Starting in the soaked fields across west central Minnesota in April and ending in the pristine turf of Target Field, area baseball teams had a high degree of success in 2019.
BOLD proved to be the cream of the crop in Class A, breaking through a tough Section 2A field unscathed to reach the state tournament as the No. 1 seed. Then after a pair of hard-fought wins against Sebeka and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, the Warriors (20-5) reigned supreme in the Class A championship game with a 8-0 drubbing of New York Mills.
The state champions were far from the only local team to find immense success.
The aforementioned Fighting Saints won the Camden Conference and the Section 3A championship before topping Randolph in the opening round of the Class A tournament for the school’s first win at state. KMS (21-4) wrapped up the year with a fourth-place finish.
Then in Class AA, Paynesville clinched a second straight Section 3AA championship and held on to topple Perham in the opening round. The Bulldogs (23-3) fell victim to the eventual state champions Duluth Marshall in extra innings before recovering to win the third-place game over St. Peter.
Three other teams finished on the verge of state in Willmar (14-10), Lac qui Parle Valley (17-7) and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (13-11).
With that kind of team success, it wasn’t hard to find talent for the West Central Tribune’s All-Area Baseball team. Picking 18 of the best players in the area — and in some cases, some of the best players in the state — was a painstaking task with so many deserving candidates. The All-Area Baseball team was comprised from nominations from area coaches along with staff observation.
Here are the All-Area squads (in alphabetical order):
Litchfield, P/CF, Sr.
A familiar name to the All-Area team, Boerema made waves statewide early in the season after breaking a 37-year-old state record with a 34-game hit streak.
But, that was the tip of the iceberg of another stellar season for the Litchfield standout.
On offense, Boerema hit for a .453 average with a .544 on-base percentage. He drove in 15 runs while being a top-of-the-order threat for the Dragons with 28 runs and 21 stolen bases.
Boerema’s pitching was even better as he went a perfect 7-0 with a 1.11 ERA and 83 strikeouts compared to 14 walks. Rounding out his last high-school season as a Class AA All-State selection, Boerema now owns Litchfield single-season records for strikeouts (88 as a junior) and ERA (0.72 as a junior) and career records in strikeouts (212), ERA (1.22) and wins (16).
Boerema was also named All-Wright County Conference, Class AA Academic All-State and was picked for the Minnesota State High School League Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Series.
“Despite his multiple talents and awards on the baseball field, Owen remains one of the most humble athletes you’ll ever find,” said Dragons head coach Jeff Wollin. “Spend a little time around him and our team and it becomes obvious that he doesn’t think he’s any better or more important than anyone else on the team. He demonstrates a tremendous example of humility, integrity and leadership. Owen Boerema is simply one of the finest young men to ever wear the Litchfield Dragons uniform.”
KMS, P/OF, Fr.
The youngest member of the All-Area team made his mark in the Camden Conference, in Section 3A and on the state stage.
Just a freshman, Call became Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s top pitcher, going 8-1 with a 1.06 ERA with 87 strikeouts. When the Fighting Saints got to the Class A state tournament, Call had four strikeouts with just 27 pitches over two innings to lead the Fighting Saints to their first-ever state win. Able to start the next day against BOLD, Call had eight strikeouts over 4.1 innings. In 53 innings pitched, Call gave up just 24 hits and eight earned runs.
On offense, Call was fourth on the team with a .333 average, including a .391 average in the postseason and .346 against in conference play, leading to him becoming the Camden Conference’s most valuable player.
“Alex has become our ace on the mound, pitching all of our important games,” said KMS head coach James Cortez. “Alex also has been solid at the plate for a freshman.”
Willmar, C/P, Sr.
Already a top-flight defensive catcher, Willmar’s Drey Dirksen put together a strong offensive season and became an ace on the mound.
In the batter’s box, Dirksen hit for a .341 average with 12 extra-base hits, including three triples and two home runs. He drove in a team-high 23 runs while scoring 12 times himself.
When not behind the plate on defense, Dirksen performed well on the hill, going 2-2 with two saves while recording 45 strikeouts and a 2.51 ERA.
After wrapping up his high-school career, Dirksen will play collegiately at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“Drey had one of the best seasons that a Willmar Cardinal baseball player has ever put together,” said Willmar head coach Tom DeBoer. “Offensively, defensively and on the mound, he was one of the most dominant players in the Central Lakes Conference. Most players are lucky to be good in one of those categories and Drey impacted the game in all three. His abilities as a catcher change the way that teams can play, as (that) all but eliminates the running game and he improves our pitching staff with his ability to call a game and block balls in the dirt. Drey is going to do good things at Augustana University in the future and I am excited to continue watching him improve.”
Paynesville, C/P, Jr.
On the mound and at the plate, Grady Fuchs was the driving force behind Paynesville’s third-place showing in the Class AA state tournament.
The Bulldogs junior was the team leader with a .403 batting average to go with a .449 on-base percentage, 19 RBIs and 13 runs. In the Class AA state tournament, Fuchs batted .556 with two doubles and a run scored in the third-place game against St. Peter.
When he went to the bump, Fuchs accounted for eight wins and three saves while compiling a sub-1.00 ERA and an area-best 94 strikeouts over 65-2/3 innings.
The best part for Paynesville: Fuchs will be back for one more season.
KMS, SS/P, Sr.
A two-time Class A All-State selection, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Weston Gjerde finds himself on the All-Area team for the first time after leading the Fighting Saints to uncharted territory.
Sporting a .380 average and a .443 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, Gjerde led the area with 40 runs scored for a KMS offense that led the area with 8.8 runs per game. But he was also capable of bringing runs in with 25 RBIs.
Gjerde also saw some time on the mound, going 1-1 with three saves and 41 strikeouts while sporting a 2.10 ERA. He capped off his prep career with a spot in the Class A All-Tournament Team. Gjerde also was an All-Camden Conference.
“Weston has been our team leader for four years at the varsity level,” said Saints head coach James Cortez. “(An) excellent defensive shortstop and productive leadoff hitter. A four-year starter that has been a part of three conference championships and a section runner-up. He brings strong energy to our team and is a coach on the field.”
Lac qui Parle Valley, P/3B, Sr.
When Lac qui Parle Valley needed someone to throw a big game, they leaned on Wyatt Halvorson.
Halvorson was 5-3 this season with a 1.97 ERA, a 1.30 WHIP and 74 strikeouts as the Eagles got to a do-or-die game for the Section 3A championship against Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg.
Looking to force an elimination game with the Saints with the section on the line, Halvorson had six strikeouts and limited KMS to one run on three hits over 6-2/3 innings.
Halvorson was also handy with the bat, hitting five home runs for 17 RBIs with a .260 average and a .500 on-base percentage. He also scored 23 runs.
An All-Camden Conference pick, Halvorson wraps up his high-school career ranked second in LQPV history for strikeouts in a season and career strikeouts.
Paynesville, SS, Sr.
As the main glove in the Paynesville infield, Luke Johnson was a Class AA All-State player for the second time in his prep career.
Batting in the middle of the Bulldogs’ order, Johnson hit for a .357 average with a .495 on-base percentage, .513 slugging percentage and a 1.008 on-base plus slugging. Johnson also managed to get seven extra-base hits including a home run to go with 20 RBIs and 22 runs scored.
Ending his prep career with a third-place fish at state, where he batted .667 with four RBIs and a pair of doubles, Johnson was selected to the Minnesota State High School League Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Series.
BOLD, CF, Sr.
A broken hand through the postseason didn’t keep Luke Ryan from being a problem for every team in BOLD’s path to a Class A state championship.
This spring, Ryan hit for a .311 average with a .435 on-base percentage while hitting for six doubles, a triple and a home run. And when he was limited to a single, Ryan would get himself in scoring position as evident of his 26 stolen bases. At the top of the batting order, Ryan scored 34 times while lifting the Warriors to a 20-5 record and a nod on the Class A All-Tournament team. He was also the West Central Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year to go with his All-Conference nod, his All-Section 2A pick and Class A All-State selection.
Ryan ends his high school career second in state history with 109 stolen bases, third in state history with a school-record 17 triples and first in school history with 124 runs.
“Luke is an unbelievable athlete who can change the game any time he is on base,” said BOLD head coach Brian Kingery. “Luke may be the best center fielder in the state. His range, instincts, arm and play-making ability saved countless runs for the Warrior pitching staff. Luke played through a broken hand during the state championship run and played very well.”
BOLD, C/P, Jr.
A classic individual performance in the Class A state championship — nine strikeouts in a complete-game one-hitter, 3-for-4 with two runs and an inside-the-park solo home run — capped off an incredible junior season for BOLD’s Jordan Sagedahl.
The key cog in the Warriors’ battery, Sagedahl had a .500 batting average with a .541 on-base percentage and 1.309 on-base plus slugging percentage thanks to nine doubles, a pair of triples and three home runs. He also drove in 34 runs while scoring 32 times and piling up 23 stolen bases.
On the mound, Sagedahl went 6-3 with a 1.19 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 59 innings.
His postseason awards included the West Central Conference’s Most Valuable Player, All-Section 2A, Class A All-State and Class A All-Tournament Team.
And he still has another season to add to that resume.
“Jordan is an elite player,” said BOLD head coach Brian Kingery. “He is a very good hitter, dominant pitcher and an unbelievable catcher. Jordan is one of the best players in the state and he had a great junior season. He played his best in the playoffs, hitting .714 with three home runs, 11 RBI and went 3-0 on the mound to lead the BOLD Warriors to a state championship.”
Minnewaska, SS/P/C, So.
Just a sophomore on the Minnewaska baseball roster, Darion Alexander pieced together a record season.
Going 4-2 with two saves as a pitcher, Alexander gave up just one earned run over 29 innings for a school record 0.24 ERA. He tallied 24 strikeouts while allowing just seven walks.
In the batter’s box, Alexander hit for a .356 average with a .576 slugging percentage and a 1.056 on-base plus slugging percentage. With four doubles, three triples and a home run, Alexander drove in 13 runs while scoring 20 himself. Helping the Lakers to a 14-5 record, Alexander was named All-West Central Conference as well as All-Section 3AA.
Lac qui Parle Valley, P/2B, Sr.
An All-Camden Conference pick, Lac qui Parle Valley’s Caden Bjornjeld could do a bit of everything for the Eagles.
Bjornjeld was .373 at the plate with a .455 on-base percentage with six doubles and a triple with 15 RBIs and 15 runs. He also was a talented pitcher, going 9-1 with a 3.02 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP with 35 strikeouts over 48-2/3 innings.
Montevideo, 3B/SS/P, Sr.
Thanks in large part to a strong spring from Noah Buseman, Montevideo was able to make a four-game improvement in 2019.
The senior infielder had a .377 average with 11 runs and 11 RBIs. And on the mound, he went 2-1 with a pair of saves to go with a 2.10 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 26-2/3 innings.
Buseman raked in several awards, being named All-West Central Conference, including the WCC’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also was a Class A Academic All-State pick as well as a Minnesota State High School League Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Series selection.
KMS, RF/P, Sr.
Regan Carlson is All-Area second team this spring, adding to his All-Camden Conference, Class A All-State, All-Section 3A and Class A Academic All-State awards.
Carlson’s biggest impact for Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg was on the mound where he went 6-0 with a minuscule ERA (0.91) and WHIP (0.91) with 43 strikeouts over 22-1/3 innings.
Also playing right field, Carlson hit .293 with a .451 on-base percentage with 24 RBIs and 16 runs.
ACGC, P/OF/IF, So.
Another youngster on the All-Area second team, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Josh Kingery was voted as the toughest hurler in the West Central Conference.
With a 5-1 record and a 1.65 ERA, Kingery struck out 87 over 46-2/3 innings, opponents hit .130 against Kingery as he was voted the WCC’s Pitcher of the Year. His biggest game came in the opening round of the Section 3AA playoffs where he struck out 15 with just two hits and one walk allowed in a extra-inning upset over Minnewaska.
At the plate, Kingery hit for a .283 average, a .472 on-base percentage and a .385 average with runners in scoring position.
Kingery was also a bit of an anomaly in the infield as a left-hander playing shortstop on his days off of pitching.
BBE, P/C, Jr.
Voted the team’s most valuable player for the second straight year while also being an All-Central Minnesota Conference pick, junior Jackson Peter got Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on the verge of the state playoffs with an appearance in the Section 6A finals.
Peter hit .342 with a .448 on-base percentage and a 1.037 on-base plus slugging percentage. He was able to move around the bases when he made contact with seven doubles, four triples and a home run while recording 21 runs and 14 RBIs.
Peter also pitched for the Jaguars, going 4-4 with a 1.48 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 40 strikeouts.
KMS, CF/P, Sr.
One of the top bats for Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, senior Dylan Rudningen did not disappoint in his senior season.
An All-Camden Conference and Class A All-State pick, Rudningen hit .392 with a 1.008 on-base plus slugging percentage, Rudningen had seven extra-base hits while tallying 32 runs, 22 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.
Seeing some time at pitcher, Rudningen had a 2-2 record with a save. He finished with 35 strikeouts, a 3.45 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP in 22-1/3 innings.
BOLD, SS/P, Sr.
The heart of BOLD’s lineup, according to head coach Brian Kingery, Hayden Tersteeg was an anchor in the Warriors’ infield while providing another solid arm on the mound.
Tersteeg hit for a .286 average and a .427 on-base percentage to go with 20 runs, 21 RBIs and a pair of home runs.
He also was 5-2 on the mound with a 1.57 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 44-2/3 innings.
Tersteeg rounded out his senior season as an All-West Central Conference, All-Section 2A, Class A All-Tournament team and Class A Academic All-State selection.
Litchfield, 2B/OF, Sr.
Senior Max Tibbits led Litchfield in RBIs and was second in runs while lifting the Dragons to a 15-6 record.
Tibbits hit for a .355 average with a .464 on-base percentage and a .992 on-base plus slugging percentage with nine doubles and a triple. He finished with 25 RBIs, 17 runs scored and eight stolen bases. He also walked more than struck out (11 walks to 10 strikeouts)
For his efforts, Tibbits was selected All-Wright County Conference and Academic All-Conference.
Note: Nominations were not received for Central Minnesota Christian, Dawson-Boyd, Hancock, New London-Spicer and Renville County West