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Healthy and pitching, Will Roguske hopes to keep it that way

In his return to the Stingers this summer, reliever Will Roguske has pitched in five of the team's 22 games.

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The Willmar Stingers' Will Roguske, right, fist-bumps teammate Brett Bateman during a Northwoods League game against the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday, June 19, 2022 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Tabbed on the Preseason All-State team before his senior baseball season at New London-Spicer (NLS) High School in 2019, relief pitcher Will Roguske had the opportunity to build on his school records as he entered his sixth year with the team.

However, things didn't go as planned for Roguske, who holds the most career strikeouts (186), hits (100) and consecutive games started (83) in NLS program history, as his senior year quickly came to a halt on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

In the Wildcats' second game of the 2019 season against Glencoe-Silver Lake, Roguske's elbow popped the second pitch of the first batter he faced in the second inning.

At that time, Roguske did not know it, but his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) had been torn and a long road to recovery awaited.

Roguske, in dismay at the time, did not want to believe that he had to get surgery, thinking he could do physical therapy and everything would be fine.

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That wasn't the case. Roguske did physical therapy for about three months leading into his first year of baseball at Illinois State, but as soon as he found himself pitching on the mound during the team's first practice, his arm still did not feel great.

"I got about three pitches in and then it popped again," Roguske said. "At that point, I knew there was something more wrong than what I thought."

Roguske had "Tommy John Surgery" to repair his UCL in October 2019, where he had a hard cast for two weeks before moving into a movable brace he wore until December 2019.

New London-Spicer pitcher Will Roguske delivers a pitch during the Wildcats' Class 2A state quarterfinal game against Pierz in St. Cloud on Thurdsay. Curt Hogg / Tribune
New London-Spicer pitcher Will Roguske delivers a pitch during the Wildcats' Class 2A state quarterfinal game against Pierz in 2017 in St. Cloud. West Central Tribune file photo

As his road to rehab began, there were daily tasks the doctors had Roguske try to complete.

"It was moving my arm to try and hold things over my head, be able to turn doorknobs," Roguske said."[Little] things that you would never think about in your day-to-day life until something happens and all of a sudden you can't do it anymore."

Roguske missed all in-game action in his first two spring seasons with the Redbirds (2020, 2021) due to his recovery.

He admittedly mentioned that it was hard being away from the mound, but his teammates at Illinois State made the recovery process better for him.

It wasn't until he joined Willmar's pitching staff in summer 2021 that Roguske would see action on the mound, in a game, for the first time since his senior year at NLS, or roughly 700 days, he said.

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"Being out for that long, you kind of lose your edge a little bit. You lose that fire and it takes a little bit to get back," Roguske said. "You just get so used to showing up to the field and watching."

Roguske saw action in six games with the Stingers in 2021. He pitched 6.1 innings, recording nine strikeouts, allowing eight hits, six walks and four earned runs against 34 batters.

Roguske still didn't feel fully recovered. It took until fall 2021 for him to confidently say he was healthy and that the injury was behind him.

In his third year with the Redbirds, Roguske continued to see no in-game action.

However, in his return to the Stingers this summer, Roguske has already played in six games and pitched in five of the team's 22 games.

Roguske, listed at 6-foot-1-inch, 206 pounds, has allowed 12 hits and six earned runs, striking out five and walking four against 43 batters.

"He's of those guys who brings it everyday," Willmar field manager Freddy Smith said of Roguske. "He's never going to be too high or too low. I think guys like that are very important, especially in the pitching staff."

With three years of college eligibility remaining, Roguske is starting to re-find consistency in his game.

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The redshirt freshman has pitched at least two innings in four of his five relief appearances. His ability to eat innings and throw strikes is what impresses Smith the most with Roguske.

"Having a guy that just comes in and throws strikes — with the regulations of the Northwoods League and pitch counts — that saves our bullpen, Smith said. "He helps our team out in numerous ways, not only on the pitching side."

Early on in the Stingers' third game of the season against the Eau Claire Express, catcher and Willmar native Drey Dirksen suffered a minor injury in the ninth inning with someone needing to fill his void.

While Smith looked to fill the void at catcher, Roguske mentioned to him that he had played catcher before.

Without hesitation, Smith told Roguske to gear up and get behind the plate.

Not expecting to play at all that evening, Roguske ran out to the plate and played without spikes.

"I probably had a big smile on my face the whole time," Roguske said. "It was a really fun experience that I'll probably remember more than any of the innings that I throw this year."

As the summer season progresses, Roguske wants to walk out of Willmar at the end of the summer feeling ready for his fourth season at Illinois State, and above all, stay healthy.

Roguske is grateful for the Stingers organization for allowing him the opportunity to continue playing baseball in his local area, despite all the time he has missed over the past few years.

This opportunity has allowed Roguske to continue connecting with his hometown community and allows him to look up in the stands and see people he knows, whether it is family, friends, or kids he has coached in youth baseball along the way.

"A lot of the kids are smart and know who the local boys are — the Drey Dirksens, the Andrew Baumgarts, the Will Roguskes," Smith said. "I think it's very cool having a guy like that, almost like a local hero playing for the Willmar Stingers. He's someone that these kids can look up to and say, 'Hey, I can be Will Roguske someday.'"

Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in May 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies. You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.

Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in May 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
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