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Prep Baseball: 2017 Area Previews

BOLD's Reed Stadther pitches in the first inning of Monday's season opener against Lac qui Parle Valley in Bird Island. Stadther pitched four hitless innings in a 5-0 win. Jake Schultz / Tribune

Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Falcons

West Central Conference

Head Coach: Mike Kingery (2nd year, 7-16)

2016 records: 7-16 overall, 4-10 WCC, 1-2 Section 2A

Key players: P/IF Payton Kinzler (Sr.), OF Adam Johnson (Sr.), IF Michael Dallmann (Sr.), IF Ethan Schultz (Sr.), P/OF Kobe Holtz (Jr.), IF David Kingery (Jr.), C Jaren Kaddatz (Jr.), Jeremy Nelson (Jr.), Noah Cunningham (Jr.)

Keys to the season: The Falcons will field a very athletic team that can impact the game on the basepaths and on defense. A variety of players can all play multiple positions. A key for many teams this season, the Falcons will look to find a set of reliable pitchers to improve depth.

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Jaguars

Central Minnesota Conference

Head Coach: Pat Illies (6th year, 51-56)

2016 records: 19-7 overall, 9-5 CMC, 4-2 Section 6A

Key players: P/1B Jacob Weller (Sr.), P/OF Derek Wiener (Sr.), 2B Ryan Olmscheid

(Sr.), SS Ryan Illies (Jr.) C, Adam Jaeger (Jr.)

Keys to the season: The Jaguars will look to build off of last season's success that

saw the team finish as the No. 2 ranked team according to QRF. Despite that

high ranking, though, BBE did not make the State Tournament. Defensively, the

Jaguars will be strong up the middle with Ryan Olmscheid and Ryan Illies, as

well as having Adam Jaeger at catcher. Those three players, as well as Jacob

Weller and Derek Wiener will be third-year starters.

Benson Braves

West Central Conference

Head Coach: Eric Hulterstrum (1st Year)

2016 records: 5-15 overall, 3-15 WCC, 0-1 Section 3AA

Key players: IF Justin Goossen (Sr.), P/IF Dan Lenarz (Jr.), C/P Jared Knutson (So.)

Keys to the season: As is the case with many teams this season, the pitch count rule change will affect the way games are played. Throwing strikes will come at a much greater premium, and limiting errors will also play a role in keeping pitch counts down. The Braves are putting an emphasis on pitch selection and looking to jump on fastballs. A young team with only four seniors, Benson will have to learn on the fly under first-year coach Eric Hulterstrum.

BOLD Warriors

West Central Conference

Head Coach: Brian Kingery (8th year, 123-50)

2016 records: 15-9 overall, 7-6 WCC, 4-2 Section 2A

Key players: P/2B Reed Stadther (Sr.), UT Sam Marks (Jr.), P/3B Guy Hughes (Sr.), P/1B Jack Peppel (Jr.), CF Luke Ryan (Soph.), P/SS Hayden Tersteeg (Soph.), P/1B Riley Weiss (Soph.), OF Cade Morse (Soph.), C/SS/P Jordan Sagedahl (Fr.), P/OF Matt Moorse (Fr.)

Keys to the season: Returning five starters, the Warriors will utilize their pitching depth to make a run this season. Three of the top five pitchers from last season return, including Reed Stadther. With the returning talent, as well as speed in the field and on the basepaths, BOLD could string together a run to the State Tournament. Hayden Tersteeg will lead up the effort on the mound after posting a 1.81 ERA last season.

Central Minnesota Christian School Bluejays

Camden Conference

Head Coach: Robert Stoel (7th year)

2016 records: 9-7 overall, 6-5 Camden, 0-1 Section 3A

Key players: P/SS Tanner Stoel (Sr.), 2B Tedd Ahrenholz (Sr.), P/C Aaron Zwart (Sr.), 3B/CF Jaxon Schwitters (Sr.), SS/P/OF Jake Meyer (Jr.), P/1B Micah VanderBeek (Jr.), OF Simon VanDyken (Jr.), OF/C Mason Dehmlow (Jr.)

Keys to the season: The Bluejays hope to rely on their experience this season with eight returning starters from last year's team that finished above .500. The strength of the pitching staff is throwing strikes, which means that defense will play a pivotal role with the amount of balls in play. Tanner Stoel will pitch and captain the infield at shortstop after batting .385 with a .500 OBP last season, while also stealing 12 bases in 12 attempts.

Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks

Camden Conference

Head Coach: Daren Swenson (1st year)

2016 records: 6-10 overall, 5-9 Camden, 0-1 Section 3A

Key players: P/SS Austin Schmitt (Jr.), P/3B Nick Thompson (Jr.), P/UT Braden

Thompson (Sr.), P/OF Braxton Thompson (Sr.)

Keys to the season: A team that was very young last season looks to take the next step

forward. That group will be led by pitcher/third baseman Nick Thompson, who

batted .365 last season and will see action on the mound this year.

Hancock Owls

Pheasant Conference

Head Coach: Chad Christianson (5th year)

2016 records: 6-13 overall, 5-7 Pheasant, 0-1 Section 6A

Key players: C/IF Zach Copa (Sr.), P/IF Chandler Gramm (Sr.), P/3B Cody Greiner (Sr.), SS Andrew Shaw (Sr.)

Keys to the season: After averaging 3.4 runs per game last season, the Owls will look to find their offense as the 2017 season begins. Hancock didn't lose any All-Area players from last season, so a returning core will need to carry the squad.

Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Saints

Camden Conference

Head Coach: James Cortez (15th year, 159-122)

2016 records: 16-8 overall, 9-2 Camden, 3-2 Section 3A

Key players: C Brandin Dahl (Sr.), P/2B Ryan Torkelson (Jr.), P/CF Brandon Rasmussen (Jr.), 3B/P Caleb Collins (Jr.), 1B Josh Peterson (Jr.), SS/P Weston Gjerde (So.)

Keys to the season: KMS will look for its offense to take a step forward to pair with solid pitching. Dahl will lead the way as a four-year starter and All-conference player. The pitching should be able to keep the Saints in most games, and if the lineup can string together enough runs, there is plenty of potential. Ryan Torkelson, a three-year starter, returns after posting a 1.58 ERA in 26.2 innings last season, while Brandon Rassmussen joins him atop the rotation.

Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles

Camden Conference

Head Coach: Bart Hill (22nd year, 308-166)

2016 records: 7-12 overall, 6-5 Camden, 0-1 Section 3A

Key players: Cole Bungarden (Sr.), Evan Benson (Jr.), Peyton Mortenson (Jr.), Isaac Gerdes (Jr.), Braiden Kittelson (Jr.), Korbin Kells (Jr.)

Keys to the season: The Eagles will need to overcome a relative lack of experience in order to improve on a 6-5 conference record from last season.They will ride Bungarden on the hill after posting a 1.85 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 41.1 innings last season. Benson, Gerdes, Kells and Mortensen will play big roles in filling out the Eagles' lineup, which is centered around Bungarden after he batted .346 last season.

Litchfield Dragons

Wright County Conference

Head Coach: Jeff Wollin (28th year, 325-276)

2016 team records: 9-12 overall, 8-7 WCC, 0-1 Section 5AA

Key players: 3B/OF Luke Schultz (Sr.), 2B/CF/P Tyler Sangren (Sr.), OF Sam Tibbits (Sr.), 1B/RF/P Mitch Virnig (Sr.)

Keys to the season: Last season, Litchfield's 9-12 record marked the first losing season for the Dragons in 10 years. This time around, the Dragons will look to regain their competitive form with 10 returning letter-winners. A promising sophomore class could also be the factor that pushes the Dragons over the top.

MACCRAY Wolverines

Camden Conference

Head Coach: Nate Hebrink (6th year, 54-42)

2016 records: 12-7 overall, 6-4 Camden, 1-2 Section 3A

Key players: C Nic Pieper, P/SS/OF Colton Swart, OF Colton Ammermann, OF Dalton Struxness, P/3B Ben Henker, 1B Renick Homan

Keys to the season: The Wolverines graduated eight players from last year's squad, with five of those being pitchers and another being shortstop Jack Dykema, who batted .510 with a .600 OBP. That's a lot of talent to replace, which gives MACCRAY a tough task this season. The Wolverines will rely on an athletic group of players that can play a variety of positions at different times.

Minnewaska Lakers

West Central Conference

Head Coach: Brian Gruber

2016 records: 17-7 overall, 11-3 WCC, 3-2 Section 3AA

Key players: P Colin Richards (Sr.), P Matthew Gruber (Jr.), Shawn Stumpf (Sr.), Chris Claussen (Sr.), C Jake Heid (Sr.)

Keys to the season: In Gruber and Richards, the Lakers have two known quantities atop their rotation. Gruber enters his junior season after setting the school ERA record (0.94) as a sophomore, and Richards is right behind him in the starting rotation. With nine other seniors, Minnewaska will look to find contributions around the diamond from its experience. The Lakers will have to go through a congested north half of Section 3AA, and, if it advances past that, the south half has perennial contenders, as well.

Montevideo Thunder Hawks

West Central Conference

Head Coach: Tim Epema (11th year, 88-118)

2016 records: 3-18 overall, 2-12 WCC, 0-1 Section 3AA

Key players: P/SS Christian Kanten (Sr.), P/UT Derek Kilibarda (Sr.), P/OF Jake Mundt (Sr.), 1B Ian Jahn (Sr.), 2B/C Blaine Sederstrom (Jr.), UT Isaiah Edmunds (Jr.), OF Hunter Ward (Jr.), OF Ibrahim Carson (Jr.), P/1B Ben Mulder (Jr.), P/3B John Van Ravenswaay (So.), P/OF Seth Kuno (So.), C Jackson Snell (So.), IF Noah Buseman (So.)

Keys to the season: The Thunder Hawks return most of their pitching, and had lots of young players earn valuable time on the field last season. If that returning core can make the next step, Montevideo could be much improved from a 3-18 2016 record.

Morris/Chokio-Alberta Tigers

West Central Conference

Head Coach: Kirby Sayles (1st year)

2016 records: 13-11 overall, 5-6 WCC, 1-2 Section 3AA

Key players: P/C/SS Toby Sayles, OF Chase Metzger, P/SS Ryan Bowman, P/3B Mitchell

Dufault

Keys to the season: With a very strong outfield, the Tigers hope to limit opponents'

offensive outputs with stellar defense. Morris will look to find pitching

depth, which could carry them in the WCC. Two focal points that the Tigers have

given themselves this season: getting early leads and playing stellar defense.

New London-Spicer Wildcats

Wright County Conference

Head Coach: Mike Thompson (7th year, 51-76)

2016 records: 13-14 overall, 6-8 WCC, 6-2 Section 3AA

Key players: SS Wyatt White (Sr.), CF/P Josh Soine (Sr.), RF John Perkins (Sr.), 3B/P Evan Haugen (Sr.), P Landon Tanner (Sr.), 3B/C Derek Dolezal (Jr.), P Matt Spaulding (Jr.), C/1B/P Will Roguske (Soph.)

Keys to the season: Unlike many teams in the area, the Wildcats will be able to rely on experienced players returning from last season, including All-Conference first-teamer Wyatt White. The senior shortstop batted .419 with a .468 OBP last season. With the new pitch count rules, NLS also has an advantage with five returning pitchers.

Paynesville Bulldogs

West Central Conference

Head Coach: Brad Skoglund (31st year, 407-222)

2016 records: 17-10 overall, 8-5 WCC, 4-1 Section 3AA

Key players: P Grant Ludwig, SS Grant Fuchs, 2B Sam Haines, C Nick Gabrielson

Keys to the season: Coming off a trip to the State Tournament, the Bulldogs will have to overcome the loss of a very talented senior class. Ludwig returns as one of the team's top pitchers, but Paynesville will look to find its ace that can carry them through the postseason.

Renville County West Jaguars

Camden Conference

Head Coach: Randy Schaub (32nd year, 325-362)

2016 records: 10-11 overall, 5-4 Camden, 2-2 Section 3A

Key players: SS/P Trent Kjersten (Jr.), C Brody Elfering (Sr.), 1B/P Tony Froland (Jr.), P/3B Spencer Wohlman (Jr.), SS/P Justin Schrupp (Soph.), 3B/P Jack Howard (Fr.), 2B/RF Jacob Grund (Soph), LF Ben Hendrickson Jr (Jr.), CF Connor Aalders (Fr.)

Keys to the season: The Jaguars will have to adjust to a varsity learning curve quickly, with only one senior on the team.

Willmar Cardinals

Central Lakes Conference

Head Coach: Tom DeBoer (3rd year)

2016 records: 3-18 overall, 3-13 CLC

Key players: CF Brayden Sunder (Sr.), SS Jon Broman (Jr.), 1B Dalton Rambow (Sr.), UT Noah Streed (Sr.), P/OF Grant Bangen (Sr.), P/3B Garrit Kooistra (Sr.)

Keys to the season: The Cardinals return two All-Area players in Brayden Sunder and Jon Broman and have a bevy of depth on their roster after that. 13 or 14 players could compete for starting positions, head coach Tom DeBoer noted. Losing pitcher Tyler Johnson to an ACL injury is a tough break for Willmar, which will have to find another player to top the rotation.

Yellow Medicine East Sting

Camden Conference

Head Coach: Trevor Schulte (7th year)

2016 records: 3-16 overall, 2-10 Camden, 0-1 Section 3AA

Key players: OF Jordan Odegard (Sr.), C/INF Austin Friese (Sr.), INF Ethan Becker

(Sr.), INF/OF Will Jeseritz (Sr.), INF Tommy Lindstrom (Sr.), INF/C Koltyn

Louwagie (Sr.), INF Jace Odegard (Sr.), OF Nick Peterson (Sr.), OF Brandon

Schmidt (Sr.), INF/OF Tori Rupp (Sr.), OF Max Lara (Sr.), INF Duncan Marquart

(Sr.), OF Miles Kattevold (Sr.)

Keys to the season: An optimistic attitude characterizes the YME squad entering the

season. With 13 seniors, the Sting have one of the most veteran-laden rosters

in the area. That core will play a pivotal role of carrying the team.

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