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West Central Tribune

2018 Prep Softball and Baseball Previews WILLMAR BASEBALL

Willmar ready for a challenge By Tom Larson The Willmar Cardinals would like to be competing for a Central Lakes Conference championship this season but their initial goal will be of a more narrow scope. “I am excited about the depth that we have across the diamond this year,” said fourth-year head coach Tom DeBoer. “We will have players competing at every position and depth in our pitching staff.” The Cardinals lose all but two wins from last year but DeBoer and his staff — assistant coaches Tyler Steen, Jake Rambow, Darrin Ditterich, Patrick Courtney and Brad Dean — have had time to develop seniors such as Zak


Catcher Drey Dirksen talks to pitcher Kaden Kessler-Gross on April 25 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. The game was suspended because of the rain at the bottom of the second with Fergus Falls leading 3-0.

Madsen, Jon Broman and Caleb Ditmarson and junior Drey Dirksen. All are back as starters this season. Dirksen, a 6-foot-4 catcher, was an All-CLC player in 2017, hitting .304 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and nine runs batted in. DeBoer is equally impressed with his work behind the plate. “Drey is a threat in the lineup and an even bigger threat defensively,” DeBoer said. Ditmarson was impressive in his six starts last year. He worked 34.2 innings and while he won just one of his four decisions, he finished the year with a 3.23 earned-run average and 25 strike



Willmar’s baseball team takes on St. Cloud Apollo in a Section 5AAA tournament match at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud on June 1, 2017.

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Young Cards will get their chance By Tom Larson The Willmar Cardinals will be seeking a big bounce-back year after finishing 2-11 in the Central Lakes Conference and 4-16 overall. That was a year after Willmar was 12-10 overall and 9-5, good for third place, in the CLC. The Cards will have to rely on a young, untested group of players to make their turnaround happen. “We will have a relatively new squad on the varsity with only two returning starters,” said Shannon Cayler, in her eighth season as head coach. “We have a very talented freshman group of girls who will be exciting to watch develop in the next few years.”

Those two returning starters are exceptional players to build around. Senior second baseman Jordyn Swoboda is a three-year varsity starter and one of the team’s top hitters the last two years. Swoboda hit .479 last year, with eight home runs, 22 runs batted in and 26 runs scored. She had a .519 on-base percentage and slugged .877. Junior infielder Hannah Johnson also was a high-value producer on offense. She hit .396 with a pair of home runs, 17 runs batted in and just five strikeouts in 58 plate appearances. After Swoboda and Johnson, the Cardinals will have to identify new starters



Willmar head coach Shannon Cayler surveys the field during a May 9 game against Brainerd at Willmar High School.


Willmar’s Jordyn Swoboda preps for an at-bat during a May 9 game against Brainerd at Willmar High School.


Willmar’s Jordyn Swoboda crosses home plate during a May 18 game against KMS in Murdock.

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outs. The 6-2 Ditmarson will be at third when he’s not on the mound. “Caleb has grown tremendously as a pitcher over the last two years and I expect him to have an outstanding season,” DeBoer said. Broman, a 5-11 shortstop, was AllCLC as a sophomore but his junior year was somewhat derailed by injuries. He hit .218 and drove in seven runs. Madsen, a 5-9 second baseman, will start after hitting .234 and scoring 11 runs last year. Jack Baumgart, who played regularly as a junior, will start at first base. On the mound, senior Brady Bau-

man and juniors Bryan Weidemann and Jayden Dierenfeld will get significant innings behind Ditmarson, DeBoer said. Weidemann worked 12.2 innings last year and had a 4.42 ERA, and Bauman worked 6.0 innings and had a 3.50 ERA. Dierenfeld didn’t work any varsity innings last year, but he and some other capable arms may get a chance to show their talents, DeBoer said. The CLC has several strong teams this year but the Cardinals have a chance to challenge them if the team comes together. “It will be a challenge competing against the likes of Alexandria, Brainerd, St Cloud Tech, Rocori and the other teams in the CLC,” DeBoer said. “But these guys are ready to take that step, and I think they will be up for it.”

But these guys are ready to take that step, and I think they will be up for it. – HEAD COACH TOM DEBOER


Willmar’s Drey Dirksen fields a throw for a play at the plate with a St. Cloud Apollo base runner during a Section 5AAA playoff game at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud June 1, 2017.


Caleb Ditmarson throws a pitch in a Section 5AAA tournament game at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud on June 1, 2017.


Catcher Willmar’s Jon Broman gets Alexandria’s Michael Kuhn out at second base during a 2017 game at Bill Taunton Stadium.

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Willmar’s Hannah Johnson follows through on a swing in a May 18 game against KMS in Murdock.

We have a lot of athletes who have the potential, so we have to see who is ready to step in and take on that challenge. – HEAD COACH SHANNON CAYLER

CHANCE From Page D2

from a group of seniors and others with junior varsity experience. Cayler’s assistants, Taylor Steen, Andrea Banks and Christian Brown, have been working with the newer varsity players, and they will get a long look in preseason practice. Freshman Mackenzie Jones has pitched JV ball the last two years and will form a familiar battery with catcher Makenna Hogan. “The two have worked together for the last two years in JV and have seen


great success at that level,” Cayler said. Seniors Natalie Amon, Josie Muller and Abby Volk will be working to fill other spots in the lineup. Sophomores and freshmen will be tasked with stepping up and earning a starting nod, Cayler said. “We will be looking closely at who will be offensive leaders,” Cayler said. “We need to get players on the varsity who will drive the ball and get on base. We fell apart on offense last year, and so we will be putting kids in the lineup who will be strong offensively. We have a lot of athletes who have the potential, so we have to see who is ready to step in and take on that challenge.”

Willmar’s Jordyn Swoboda is greeted by teammates following a home run against KMS May 18 in Murdock.

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BBE ready for tough CMC battle By Jake Schultz BBE returns nine starters that should prove to be helpful for first-year head coach Gerald Schmitz. Cassandra Tensen (Jr., P) has been the go-to pitcher for the Jaguars since the school started offering softball again just two years ago and she will once again be the one BBE looks to. She’ll have some competition, though, with Jenna Dingmann (So., P) vying for innings. Morgan Gronli (Sr., SS) and Sarah Schmitz (Sr., 2B) create a dynamic

middle infield with a contact-friendly offensive ability, batting .338 and .317 last year, respectively. Josie Knutson (Fr., C) is one of the players to watch for the Jaguars. As just an eighth grader in 2017, Knutson batted .317 while providing good defense behind the plate. The Jaguars won’t have an easy go of it with perennial powerhouses Maple Lake, Kimball and Pierz rearing to go in the Central Minnesota Conference, but limiting defensive errors could help BBE work their way up the standings.


BBE catcher Sarah Schmitz fields a throw during a play at the plate as Paynesville’s Emily Porter slides into home in an April 22 game held in Brooten.


BBE’s Cassandra Tensen fires a pitch during an April 22 game against Paynesville in Brooten.


BBE’s Morgan Gronli makes contact during an April 22 game against Paynesville in Brooten.

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Eight Jaguar starters return By Curt Hogg For each of the last two seasons, the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa baseball team has been among the top teams in Section 6A with extended flashes of success. This time around, the Jaguars are looking for a state tournament appearance. With eight returning starters across the diamond, BBE will have its sights high once again after winning seven playoff games over the last two years. Adam Jaeger (Sr., C) and Ryan Illies (Jr., SS) make up the lone two returning senior starters. Jaeger is a four year starter that also pitches, posting a 2.21 ERA last year to go along with a .880 OPS. BBE’s junior class is where most of its starters are. Players like Payton VanBeck, Thaniel Cebulla, Evan Wiener, Dylan Meyer and Abe Peter will again be key contributors for the Jaguars. Jackson Peter (So., IF) started as a freshman and plays around the field to round out the team’s eight returning starters.


BBE’s Abe Peter celebrates with his teammates after scoring during a May 19 game against Minnewaska in Elrosa.

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BBE’s Jackson Peter warms up during a May 19 game against Minnewaska in Elrosa.

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Mustangs to lean on trio By Curt Hogg A young Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart team is back to improve on a 4-14 campaign one season ago. Dylan Maiers will shoulder much of the load on the mound while Nathan Schultz and Stefan Johnson return to lead the way at the plate.

Maiers recorded the most innings of any Mustangs pitchers one season ago as a freshman, logging 38.2 innings with an ERA of 5.43. Striking out 34 and walking 11, Maiers displayed solid command of the zone and could be a breakout pitching candidate this year. Schultz (Jr., C) led the team with

a .341 batting average last year and striking out just five times in 49 plate appearances. Johnson (Sr., 2B) will hit at the top of the lineup a year after hitting .318 last year. Other returning starters include Dane Daak (Sr., OF), Elijah Stifter (So., SS) and Mitchell Krumrey (So., 1B).


Sting build on strong finish By Tom Larson Yellow Medicine East has plenty of positives to draw on from the 2017 season as the Sting enter 2018 looking to improve on an 8-11 overall record and an 8-8 finish in the Camden North. The Sting opened 2017 with a 1-6 mark before regrouping and winning seven of nine. They lost two one-run, eight-inning games to end the regular season before being eliminated by Paynesville in the Section 3AA playoffs. Head coach Trevor Schulte, in his eighth season, said the team has several open spots but has a core of four experienced seniors back, led by senior infielders Nicky Lindstrom and

Cole Richter. Bryce Schmidt returns as a senior outfielder and Asa Ulferts will man an infield spot and also be counted on to pitch. Schulte will take a long look at several other players to round out his regular lineup. Those players include: Dalton Anderson, a junior infielder and pitcher; Ayden Friese, a junior outfielder; Bennett Knapper, a junior infielder and pitcher; Derious McBee, a junior outfielder; Ethan Peterson, a junior outfielder; Tate Schulte, a junior outfielder and pitcher; Alex Formo, a sophomore outfielder; Jerrod Martin, a sophomore infielder and outfielder; Quintin Staab, a sophomore outfielder;


Sting seek fruits of rebuilding labors By Tom Larson A look at the records from last year wouldn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in most teams, but that’s not the case at Yellow Medicine East. Jen Sneller, in her sixth season as head coach, said the Sting have been retooling the team and believes YME is ready to break out. “After a couple of rebuilding years the Sting softball players are opti-

mistic that this will be the season for change,” said Sneller, whose team was 1-21 overall last season. Sneller has a veteran group of starters back that includes five seniors, and four of her returners may be ready to step into pitching duties. Senior Hailey Cobb in set at pitcher and outfielder and senior Kaitlyn Mortenson will pitch and play shortstop.

Senior Cassie Weir will be behind the plate and senior Anne Clarke will start at second base. Senior Chelsey Neimeyer can also pitch and will play in the outfield. Junior Hannah Gullickson, who also can pitch, will be at first base. Sophomores Megan Nordaune (third base), Tiana Rupp (second base) and Marley Lara (outfield) are expected to contribute this season.

Angel Jimenez, a sophomore infielder and pitcher; and Carter Sneller, a sophomore infielder and catcher. “With only two players returning (Lindstrom and Richter) that have significant varsity Experience and Schmidt and Ulferts seeing limited varsity action, we have many open spots and unanswered questions at the varsity level,” Schulte said. “The positive is that our underclassmen have performed at a high level over the course of their (junior varsity) experience. We will be relying heavily on our underclassmen to continue to improve their skills and quickly develop into leaders and varsity level competitors.”

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Benson’s Sam Lundebrek makes contact during a May 23 game against ACGC in Atwater.

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Braves’ rebuilding effort continues in 2018

By Curt Hogg A young and inexperienced Benson team took its lumps but also saw signs of growth in its first year under head coach Eric Hulterstrum. Now for 2018, the Braves’ outlook centers on building on the positives from a 2-17 campaign. A majority of Benson’s top hitters from a season ago are back as a part of the team’s five returning starters. Danny Lenarz (Sr., P/SS) led the way

with a .771 OPS on a team that otherwise had a collective .563 OPS. Jared Knutson (Jr., C), Matthew Tolifson (So., 2B/SS), Lane Geyer (Sr., 3B) and Aaron Zosel (Sr., OF). After starting at shortstop as a freshman, Tollifson is certainly a player to keep his eye on for continued growth. Lenarz will anchor the rotation, as well, in his third year as a starter as the Braves look for arms to come around him.

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Benson’s Dan Lenarz fires a second inning pitch against ACGC in a May 23 game in Atwater.

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Senior-heavy Braves ready to swing By Jake Schultz Benson is ready for a year of growth after saying goodbye to Nicole Berens, an All-Area honorable mention talent who batted .410 last season. It’s not all doom-and-gloom, however. The Braves return Mackenzie Kurkosky (Sr., P), Liz Staton (Sr., 3B/ SS), Courtney McNeill (Sr., OF) and Grace Lee (Sr., 1B) in their battle to

work their way back up the West Central Conference standings. Kurkosky will be a key player for Benson as the person in the center of the field. She will compete with fellow senior Emily Miller (Sr., P) for time in the circle. Kurkosky also excelled with the bat, though, hitting .333 last season with a .404 on-base percentage. Staton has battled injury this school year which has kept her sidelined at

various points but she will play a big role for the Braves when she’s on the left side of the field. She posted a .302/.403/.434 slash line last season with seven doubles and 12 runs batted in. Basketball standout Kaitlyn Berreau (So., OF) also represents a crop of underclassmen that could crack the lineup.


Bluejays sporting new look this spring By Curt Hogg A first-year head coach and five returning starters headline the Prinsburg Nine this spring. Brandon Haan, also the Central Minnesota Christian athletic director, takes over for former head coach Bob Stoel as the man in charge of the Bluejays. His team will rely heavily on returning starters Jake Meyer (Sr., OF/P), Micah


Central Minnesota Christian’s Jacob Meyer throws a pitch during a May 2 game against KMS in Prinsburg.

Vander Beek (Sr., P/IF), Mason Dehmlow (Sr., C/OF), Jay Marcus (So., OF) and Tucker Dehmlow (So., OF). Meyer and Vander Beek are back as CMCS’ two most experienced starting pitchers, with the latter slotted to be the team’s top hurler. The elder Dehmlow will handle catching duties while Marcus looks to spark the lineup with a high on-base percentage and speed on the bases.

The former head coach isn’t the only Stoel no longer around this year’s Bluejays. Tanner Stoel led the area in batting average (.471) and OBP (.618) last season but graduated from the program — as did three of the team’s other top five hitters. Still, CMCS will look to reload a year after going 9-8 and winning its first two playoff games.


Central Minnesota Christian pitcher Micah Vander Beek delivers a pitch during a May 2 game against KMS in Prinsburg.

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Falcons soaring high CURT HOGG / TRIBUNE

ACGC’s Jeremy Nelson follows through on a swing during a May 26 game against St. Clair in Atwater.

By Curt Hogg Mike Kingery’s ACGC Falcons are back and, they hope, better than ever. The Falcons return nine seniors to a team that won 16 games and reached the Section 2A championship last season. Chief among those seniors may be pitcher Kobe Holtz, who returns as an All-State and All-Area first team player on the power of his right arm. Holtz posted a 2.31 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 57.2 innings as a junior but was at his best in the Falcons’ playoff run, when

the right-hander went 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA and wins over top-10 teams in BOLD and Springfield. David Kingery (Sr., SS/P) and Jaren Kaddatz (Sr., C) return as All-Section 2A players and could form a battery throughout the year. In 20.1 innings a year ago, Kingery posted a 2.01 ERA. Noah Cunningham (Sr., UT) and Josh Kinzler (So., UT) are ACGC’s two other returning starters. With good numbers throughout the program, the Falcons will look to their depth to round out the remainder of one of the area’s most promising teams.


Wilner leads returning ACGC starters

By Jake Schultz ACGC graduated six players from last year’s team but anytime you can bring back a member of the All Area first team, you have to feel pretty good heading into the season. Rylie Wilner (Sr., CF) is one to watch for after her outstanding junior season where she posted a .565 batting average and an OPS of 1.589 with 13 doubles and five home runs. She already holds a number of single season school records and will look to extend her career

records of hits and total bases in 2018. Her defensive prowess also makes her one of the area’s best in recent years. The Falcons had to say goodbye to Maree Lee and Micayla Hobson, who combined for 35 runs batted in with a .416 and .351 batting average, respectively, but ACGC should still have some pop this season with Lindsey Minnick (Jr., OF) and Sydni Hoffmann (Sr., IF). Alex Hovey (Sr., IF) and Madison Denton (Sr., OF) round out the returning starters in a year of promise for the Falcons.


An ACGC hitter makes contact during a May 2, 2017 game against Montevideo in Grove City.

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Experienced pitching set to guide Blackjacks By Jake Schultz Dawson-Boyd returns with a juniorheavy team ready to compete in the Camden Conference in 2018. Mary Bothun (Jr., P) will play a major role in the Blackjacks’ hopes after returning from a solid sophomore season. She led the team with a .442 batting average and 12 extra base hits while providing some ability from the pitching rubber.

Ashley Borstad (Sr., P) will join Bothun in the pitching circle, which should represent one of the team’s strengths according to Dawson-Boyd head coach John Nevins. Kia Jordahl (So., IF) will be another player to look out for on the offensive side. She batted .315 last year and also held the team lead in on-base percentage as a freshman, a feat she’ll look to repeat this season.


Dawson-Boyd senior pitcher Ashley Borstad tosses a warm-up pitch during a recent practice outside Dawson-Boyd High School.


Strong pitching staff is Blackjacks’ focal point


Dawson-Boyd’s Alex Swenson dives safely into home plate in a 2016 game against BBE.

By Curt Hogg Led by a core group of seniors, Dawson-Boyd will look to improve upon its 10-7 record and second seed in Section 3A North from one season ago. Seniors Alex Swenson (P/C/UT), Austin Schmitt (P/SS), Tyler Franzky (1B/2B), Brendon Nelson (OF) and Nick Thompson (P/3B) make up five of the Blackjacks’ six returning starters. Keaton Schuelke (Jr., UT) is the lone non-senior that returns as a starter for D-B. Alex and Austin will be a one-two punch atop the rotation after recording ERAs of 1.39 and 1.88 last season, respectively, and combining to throw over 50 innings. As a sophomore in 2016, Schmitt threw 33 innings with a 1.91 ERA, as well.

Pitching was not at all a problem for D-B a year ago as it limited opponents to three runs per game and that looks to be the case this season, even after losing seniors like Braden Thompson. The Blackjacks will look to improve at the plate after averaging 4.8 runs per game. With Swenson, Schmitt, Franzky and Thompson in the infield, the Blackjacks will put an experience group on the diamond each game, as all four have at least four years of varsity experience. Kolten Linblad (Jr., OF) joins Schuelke as a junior with varsity experience and head coach Daren Swenson will look for contributions from the likes of Cody Stock (Jr., OF), Griffin Johnson (So., UT), Brenden Stultz (UT) and Colby Deuth (So., OF).

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Eagles eye Camden Conference showdown


Lac qui Parle Valley’s softball team huddles to discuss a drill during a recent practice at Lac qui Parle Valley High School.

By Jake Schultz It’s rare that a team from the Camden Conference can grab the title from KMS but Lac qui Parle Valley is aiming to be the first Camden champions since Dawson-Boyd in 2010. The Eagles return six starters, including a pair of shutdown pitchers and and well-stocked lineup that should be battling for a conference title and spot in the Section 3A final. Haley Wollschlager (Jr., P) and Maddy Patzer (Sr., P) return to try and baffle batters as they did last year. Wollschlager and Patzer buoyed a mini-rotation that went 12-0 during a stretch that only allowed 11 runs. Patzer finished the year with a 2.10 ERA, just better than Wollschlager’s mark of 2.52. Wollschlager also tacked on 63 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched. On top of the defense, however, the

Eagles showed stretches of dominant offense with a deep lineup and return most of that in 2018. Taniah Tosel is gone after a senior season where she batted .430 with five triples, two home runs and 32 runs batted in, as is pitcher-turned-utility infielder Kylee Larsen, who sported a .407 on-base percentage. Nevertheless, the Eagles will still have Kelsea Lund (Sr., SS) who batted .444 with 38 runs scored and eight doubles and Sidney Gerdes (So., C) who scored 21 times with a .362 batting average and .452 on-base percentage. Wollschlager also has a proven mean streak with the bat, recording a .387 batting average with 26 runs scored and 19 RBI. Jenna Burkleo (Sr., OF) will be a player to look out for as well, having sported a .415 batting average and a .509 on-base percentage.


Eagles stressing offense in 2018 By Curt Hogg Offense, offense, offense. That is the focus for Lac qui Parle Valley as it enters the 2018 season looking to find ways to score more runs this year than last spring. The good news for the Eagles is that they only lost one player from last season’s team that won four playoff games and reached the loser’s bracket final. The bad news is that player was its top hitter and pitcher, Cole Bungarden. Still, LQPV has two of its top pitchers

back in junior Wyatt Halvorson and senior Peyton Mortenson, while sophomore Caden Bjornjeld, senior Braiden Kittelson and senior Evan Benson round out the team’s staff. Benson will be part of a lineup that is needed to improve upon its .208 batting average from one year ago if the Eagles are to contend in the Camden Conference and Section 3A. Benson hit .295 with a .396 OBP and two home runs, so he along with Kittelson and Mortenson will be key figures atop the LQPV lineup.


Lac qui Parle Valley’s Peyton Mortenson watches a ball during a recent practice at Lac qui Parle Valley High School.

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Dragons looking to catch fire in 2018

By Curt Hogg An experienced infield and pitching staff headline a Litchfield team looking to build on a second-place finish in the Wright County West one year ago. Seniors Andrew Loch (P/SS), Afton Kaping (P/1B) and Ezra Kaping (P/ IF) are elder statesmen anchoring the infield while the versatility of juniors Owen Boerema (P/1B/CF) and Max Tibbits (2B/OF) allows for Dragons head coach Jeff Wollin to use a variety of defensive lineups. John Kiehn (Sr., C/1B) rounds out the six returning starters for Litchfield,

which is looking to replace graduating seniors in the outfield and at catcher. Riley DeWolf (Sr., 1B/OF) was a parttime starter as a junior before re-injuring his shoulder and aggravating it during football season. He is looking to return this season to create depth for the Dragons with the likes of Joe Pennertz (Jr., P/1B), Ryan Schultz (Jr., OF/3B) Jacob Schneider (Jr., C/OF), Josh Johnson (Jr., OF/P) and more. With successful junior varsity and summer VFW teams last year, Litchfield is hoping its younger players are able to step into the vacant roles on the team.


Hard-hitting Dragons hope to take next step By Jake Schultz Jasmin Estrada (Sr., SS) is committed to play at St. Cloud State University but before she reaches the next step of her playing career she’s looking to guide the Litchfield Dragons to greener pastures. Estrada is the one that will draw the attention of most pitchers, after a junior year where she smacked eight home runs for a .484 batting average and a jaw-dropping 1.637 OPS. If pitchers decide to walk her, as they did 18 times last season, they will have other mighty Dragons to contend with. Kristin Jones (Sr., OF) and Sydney Braaten (So., OF) will be players to look out for after recording 21 and 18 hits, respectively. Maddy Larson (Sr., P) will continue to be the workhorse for the Dragons in the pitching circle. She logged nearly

130 innings pitched last season and will be looked to yet again to slow down the potent offenses in the Wright County Conference.


Litchfield’s Jasmin Estrada fields a throw to try and nab a base stealer during an April 6, 2017, game in Litchfield.


Litchfield’s Ezra Kaping evades a pitch during a May 22 game against New London-Spicer in Spicer.

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Tigers after another WCC title


Morris/Chokio-Alberta’s Whitney DeMaris readies to throw in an April 28 game against New London-Spicer.

By Jake Schultz Morris/Chokio-Alberta graduated eight players from last year’s team but when you have a coach with 548 wins to her 38-year career, you tend not to worry too much. Mary Beth Holmberg will look to guide the Tigers right back to a West Central Conference title as she did last year, albeit with a drastically different cast. Bailey Marty (Jr., SS) is the leading returner, having hit .342 with 37 runs, two doubles and three triples, in addition to an excellent glove at shortstop. Marty was once the Tigers’ catcher but Emma Bowman (Fr., C), stepped in nicely last year to help the team defense as a whole. As an eighth grad-

er, Bowman knocked in 15 runs with a .329 batting average and will hope to continue to improve in her first full year behind the plate. Liz Dietz (Jr., P/3B) was a showstopper offensively, hitting .339 with three home runs, but the Tigers will need her to be just as successful in the pitching circle, needing to replace Brooke Gillespie, who graduated last season. Jenna Howden (Sr., OF) should provide some pop after missing nearly all of last season with injury. In only four at-bats, however, she left an impression with a home run and a double. Karly Fehr (Sr., OF) and Whitney DeMaris (Sr., 3B) will also play big parts in the Tigers’ quest for another section title.


Tigers replacing 13 seniors By Tom Larson Morris/Chokio-Alberta will have a tough road ahead as the Tigers try to get back to their winning ways after a 9-13 season in 2017 and a 4-10 mark in the West Central Conference. Morris/CA will need to replace 13 seniors from that team, and they’ll be counting on five seniors and a junior to be the core of this season’s squad. Parker Dierks (5-foot-10, senior) will catch but can also play shortstop and pitch. Dierks threw out 10 of 14 base stealers and he ended 2017 on a tear, hitting .444 in the postseason. “He returns one year stronger and better,” said third-year head coach Kirby Sayles. “We look forward to him carrying (the strong postseason performance) into this year.” Jaret Johnson (6-3, junior) can play first base, second and he can pitch. He had a solid junior varsity season, Sayles said. “He brings a ton of athleticism and enthusiasm to our varsity team this

year,” Sayles said. “Batting leadoff last year, he had a batting average over .400. He will be a great hitter and fielder for our team this year.” Tyler Reimers (5-10, senior) will hold down second base this season at the varsity level. “Tyler was a JV rock last year and is going to be a well-deserved senior starter this year. His work ethic is unmatched and his fielding is superb. He is a top-of-the-order hitter and consistently gets on base and sets the table for the rest of the team.” Sayles also will be looking for solid performances from a trio of seniors: Chandler Vogel, a 5-10 pitcher; Alex Daugherty, a 6-0 outfielder; and Brock Anderson, a 6-1 outfielder. “We have a team that is very eager to improve themselves and be a strong team in the conference,” Sayles said. “We have a lot of talent, from senior leaders all the way to incoming freshmen and we look forward to the level of competition that this brings.”


Morris/Chokio-Alberta’s Parker Dierks throws to second base during a playoff game against Montevideo.

West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn. — Thursday, April 5, 2018 D15


Warriors need to fill large shoes By Jake Schultz The BOLD Warriors have their eyes set on a bounce-back season after a middling 11-11 record last season. Despite the average record, though, the Warriors showed stretches of undeniable pop, and they will look to provide more of that this season, despite losing a pair of all-area first team-caliber players. The powerful offense will be missing catcher Elsa Skeie and pitcher/infielder Morgan Flann after graduation, but nevertheless return five starters from

last year’s lineup. Brenna Weis (So., SS) and Makenna Steffel (Jr., OF) proved in limited plate appearances last year they could handle the bat but they will also look to Taylor Sagedahl (Sr., P), Devyn O’Halloran (Jr., IF) and Emily Sheehan (Sr., OF) to pick up the slack. Pitching will also be vital, as inconsistency plagued the Warriors last season. Sagedahl will carry most of the load this year after splitting innings with Flann in 2017. She showed flashes with 67 strikeouts in 84-2/3 innings pitched but it will be key for her to find control for a successful 2018.


BOLD’s Taylor Sagedahl warms up her pitching motion during a 2017 practice in Olivia.


Talented, deep Warriors back for more


BOLD’s Riley Weis rounds third and heads for home during an April 3, 2017, game against Lac qui Parle Valley in Bird Island.

By Curt Hogg A year of state-title promise came to a screeching halt in the section playoffs for BOLD last season. After graduating only one starter from their 19-4 2017 team, the Warriors still have a young-but-fiercely-talented squad. With nine of the team’s top 10 contributors back from one season ago, five of which were All-Area performers, it may be best to just run down the players to watch. Luke Ryan (Jr., CF) is coming off an incredible sophomore campaign in which he reached base at a .516 clip, hit eight triples and stole 40 bases in 40 attempts. Ryan’s slugging percentage of .681 was tops in the area by nearly 80 points. James Woelfel (Sr., C/P) joins Ryan as

the Warriors’ other returning All-Area first teamer after posting a 1.19 ERA and 1.154 OPS. Woelfel is joined in a deep starting rotation by Hayden Tersteeg (Jr., P/SS), Matt Moorse (So., P/OF) and Jordan Sagedahl (So., P/UT). None had an ERA higher than 3.18 last season. They can all hit as well; Tersteeg batted .418 and Sagedahl hit .338, for example. And then there are Riley Weis (Jr., 1B/P), who led the area with three home runs last year, Cade Morse (Jr., LF/P), a solid fielder with 78 plate appearances as a sophomore and senior utility man Sam Marks. Returning most of its rotation from a team with a 2.03 ERA last season, the Warriors will look to ride their strengths both on the mound and at the plate to success

D16 Thursday, April 5, 2018 — West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn.











West Central Tribune

2018 Prep Softball and Baseball Previews NLS BASEBALL

‘Cats deliver one-two punch Opposite forces Roguske and Spaulding are NLS’ frightening force By Curt Hogg New London-Spicer’s one-two punch in the starting rotation is also its yin and yang. Seemingly opposite forces in the way they go about business on the mound, Will Roguske and Matt Spaulding are also incredibly complementary for the Wildcats. For opponents, it’s frighteningly complementary. “There’s many ways to get batters out,” Roguske said. “Find one you’re good at and continue to do it until you’re good at it. Then go out on the mound at compete.” Both Roguske and Spaulding discovered their own most effective ways to get batters out and then got good at it. Really good. All-Area first-team honorees last season, Roguske and Spaulding helped carry the Wildcats to the first state

tournament appearance in program history on their right arms. Roguske, a junior committed to play Division I baseball at Illinois State, was the starter in the state quarterfinal game and struck out 68 batters and recorded a 1.51 ERA in 55.2 innings on the year. Spaulding, a senior, posted a 1.55 ERA in 54.1 innings while walking just 13 batters. “I like to think that pretty much every game we’ll play, we’ll be the stronger pitching team, especially for the area,” NLS head coach Michael Thompson said. Roguske and Spaulding are similar in that they both get lots of outs on the hill, but it’s how they go about getting them that couldn’t be much more different. Working with a power fastball in the mid-80s and a lethal mix of off-speed options, only 128 of the 229 batters Roguske faced in 2017 put the ball in


New London-Spicer’s Will Roguske pitches in the state tournament against Pierz in 2017.

play. Spaulding, on the contrary, had 186 of his 238 batters faced put the ball in play — a clip of 78.9 percent to Roguske’s 55.9 percentage. “With Matt, it’s all about command,” Thompson said. “He’s got to work ahead in the count so his other pitches play up, work the corners. He’s not going to blow it by a ton of hitters, which is something Will can do sitting in the upper 80s. And then Will adds the changeup, curveball, slider and it’s just a lot.” Spaulding has never been the hardest thrower, so early on he learned to live on the outside corner, preferably down in the zone, to generate weak contact. Seeing the results, the right-hander stuck with it. “I want to let them hit it soft,” Spaulding said. “I realized that my positioning on the ball and where I throw on the plate is going to affect

where they hit it. I noticed down-andout was very effective.” Spaulding brings a mid-70s fastball in addition to a curveball and, largely at the urging of his fellow ace, has been working on developing a changeup. “Having Will around, he’s like a player-coach,” Spaulding said. Roguske hasn’t only been trying to convince his rotation mate to add a changeup, either. “I’ve tried to teach it to all of our pitchers from eighth grade up to here,” Roguske said. “It’s a really effective pitch. It’s one of the best pitches you can throw. It’s not going to take a toll on your arm like a curveball, too.” Perhaps the repertoire addition will lead to an increase in Spaulding’s strikeouts from 25. If not, he’s fine once again relying on his defense. “I just pitch to the outside of the



New London-Spicer’s Matt Spaulding throws a pitch at Green Lake Diamond in Spicer in 2017.


E2 Thursday, April 5, 2018 — West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn.

Boys Varsity Baseball Team

Girls Varsity Softball Team

West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn. — Thursday, April 5, 2018 E3


Jaguars developing existing talent By Tom Larson Renville County West will be looking to rebound from a 3-13 season in 2017 and a 3-8 mark in the Camden Conference, Head coach Randy Schaub, with 328 wins in his 32 years in coaching — 28 of them at RCW — knows it’s tough sledding in small-school baseball. “There is no such a thing as rebuilding in a small-enrollment school,” Schaub said. “You simply play the guys you have tried to develop in your program and hope you have enough to have a team. We have never tried to convince our athletes to play a specific sport. We just need them to participate in one of our programs in each season.” Schaub has several multisport players on his 2018 roster, including seven who started last season. Many of them played significant roles on the Jaguars’ successful basketball team this winter. Back are Trent Kjersten (5-foot-7, senior), who is asked to play shortstop, second base and centerfieldd in addition to pitching. Tony Froland (6-5, senior) is a prototypical first baseman and he also will


Trio of seniors set to guide Jaguars By Jake Schultz Tim Tanner brings back four starters for Renville County West as he enters his 10th year as the Jaguar head coach. Emma Rice (Sr., P/1B) joins fellow

seniors Sam Schneider (Sr., IF) and Morgan Haen (Sr., UT) looking to guide the Jaguars. Pam Winzenburg (Jr., IF) will help provide some pop as RCW looks to flip their 2017 record of 8-13 in a tightly contested Camden Conference.

be among Schaub’s pitching staff. Spencer Wohlman (5-10, senior) will get some innings on the mound and play third base, and Jacob Grund (5-7, junior) will catch and may get some time at the hot corner. Justin Schrupp (6-1, junior) will pitch and play shortstop and second base, and Jack Howard (5-9 sophomore) will pitch, catch and play some third. Another sophomore, Corbin Wohlman (5-10) is expected to get time at second and on the mound. Schaub also will break in some younger players, saying that two freshmen, Brandon Hoberg and Jake Haney, will likely break into the starting lineup and play, and that eighth-grader Tyler Froland “will start somewhere.” “I expect we will be better because of experience and physical and mental growth,” Schaub said. “We have a good influx of talent from our junior high. We are far from physically imposing and that’s always a big factor. Every year is different, with weather and injuries. We always hope to surprise people with our development as players and as a team.”

E4 Thursday, April 5, 2018 — West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn.


Strong foundation key for Bulldogs By Tom Larson Paynesville was 13-11 last year, including a solid 9-5 mark in the Central Minnesota Conference, and the Bulldogs won a pair of Section 3AA playoff games before being eliminated by an 18-win Luverne team that pushed section champ New London-Spicer to a second game in the finals. But head coach Brad Skoglund, who has amassed 420 wins in his 31 seasons, will have just three starters back from his 2017 club. But those three are a good foundation for putting together another winning Bulldogs team. Zach Schroeder (5-foot-10, junior) anchors an outfield spot and hit .304 last year. Grant Ludwig (5-11, senior) will play third base and pitch. He hit .239 in 2018. And Sam Oehrlein (5-10, junior) will be one of the squad’s primary pitchers and also play centerfield after hitting .254 last year. “We have good overall team speed,” Skoglund said. “We appear to be able to glove up and play some solid defense. In the pitching department we have great depth. We need a couple of pitchers to really step it up. Timely hitting

as always is so important and hopefully this team will hit the ball when needed.” Paynesville has some impressive players Skoglund hopes emerge this season. Sam Hopfer (5-9, senior) will play second base and has good hands. Spencer Imholte (5-11, senior) will be one of the Bulldogs’ pitchers after winning three games last year while displaying excellent control. Zack Osendorf (6-2, senior) is a strong-armed catcher and Matt Lieser (6-2, senior) is a solid all-around player who can play third or in the outfield. Luke Johnson (5-10, junior) has excellent hands at shortstop and Jared Campbell (6-4, senior) will play first base and also see some time on the mound. Skoglund said he has 10 other players who will push for varsity spots, including four who will by vying for time on the mound. “The Central Minnesota Conference is an outstanding baseball conference,” Skoglund said, noting that Pierz and Maple Lake are the prohibitive CMC favorites this spring.


Ryan Illies, left, attempts to stop the ball as Paynesville’s Sam Oehrlien slides into second base.


Paynesville hopes experience translates to wins


Paynesville’s Grace Lange fires a pitch in an April 21 game against BBE in Brooten.

By Tom Larson Paynesville had a rough go of it in 2017, finishing with a 3-17 record. But the Bulldogs’ tough times may pay dividends this season. The Bulldogs lost just one senior from last season and two of their top offensive talents are back this year to lead a promising group of seniors and younger players, said Tim Woehler, who has a 201-161 mark in his 18 years as head coach. “Last year we started as many as five freshmen so we are looking for much improvement from last year,” Woehler

said. “Hopefully that translates in to wins.” Seniors Bailey Woehler and Molly Stang will lead the Bulldogs offensively. Bailey Woehler has been a top talent for two years and Stang broke through in her junior year as a offensive threat. Seniors Grace Lange, Emily Porter and Sarah Schaefer have another year of seasoning and are prepared to contribute. “Also several younger players will get their shots as well,” Tim Woehler said. “The other seniors are showing marked improvement, as well.”

West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn. — Thursday, April 5, 2018 E5


KMS has tools needed to reload By Jake Schultz For the first time in recent years, KMS will look to somebody other than Samantha Gjerde in the pitching circle. Rest assured, though, longtime Saints coach Eileen Suter (438-154) will have a plan. Katie Krieger (Jr., 2B/P/CF) is the only one with varsity pitching experience with five innings pitched last year and will compete with Annika Smith (Jr., P/IF), Claire Hague (So., P/IF), Haylee Johnson (So., P/2B) and Maret Gjerde (Fr., P/CF) for the spot in the circle. Regardless of who gets the ball, though, each player has plenty of experience at other positions and will battle to make the deep roster.

Mallory Rudningen is one of the best at her position in the area, and she returns to compound the damage she dealt last season with a .443 batting average, .489 on-base percentage, 1.096 OPS with 28 runs batted in, 22 runs scored and nine doubles. Krieger also joined Rudningen on the All Area honorable mention team with a .333 batting average and 32 runs scored. Hannah Rosenboom (Sr., OF) is the lone senior with starting experience and is joined by Tessa Grewe (Sr., OF) as the only seniors on team. Savanna Hagen (Jr., C) and Morgan Lesteberg (So., 3B) round out the returning starters from last season with their sights set on another Camden Conference title.


KMS’ Mallory Rudningen watches a pitch into the glove of a Willmar catcher during a May 18 game in Murdock.


Saints armed, ready for playoff run Regan Carlson (Jr., OF). “We think we can compete for a Camden Conference title as well as a Section 3A title,” Cortez said. “This is as deep of a team as we’ve had go through the program with seven returning starters. All four seniors have started since ninth grade, with one starting as an eighth-grader.”

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By Curt Hogg In 2017, Kerkhoven-MurdockSunburg saw an impressive season cut short in the opening round of the Section 3A playoffs. This year, the Saints are hoping to march on even further. A deep rotation and seven returning starters highlight a positive outlook for KMS, which went 13-5 last year under 17th-year head coach James Cortez. Between Brandon Rasmusson (Sr., P/CF), Ryan Torkelson (Sr., P/2B) and Weston Gjerde (Jr., P/SS) the Saints have one of the area’s deepest pitching staffs. Gjerde led the way a year ago with a 1.56 ERA as a sophomore to go along with the area’s eighth-best OPS at 1.021. In 20 innings, Ryan Torkelson had a 1.02 ERA and Rasmusson had a 1.71 ERA in 32 innings. Other returning starters include Caleb Collins (Sr., P/C), Josh Peterson (Sr., 1B), Dylan Rudningen (Jr, OF) and

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E6 Thursday, April 5, 2018 — West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn.


‘Cats ready to run wild


New London-Spicer’s Shea Oman lays down a bunt during a May 15 game against Litchfield in New London.

By Jake Schultz New London-Spicer enters the 2018 season with one of the most exciting squads in the area and the Wildcats are ready to run after a trip to the Section 3AA final last season. Graduated pitcher Olivia Christopherson stole the show last year and often overshadowed a sneaky Wildcat offense that averaged 5.7 runs per game and proved to have the ability to break out on occasion. Katelyn Nordmeyer (So. SS) is one of the area’s top players already, having turned in a freshman year to remember with a .447 batting average, .829 slugging percentage, 34 hits, nine doubles and six home runs. This year, she’s ready to take the Wright County Con-

ference by storm, joined by Courtney Hanson (Sr., C), Courtney Caskey (Sr., 1B), Shea Oman (Sr., CF), and Sam Johnson (Jr., IF). Hanson tallied an impressive .436 batting average with a team-high 35 hits to earn a spot on the All-State honorable mention team, combined with a strong presence behind the plate. Oman and Johnson, meanwhile provided good contact with plenty of speed once they reached the basepaths to terrorize opposing catchers. Brielle Krossman (Sr., P) and Ashlyn Leindecker (So., P) will compete in the circle to replace Christopherson and they have big cleats to fill after Christopherson pitched nearly every inning in 2017.


Wildcats eye return trip to state tournament By Curt Hogg New London-Spicer graduated plenty of talent from the first state-qualifying team in school history last year, but when you have the pitching that the Wildcats do at the top of the rotation, hopes will be just as high. All-Area first-teamers Will Roguske (Jr., P/C/3B) and Matt Spaulding (Sr., P/1B) form a strong duo at the top of the Wildcats’ rotation after combining for 1.53 ERA across 110 innings in 2017. The pair accounted for nearly twothirds of NLS’ innings on the mound over the course of the season and will likely be looked upon to shoulder a

similar load once again. At the dish, Roguske, an Illinois State commit, leads the way for the Wildcats at the plate after posting a .541 OBP as a sophomore. Wyatt White, John Perkins, Josh Soine and Evan Haugen all graduated from the top of the NLS lineup, but Spaulding, Derek Dolezal (Sr., C/3B), Paxton Nelson (Sr., 2B/SS) and Jake Schmidt (Jr., OF) are all back as returning starters with experience at the dish. Players that could step into bigger roles include Mitchell Kruger (Sr., OF/P), Nick Perkins (Jr., 2B/SS), Cade Barrett (So., P/1B) and Christian Lessman (So., P/SS).

NLS’ Paxton Nelson throws to first base during the Section 3AA championship.


This fall, Roguske committed to Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois after taking visits to North Dakota State and San Francisco, as well. “I was going to a tournament in Florida, so I contacted before the game a lot of schools telling them where and when I was going to pitch,” Roguske said. “I get on the mound and there’s 30 scouts or so sitting behind home plate. I was definitely a little nervous.” As he tends to do, Roguske pitched well, which is a large reason why he can now play out his final two seasons

with the Wildcats without the pressures of recruiting. That doesn’t mean that Roguske was going to put in any less work in the off-season. Outside of taking a month to rest his arm, this fall and winter, the junior made the 200-mile round trip to the Twin Cities three times a week to throw and lift. There were driving forces behind that. “I’d like to get deep into games with keeping a low pitch count,” Roguske said. “With the pitch count rules, I

From Page E1

plate and don’t put it where he wants it,” Spaulding said. “If they put it in play, our defense takes care of it.” If Roguske’s fastball isn’t at least a little more eye-catching, the pop of the catcher’s mitt will certainly grab your attention. It certainly worked on college scouts.


want to be on the mound as much as I can.” As a team, Roguske and the Wildcats have their sights set high, as well following a sixth-place finish at state. “I think everyone on this team believes that we’re going to go to state again,” Roguske said. “We want to do it again, we feel that we can do it again. We want to do everything we did last year and then maybe pull out that first game at state and move on and see what happens.”

West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn. — Thursday, April 5, 2018 E7


Lakers want to cap memorable year on the diamond By Curt Hogg Expectations around the Minnewaska athletic department are pretty high right about now. With many athletes on the baseball team coming off successful years in football and basketball — which included a trip to state — the Lakers will look to extend those winning ways to the diamond. And chances of that happening are looking pretty high. Minnewaska returns 10 seniors, six of which possess varsity experience, to a team that went 13-10 a year ago. Matthew Gruber (Sr., P/SS) is worthy of first mention among that group as the potential ace of the pitching staff and a potent hitter. The right-hander set a school record as a sophomore with a 0.94 ERA and was an All-Area first-teamer last year with phenomenal command on the mound and gap-to-

gap power that resulted in 11 doubles and an OPS over 1.000. Jake Hoffman (Sr., 1B) hit .333 a year ago while, in the outfield, fellow seniors Ryan Christenson and Connor Westberg provide speed and defense. Colin Weidauer (Sr., UT) and Sean Kelling (Sr., P/ UT) round out a senior class looking to make its mark. Kelling will likely be one of the arms that plays a role in filling the 88 innings left behind by Colin Richards and Shawn Stumpf from a year ago. Matching the production of those two will be no easy task: they combined for a 1.67 ERA. Isaiah Testa (Jr., P) could be one rotation candidate. Despite not pitching at the varsity level last year, the right-hander threw a no-hitter in the Junior Legion playoffs and then tossed a one-hitter in the state tournament.


Minnewaska’s Joey Schneider slides into third base during a 2017 game against BBE.


Minnewaska’s Matt Gruber fires a ball across the diamond during a May 19 game against BBE in Elrosa.


Minnewaska’ Matthew Gruber fires a pitch against ACGC in a 2017 game.

E8 Thursday, April 5, 2018 — West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn.


New coach, same Lakers? By Jake Schultz For the first time in decades, Minnewaska has a new leader. Tabby Swenson is taking over for Steve Hoffmann, who retired after 32 seasons in charge of the Lakers after last season. The changes extend beyond simply the person in charge of the lineup card, though. Minnewaska will also see plenty of change on the field with three returning starters, including Rachel Erickson (Sr., P/IF) who will take on a large workload after the graduation of Morgan Hess, an All-Area first teamer in 2017. Erickson has had to spell Hess in the past, though, and excelled with


Minnewaska’s Rachel Erickson fires a pitch in the circle against Morris Area/ Chokio-Alberta during conference action in 2017.

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the task. She posted a 2.36 ERA with a 4-0 pitching record in limited starts in 2017, but also pitched well when given nearly all starts in 2016 when Hess missed due to injury. Kaitlyn Lange (Sr., IF) and Bailey Stewart (Sr., IF) round out the returning starters with some power and plus-defense in the middle infield. Jessica Lanoue (Sr., IF), Meghan Cerney (Sr., IF), Cammy Mithun (Sr., OF), Shayla Hollenbeck (Sr., OF) and Hallie Holtberg (Sr., IF) all represent a senior class looking to leave their own mark on the Laker program. Michele Stai (So., C) will also join the senior-heavy team at a key position.

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West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn. — Thursday, April 5, 2018 E9


T-Hawks out to maximize potential By Tom Larson Montevideo has plenty of potential but the key to the Thunder Hawks’ 2018 season will be maximizing that potential. All baseball teams need pitching to come through but it will be especially important for the T-Hawks this season with Seth Kuno as the only arm with more than 10 varsity innings pitched, said Tim Epema, Montevideo’s head coach since 2007. Of the T-Hawks’ returning starters, Jackson Snell (6-foot-2, junior) and Noah Buseman (5-10, junior) are expected to eat some innings this season along with Kuno (5-10, junior), who also plays centerfield. Snell also can catch, play third base and first base. Buseman can also play shortstop of third. Blaine Sederstrom (5-8, senior) is penciled in at second base, John Van Ravenswaay (6-1, junior) will be in left

field and Tyler Blue (6-0, sophomore) will catch. Epema will have some seniors, juniors and a sophomore vying to break into the lineup, including: Hunter Ward (6-0, senior) in the outfield; Isaiah Edmunds (5-11, senior) in the infield; Ibrahim Carson (5-11, senior) in the outfield; and Ben Mulder (6-2, senior), a first baseman who also may get some innings on the mound. Juniors Max Carruth (6-1) and Chase Korte (5-11) also may get some innings, and Carruth also can play first and both he and Korte can play in the outfield. Junior Matthew Fragodt (5-11) can catch and play third, and sophomore Cade Weber (6-0) can pitch and play in the infield. “T​ he key to the season will be the ability to make the next step​for those that played varsity last year and the underclassmen that had a very successful Junior Legion season,” Epema said.


Montevideo’s Blaine Sederstrom watches the ball come off his bat in a 2017 game against BOLD.

New coaches set to lead T-Hawks

By Tom Larson Montevideo will have leaders on the bench this season with Krista Bjork and Shelby Monahan beginning their first season as co-head coaches. But Bjork and Monahan are very tuned into Thunder Hawks’ softball and what it takes to win games. Bjork served as Montevideo’s junior high coach the last two seasons and Monahan is a Montevideo graduate and former T-Hawks player. Bjork and Monahan inherit a varsity squad that was 12-11 overall in 2018 and posted an 8-6 mark in the West Central Conference and won two Section 3AA games before being eliminated. While five starters from that team graduated, a four-player core of two seniors and two juniors are ready to bring the team along as the T-Hawks lean on two relatively untested pitchers.

Junior Cali Christianson will start at shortstop after hitting.319 in 72 at bats last season. Junior Sydney Zindel, a starter last year at second base, will be an important cog both at bat and in the field, although she may switch positions this season. Zindel hit .320 in 75 at bats last season and she posted a .967 fielding percentage with just three errors. Senior Sydni Streich was a starter at third base last year and she hit .232, and senior Kari Fragodt, an outfielder last year, also could be switching positions in 2018. Senior Kylie Dann and junior Maddie Kilibarda will be counted on to hold down pitching duties. Both were junior varsity pitchers last season but Dann appeared in one varsity game and Kilibarda pitched in three varsity games. Junior Noelle Sulflow, sophomore Kaylee Pauling and freshman Lexi Brockmoller are expected to get playing time this season, although coaches are still evaluating where they will play. “A young team, we graduated five starting seniors from key spots and we plan to pull up many girls and switch around positions,” Bjork said. “They are a great group of girls with an excellent attitude and they are looking forward to a new season.”

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E10 Thursday, April 5, 2018 — West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn.


Cohesion is Owls’ strength By Curt Hogg The Hancock Owls will look to ride a well-rounded team to victories this spring. After graduating five seniors from last year’s section semifinalist squad, the Owls will be utilizing young players to fill the open roles on the team. They list no individuals as “players to watch,” but while no individual player stands out from the pack, Hancock hopes to have strength in numbers. Key returners include Zach Flatten (Sr., OF), Tanner Pahl (Jr., 1B), Daniel Milander (So., 2B), Gideon Joos (So., C), Montana Molden (Jr., OF/DH) and Peyton Rohloff (Jr., OF/DH).


Hancock’s Peyton Rohloff is one of the Owls’ returning starters for 2018.


Hancock’s Gideon Joos tags out an Ashby runner during the conference game between the two teams in 2017.


Owls look to continue development


Hancock catcher Emma Nelson readies to catch during a 2017 game.


Hancock’s Ashlyn Mattson pitches during a 2017 game.

By Jake Schultz Hancock enters its second year as a solo squad with hopes on making large strides from last year’s season. The Owls, who played cooperatively with Benson for a number of years, returns a strong crop of players ready to continue the program’s development. Emma Nelson (Sr., C/OF) was last year’s leading hitter with a .375 batting average, followed by Nadine Miller (Jr., 1B/P) who logged a .319 average. Katelynn Jepma (Sr., UT), Annie Marczak (Jr., 3B/OF), Kyerra Carter (Jr., OF) and Haley Mattson (Jr., P/IF) will look to follow in their steps offensively. The game of softball can start and stop with the person in the circle and the Owls will look to Ashlyn Mattson (Sr., P/IF) as the primary hurler. Haley Mattson and Miller, however, should see some opportunity from the rubber as well.

West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn. — Thursday, April 5, 2018 E11


Young Wolverines ready to build on experience By Jake Schultz MACCRAY’s 2017 didn’t exactly go according to plan, but with 11 players back who earned starting experience, the Wolverines are looking to make large strides in the new year. Kirsten VanDerPol (Sr., OF) and Kendra Hammerschmidt (Sr., 1B) are the lone seniors on a young Wolverines team that features seven sophomores.

Katie Burdorf (So., OF) led the team with a .438 batting average last season, just ahead of VanDerPol’s .404 mark. Sage Mecker (Jr., SS/P) and Jaimi Heida (So., P/IF) will likely split time in the pitching circle yet again with hopes to flip their records from last season. Ashley Levitz-Mickels (Fr., IF/P) is another player to look out for either in the circle or the batter’s box.


MACCRAY’s Kate Hultgren fields a ground ball during a preseason practice in Raymond.


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MACCRAY’s Rhys Schwitters warms up during a preseason practice in Clara City.

By Curt Hogg A pair of playoff wins highlighted what was otherwise a tough regular 2017 season for MACCRAY, and the Wolverines will look to build upon their late-season improvement under head coach Nate Hebrink. Brett Harguth (Sr., P/C) and Braden Hoekstra (Sr., OF) are the Wolverines’ two returning starters. Eli Aker (Jr., P/IF) and Riley Cronen

(Sr., P/2B) are among the key returning players for the Wolverines. Other contributors to this year’s squad include Sam Hilbrands (Sr. IF/OF), Gabe Henker (Jr., INF) and Rhys Schwitters (So., IF). As usual, competition in the Camden Conference and Section 3A will be tough, with the likes of KMS, Minneota, LQPV, Dawson-Boyd, Wabasso Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove in MACCRAY’s way.

E12 Thursday, April 5, 2018 — West Central Tribune — Willmar, Minn.

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Spring sports 2018  

Baseball and softball previews of teams in west central Minnesota; published by West Central Tribune, Willmar, MN

Spring sports 2018  

Baseball and softball previews of teams in west central Minnesota; published by West Central Tribune, Willmar, MN