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Spring Sports Preview

Fri, Apr 11th, 2014
Posted in All Sports

Baseball Preview

Last year’s baseball season ended with upstart Fillmore Central/Lanesboro making a surprise trip to Austin. They were the last county ‘ball’ team standing. But the Falcons, and four of the other five Fillmore County Journal covered baseball squads, finished below five hundred for the season. It means there is certainly room for improvement in 2014.

Chatfield baseball highlights the county’s diamond action. The Gophers, under Brian Baum, were the only plus-500 team (11-7). Their campaign ended with a loss to FC/L in the third game of the 1A East tournament. With their entire pitching rotation returning intact, Chatfield should again be very competitive. Fourth-year players, seniors, Nate Skare (P/1B) and Jake Neis (P/SS) lead the way. Skare is one of the best throwers in the 3-Rivers, Neis one of the best shortstops and lead-off men. Junior Tommy Jech (1B) rounds of the pitching triumvirate. The Gophers also have experienced players in Zach Eggers (Sr. IF), Drew Hurley (Jr. IF), Noah Grant (Sr. IF), Sawyer Prinsen (Sr. C, if his back is healed) and Ben Pierce (Sr. OF).

Keith Larson’s FC/L Falcons are pretty much void of varsity pitching experience. Nick Ebner and Jake Tammel graduated, and Josh Jones is out with an injury. FC/L also lost starting shortstop and lead-off man Niko Anderson to track. The Falcons will thus be led by returning senior starters Andy Love (3B), who has a propensity to get on base, Clay Olson (C), Nick Powell (OF) and Garret Boggs (2B). After that, it will be all new or nearly new guys. The Falcons started last season 2-10, then went 3-2 in the play-offs. They lost to Hayfield in the Sectional final four and were 1A East runner-ups (5-12).

The GMLOK Bulldogs, after a one-win in 2012, doubled their total in 2013 under first year coach Brad Reiter. They finished 2-11, losing to Lake City in the 1AA East quarters. One of their two wins was over state consolation winner Wabasha-Kellogg. Senior Isaac Tangen pitched that win and is back. Trenton Bleifus (senior, SS/P), a four-year player, also returns as an offensive-defensive anchor. Quinn Larson (So. OF), Blake Olson (Jr. 2B), Josh Shorter (So. C), Doug Sabatke (Sr. DH/1B), Wyatt Richardson (Jr. OF), and Isiah Bubany (Jr. P/OF) also played or started a season ago. Jacob Rindels (Jr. IF) is back after playing as a frosh.

In Rushford, the Trojans went 3-11 last season, losing to FC/L in the 1A East quarters. Head Coach Dan Mlsna’s top player is ace pitcher and (probably) best hitter Cale Stensgard, a third-year guy. Fellow seniors Riley Vitse (OF) and Ross Anderson (1B) also started a year ago, as did Jonnie Koenen (Jr. IF). Vitse was part of the Trojans’ pitching rotation. Parker Dittman (Sr.), Logan Dittman (Sr.), and Mason McManimon-Myers (So.) also saw action in 2013. The Trojans will be minus one key returning starter. Zach Ansell (Jr.) is out with a knee injury.

In the SEC, Mabel-Canton went 3-13 a season ago and lost to W-K in the 1A quarters. Houston went 3-11 and lost to Chatfield in the 1A quarters. The Cougars will be led by seniors Noah Manning and Collin O’Bieglo. Juniors Keyser Wenthold, Wesley Richert, and Jon Selness are also key returning players. Houston will be led by the large senior corps of Christian Sires, Peter Jergenson, Evan Scheck, Brady Ramin-Pierce, Mason Drake, Tyler Hoskins, Chase Krenzke, and Dylan Lee. M-C is coached by Karl Urbaniak, Houston Jason Carrier. The teams comprise half of the SEC schools with stand-alone baseball programs (Lyle/Pacelli and Schaeffer Academy). The ‘Canes’ three wins last season were against M-C while two of M-C’s three wins were against Houston.

Softball Preview

A season ago, softball outshined baseball in the county. The girls out-won their analogous boys at every school. Chatfield, FC/L, Houston, and Rushford-Peterson all finished above five hundred. Yet, the play-offs were a disappointment for nearly all. After starting 12-0, earning a state ranking, winning the TRC South, and finishing the regular season 16-2, the Chatfield Gophers were three-and-done (17-4). FC/L, after a 13-3 regular season, was one-and-done, as was Rushford-Peterson (10-9). Only Houston (13-5) made a deep play-off run.

The Hurricanes finished the season as 1A East runners-up. They made it to Austin, losing to Hayfield in the ‘one-loss’ game. Houston has a new coach in Dean Sonsalla. They have the same pitcher in Abbey Loken. The hard-throwing senior can keep the ‘Canes competitive nearly single-handedly. She’ll throw to battery mate Becca Proudfoot (Sr. C), two of only three seniors on the squad. Alexa Horihan (Jr. 3B), who hit second a year ago, Morgan Beckman (Fr. OF), and Lizzy Tippery (Jr. OF) also return. Tippery and Horihan are the only two juniors. Houston has just six sophomore, juniors, and seniors combined.

Chatfield’s Jeff Johnson is probably one of the more blessed coaches in the area. On top of a state champion football team, he has a very experienced and talented softball team. His pitching rotation returns intact, with Brook Irish (Jr. 1B/OF) and Jennifer Hanson (Sr.) leading the way. He has strength up the middle, with Shelby Bernard (Jr. third year starter) behind the plate, Sidney Irish (Sr. fourth year) at shortstop, and Kirsten Keefe (Jr. fourth year) in centerfield. Megan LaPlante (So. 3B) and Maddy Larrabee (Jr. OF) also are returning starters. The Gophers hit the crap out of the ball early last year. They should again be a 3-Rivers favorite, a Sub-Section favorite. As experienced as they are, Sidney Irish and Hanson are the only seniors.

Fillmore Central/Lanesboro and Rushford-Peterson’s seasons’ each start with an oddity. Each doesn’t return a would-be returning all-conference player (R-P Kendra Crawford, FC/L Taylor Case). The Falcons will ride the arm of fourth-year junior pitcher Morgan Malley, who doubles as lead-off girl. Helping head coach Tris Tollefson in the hitting department is Taylor Pierce-Sprenger (OF), who was a good bat as just a frosh. Steph Erickson (Jr. SS/second P) is also a key player. Kaitlynn Aug (Jr. 1B), Shelby Ebner (So. C), Gabby Brazee (So. 3B), and Megan Hendrickson (So. 2B) also saw action a year ago. The Falcons are senior-less with seven juniors. For Jeremy Tesch’s Trojans, senior third-year catcher Keela Brand leads the way. She is R-P’s best bat, though sophomore Lauren Hadley (OF) can also smack the ball. Haley Mueller (OF) and Hunter Dunbar (1B) are a pair of seniors with experience. Brooke Johnson (So. IF) also played in 2013. She is one of three Trojans (Savannah Skalet, Kayla Hanson) with ‘P’ next to their name on the webpage (replacements for Crawford on the mound). The Trojans are very young. Brand, Mueller, and Dunbar are the only upperclassmen (juniors or seniors).

In Spring Valley, John Fenske’s GMLOK Bulldogs lost to Caledonia-Spring Grove in the 1AA East quarters last year. They finished at 3-17. The ‘Dogs have four girls who enter their third year of varsity action. Seniors Haley Colton (3B), Rialie Fenske (C), and Kailynn Hamersma (OF), and junior Jamie Stevens (P/IF), give Fenske an experienced nucleus. Hannah Corson (Sr. OF), Shelby Erding (Sr. OF), Taylor Sanford (Sr. IF), Alayna Meskill (Fr. P), and Courtney Schmidt (Fr. IF) also have had lots of diamond time. Meskill pitched, and Schmidt led-off and played shortstop, as 8th graders. The Bulldogs have six seniors, more than FC/L, R-P, and Chatfield put together.

In Mabel, Kati Tweeten has good numbers in Cougar-land including six seniors and five juniors. M-C went 4-11 last year, losing to Chatfield in the 1A East quarters. They return eight of nine starters, a cast headed by 1-5 hitters Coranda Vickerman (Fr. IF), Abby Hanson (Sr. SS), Lydia Geving (Sr. C), Hannah Nolte (Jr. 3B), and Ashlyn Dahl (Jr. 2B). After that, Chelcie Busch (Jr. OF), Kourtney Coyle (Sr. OF), and Sara Lind (Sr. P) also return. Lind was M-C’s pitcher a year ago. The Cougars are one of three SEC schools with a softball team (Houston, Glenville-Emmons).

Track and Field Preview

A year ago, seven county athletes participated in the state track and field meet. Five of those had highly memorable experiences. Six of the seven return this year, highlighting a noteworthy run, jump, and throw scene.

In Chatfield, Jeff DeBuhr (now coaching both boys and girls) has the speedy services of Maddy Kammer, Autum Erickson, and Ashley Baker, the powerful (and speedy) services of Jayme LaPlante, back (among others). Kammer was 400-meter section and state champ. With Erickson, Baker, and Mariah Bell (who is out with a knee injury, likely to be replaced my Maddie Talamantes), the foursome was 4x200 section and state champs. They also took 4th at sections in the 4x100. Baker (3rd) and Erickson (4th) were top five finishers at the sectional individual 100-meters as well. Karen Gomez-Ruiz (6th 3200, 4th 4x800), Talamantes (6th 300-hurdles, 4th 4x800), and Mikaela Bray (Pole Vault) were also sectional competitors a year ago. The girl’s squad was Section 1A true team second place. LaPlante, meanwhile, carried the Gopher boys’ torch, qualifying for state at both throw events. He was state runner-up at the discus. Jayme holds (and just reset) the Chatfield discus record.

In Rushford, Gary Wade has an army of track athletes (42 guys, 48 girls) for R-P-H. Freshman Noah Carlson was his sole state qualifier. Carlson was Section 1A triple jump champion. He finished 7th at state. He competed in three other sectional events too (5th 400-meters, 4x100 and 4x200 teams). Senior Austin O’Hare looks to cap his exceptional distance career. A two-time cross-country state entrant, O’Hare just missed trips to state a year ago in the 1,600 (3rd) and 3,200-meters (3rd). Other top male returnees (section 1A qualifiers) are Dan Thorson (4x100, 4x200), Tyler McLellan (Long Jump, 4x100, 4x200), and Matt Culhane (Discus). On the girls’ side of things, Jordan Honken (3rd Pole Vault), Anna Sweet (5th 100-meters), Elizabeth Loken (5th, Discus), and Ashley Agrimson (Long Jump) are the top returnees (section meet qualifiers). The R-P-H girls’ true team placed fifth in 2013.

In Lanesboro, the L/FC/M-C track and field program has a new head coach, Jared Pierce (taking over for Lori Anderson). They also had one state entrant a year ago, junior thrower Olivia Haug. Haug was section 1A discus champion. She placed 11th at state. Additional returning girls section meet qualifiers are Kiera Olson (3rd 3,200-meters), Kenzie Broadwater (100-meters, Long Jump), Bailey Ruen (1,600-meters), and the 4x800 team (Kendyl Bennett, Sara Vettleson-Trutza, Leah Ruen, K. Olson). For the boys, only seniors Gabe Decker (3rd Pole Vault) and Quentin Case (110-hurdles, 300-hurdles, 4x400 team) own the distinction. L/FC/M-C’s boys finished 4th at the true team event last season.

In Spring Valley, Amber Uhlenhake’s Kingsland Knights are the opposite of R-P-H. They are less an army and more a small smattering. Junior sprinter Lacey Schwartz (100-meters) and sophomore distance runner Erica Earley (1,600-meters) are the only two returning Knights to have qualified for the Section 1A meet a year ago.

Golf Preview

The county sent two individuals to the state golf meet in 2013. It returns two state qualifiers (even after one graduated). Hudson Stensgard of R-P and Sam Ross of Houston tied for 4th at the Section 1A meet and thus earned trips to state. Ross finished tied for 27th, Stensgard tied for 52nd. Brad Holten’s Fillmore Central boys were the last team standing (1A East runner-ups, section 3rd place). The Falcons return top 16 sectional golfers Jordan Miller (9th-tie), who co-medaled at the sub-section meet, Trevor Barnes (12th-tie), and Alex Lange (16th-tie). The Trojans (third), coached by Mike Honken, were two strokes back of FC (second) at the 1A East meet. They beat FC by 14 strokes at the 3-Rivers meet. With Charlie Krambeer, Chad Christian, and Kyle Weidemann back, to go along with Stensgard; R-P and FC again look collision-bound. Lanesboro returns its top golfer, Liam Dorn (12th at sections). Kingsland and Chatfield’s top returnees are less distinguishable.

On the girl’s side of things, Fillmore Central headlines the action. The Falcons had five individual sectional qualifiers, and all five return for head coach Lane Powell. Katie Tammel (8th), Laura Donney (9th), and Keeley Tood (13th) placed top 15. Tammel and Donney just missed on trips to state. Grace Miller and Skyelar Veiseth also made the sectional cut. Kingsland will likely not field a complete team, but Karli Bly and Megan Back are good. Bly finished fourth at sub-sections (withdrew from sections). Back took tenth at sections. Chatfield boasts a quality twosome also, Morgan Henry and Paige Isensee. Each finished in the top 20 of the 3-Rivers meet. Isensee qualified for the 1AA section meet. Houston’s top gal golfer Kelly Jerviss (12th as sections) returns. Lanesboro best golfer Johanna Bearson graduated. Rushford-Peterson has a girl’s golf team.

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