Baseball preview: Cards start fresh in '23

Willmar enters the season with no returning starters after 14 players graduated last spring

Baseball roundup
Willmar junior Landon Ogdahl fist bumps his teammates as he is announced at the start of a matchup against the Little Falls Flyers at the Green Lakes Baseball Diamonds in Spicer on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — It has been a noteworthy run for the Willmar baseball team the past two seasons, which have included two Central Lakes Conference championships and a state berth in 2021, the fourth in school history.

The Cardinals have done it with a strong off-season program, a lot of work and a lot of top talent. And the bad news for Willmar is that the group that produced that success has graduated. Fourteen seniors and all of last year’s starting nine are long gone, diplomas in hand.

So, the Cardinals are starting fresh. Everyone on the field this spring will be seeing their first extended varsity time.

Tom DeBoer, in his ninth season as coach, thinks the Cards will be fine after going 10-4 in the CLC and 15-7 overall in ‘22.

“It has been an extremely competitive spring during practices so far, especially with every position on the field up for grabs,” DeBoer said. “We have a lot of young players (who) will be competing for time on the field this year.”


051122.S.WCT.Willmar Base DeBoer.JPG
Willmar head baseball coach Tom DeBoer meets with his players prior to a Central Lakes Conference game against Fergus Falls on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Some players to watch include Mattix Swanson, Cullen Gregory, Dylan Staska and Mason Thole.

Swanson is a senior outfielder/third baseman/pitcher.

“Mattix is a very athletic player (who) will help our team in a number of places,” DeBoer said. “He has had a great preseason and has been a great leader at practices with all of our underclassmen.”

Gregory is a junior infielder/pitcher who was the starting quarterback in football and a top player on the hockey team this school year.

“Cullen played in some games down the stretch last season for a conference championship team,” DeBoer said. ‘He brings the most varsity experience to the roster this year.

“He is a solid all-around player (who) will be a big contributor this spring.”

062922.S.WCT.Willmar VFW base Dylan Staska.JPG
Willmar's Dylan Staska runs to first base to get a force out during a VFW baseball game against Litchfield on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Staska is a junior utility man and pitcher who is coming off a strong VFW baseball season last summer.

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“Dylan is a well-rounded player (who) can contribute anywhere on the field defensively,” DeBoer said. “He will also see a lot of action on the mound.”


Thole is a junior catcher/pitcher.

“Mason started a handful of games behind the plate for our team last year and did a great job,” DeBoer said. “Gaining that experience as a sophomore will give him a big advantage heading into this season.”

Willmar Cardinals

April 11 at Sartell, 5 p.m.

April 13 vs. Rocori, 5 p.m. 

April 18 at Fergus Falls, 5 p.m.

April 20 at St. Cloud Crush, 7 p.m.

April 22 vs. Alexandria at Target Field

April 25 vs. Brainerd, 4 p.m. 


April 27 at Sauk Rapids, 5 p.m.

May 2 vs. Sartell, 5 p.m. 

May 4 at Rocori, 5 p.m.

May 9 vs. Fergus Falls, 5 p.m.

May 11 at Alexandria, 4 p.m.

May 16 vs. St. Cloud Crush, 5 p.m.

May 18 vs. Sauk Rapids, 5 p.m.

Tom Elliott has been the sports editor at the West Central Tribune since September 2019.
Contact him at or leave a message at 320-235-1150.
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