STARTERS: Jordan Nelson, Mitch Macik, David Kinzler, Colton Minnick
KEYS TO THE SEASON: The Falcons return seven starters from a team that lost six games by one run last season.
COACH: Pat Illies (3rd season)
2013 RECORD: 5-9 in Central Minnesota Conference, 8-11 overall
RETURNING STARTERS: Brian Goodwin, James Kuefler, Dalon Bitzen, Trey Heinsius, Jordan Wozmek
KEYS TO THE SEASON: The current starters have to produce because several promising players are pushing for playing time, Illies said. The Jaguars pitchers are working to cut down on walks and they’ll play “small ball” offensively.
Benson Braves(West Central)COACH: Adam Foslien (3rd season)2013 RECORD: 7-3 in West Central Conference, 8-4 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Tanner Mikkelson, Cody Hammerschmidt, Chad Schwarz, Aaron Ahrndt, Connor Staton, Taner GimberlinKEYS TO THE SEASON: The Braves return with six starters, nine regulars and three of their top four pitchers. Staton was 3-0 with an 0.89 ERA and Hammerschmidt was 3-0 with a save.
BOLD Warriors(West Central)COACH: Brian Kingery (5th season)2013 RECORD: 7-5 in West Central Conference, 18-6 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Logan Sandgren, Riley Kramer, Trevor Nissen, Trent Athmann, Lane Stadther, Austin WeisKEYS TO THE SEASON: The defending Class A state champions return with seven of their top eight pitchers, including Sandgren (6-0, 1.03 ERA) and Kramer (6-1, 1.85 ERA). Nissen hit .416 with 22 RBIs.
BLHS Mustangs(Tomahawk)COACH: Jeremy Mortenson (2nd season)2013 RECORD: 2-6 in Tomahawk Conference, 5-13 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Tate Lange, Josh Swanson, Jake PettitKEYS TO THE SEASON: New Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart players will have to come through on the mound, said Mortenson. Pettit leads returners with a .365 batting average, Lange hit .310 and Swanson hit .308.
CMCS Bluejays(Camden)COACH: Bob Stoel (3rd season)2013 RECORD: 7-2 Camden Conference, 10-5 overallRETURNING STARTERS: T.J. Stoel, Nick Daugherty, Ryan Brouwer, Austin BulthuisKEYS TO THE SEASON: Central Minnesota Christian School will be young, with only four starters and five upperclassmen on the roster. Brouwer hit .333 and had a 2.33 ERA last season and Stoel hit .290 and had a 2.21 ERA.
Hancock Owls(Pheasant)COACH: Chad Christianson (2nd season)2013 RECORD: 2-10 Pheasant Conference, 2-12 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Taylor Holleman, Philip Schaefer, Brandon Shaw, Justin MillerKEYS TO THE SEASON: The Owls return this spring with just one senior and five juniors and two freshmen are in the starting lineup. It’s working so far: The Owls have won three straight and are 3-1 overall.KMSSaints(Camden)COACH: James Cortez (11th season)2013 RECORD: 2-8 Camden Conference, 2-10 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Jordan Engler, Rylan HatlestadKEYS TO THE SEASON: The Saints will be breaking in a young team, with two sophomores and two freshmen in the starting lineup. Engler hit .385 last season and Hatlestad hit .309 and recorded a 3.39 ERA.
LQPVEagles(Camden)COACH: Bart Hill (19th season)2013 RECORD: 10-0 Camden Conference, 18-3 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Sawyer Bohn, Jon Nielsen, Phil Kleven, Dylan Lillejord, Ty Kanstrup, Brandon Hill, Garrett Olson, Austin HaasKEYS TO THE SEASON: The Eagles need to replace some key players from team that played in the 2012 state championship game and won 18 games last year. Hill hit .344 with 15 RBIs and stole 15 bases and Haas .250 with 22 runs.
LitchfieldDragons(Wright)COACH: Jeff Wollin (25th season)2013 RECORD: 6-5 Wright Conference, 12-9 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Austin Larson, Matt Hopkins, Eddie Estrada, Andy Schneider, Braeden Wahl, Riley Johnson, Jake SchultzKEYS TO THE SEASON: The Dragons lost top arms Zach Kinny and Dylan Koll but Larson was 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA and Hopkins was 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA. Estrada and Schneider are the Dragons’ top returning hitters, with both hitting .286 last year.
MACCRAYWolverines(Camden)COACH: Nate Hebrink (3rd season)2013 RECORD: 5-4 Camden Conference, 9-8 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Caleb Melin, Dylan Abraham, Tyler Moffenbier, Carter Asche, Jacob Aviles, Derick SommersKEYS TO THE SEASON: MACCRAY returns its entire pitching staff, led by Melin (2-1, 2.50 ERA), Asche (3-3, 2.60 ERA) and Moffenbier (2-2, 2.83 ERA). Melin hit .453, scored 20 runs and stole 20 bases, and Abraham hit .453 with 20 RBIs.
MinnewaskaLakers(West Central)COACH: Brian Gruber (5th season)2013 RECORD: 5-4 West Central Conference, 12-8 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Austin Ostrander, Riley Thompson, Jon Nygaard, Matt PaulsonKEYS TO THE SEASON: Three of the Lakers’ top players are juniors and while the team is young, six regulars are back. Ostrander hit .413 and Paulson was 3-1 with a 2.80 ERA. While he was 4-4, Thompson finished with a 2.09 ERA.
MontevideoThunder Hawks(West Central)COACH: Tim Epema (7th season)2013 RECORD: 4-9 West Central Conference, 5-12 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Jordan Thompson, Jeff Rohloff, Ricky Schmitz, Austin Hiepler, Logan Knoshal, Zac Enevoldsen, Markus Kranz, Tristan WeberKEYS TO THE SEASON: Legion baseball was good for several T-Hawks returners, Epema said. Schmitz hit .342 last spring and Enevoldsen hit .340. Rohloff hit .302 and had a 1.19 ERA and Thompson had a 1.47 ERA and hit .292.
Morris/CATigers(West Central)COACH: Mark Torgerson (3rd season)2013 RECORD: 10-1 West Central Conference, 17-4 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Bryce JergensonKEYS TO THE SEASON: The Tigers lost a ton from their 17-win team but Torgerson has good young players ready, such as Corey Storck, Ethan Stahman, Danny Tracy and Gage Backman. But “it will be an uphill climb to contend for conference or section titles,” Torgerson said.
New London-SpicerWildcats(Wright)COACH: Mike Thompson (4th season)2013 RECORD: 1-9 Wright Conference, 5-13 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Jonny DeGeest, Jarrett Hatlestad, Lucan Nordmeyer, Ryan VraaKEYS TO THE SEASON: Four starters and eight letter winners are back for a Wildcats team that has pitching depth and speed. DeGeest struck out 20 in 15 innings last year and Nordmeyer had a 2.69 ERA in almost 30 innings. Vraa hit .291 and drove in 15 runs last spring.
PaynesvilleBulldogs(West Central)COACH: Brad Skoglund (27th season)2013 RECORD: 7-3 West Central Conference, 10-7 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Jordan Roos, Blake Karsch, Matthew Quade, Nick Dingman, Brandon Schleper, Trent GertkenKEYS TO THE SEASON: Skoglund has six starters back from a solid 2013 team. The Bulldogs will rely on pitching (Roos was 4-2 last year) and strong defense. They’ll also play all home games in Regal, Roscoe and Lake Henry while a new stadium is built.
RCWJaguars(Camden)COACH: Randy Schaub (28th season)2013 RECORD: 2-7 Camden Conference, 3-10 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Griffin Schaub, Hayden Johnson, Colin ThompsonKEYS TO THE SEASON: Schaub, the dean of local coaches, has seven starters back but has only four juniors and seniors on the roster. Griffin Schaub hit .256 and had a 3.23 ERA while Johnson hit .275. Thompson will pitch and also hold down shortstop and centerfield defensively.
WillmarCardinals(Central Lakes)COACH: Mark Stier (11th season)2013 RECORD: 2-11 Central Lakes Conference, 2-14 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Tony McCleary, Cole Christensen, Cole Hagen, Tyler Stegeman, Brett Swanson, Adam NibaurKEYS TO THE SEASON: The Cardinals have eight starters back and four or five will be counted on to pitch. McCleary was an all-conference and all-section selection last year and he hit .333. Swanson also hit .333 and Hagen returns as the Cards’ RBI leader.
YMESting(West Central)COACH: Trevor Schulte (4th season)2013 RECORD: 1-10 West Central Conference, 2-14 overallRETURNING STARTERS: Austin Vikander, Logan DeBlieck, Joe Sannerud, Chase Richter, Zach Fischer, Dylan Johnson, Blake LindstromKEYS TO THE SEASON: Schulte welcomed 33 players to the program this spring, the most in recent memory, he said, which will strengthen the junior varsity and create positive competition. “Players are going to have to earn a spot and retain that spot for the entire season,” Schulte said.