It ranks as one of the most inexperienced and youngest Spring Grove High School baseball teams. After COVID-19 canceled baseball for every Minnesota high school last spring and American Legion last summer, every coach seeks to restore skills last polished in 2019. Coach Chris Strinmoen starts with 16 varsity candidates. All but one has played baseball since childhood (except for 2020), but only one has played in a high school game. The boys open at Houston on Friday, April 9.
The 2021 Lions bring back only one letter winner, the lone Lion in uniform when the 2019 Spring Grove squad won a program-record 16 games and captured the sub-section championship – the first postseason crown in 40 years (1979) of Spring Grove stand-alone baseball. Numbers are strong overall, but more than half are in junior high. Three eighth graders will have varsity uniforms, one a projected starter. There is only one senior and two juniors.
The most prominent name is Griffin – the surname of the three sons of 1993 all-conference Lion Phil Griffin. Isaac Griffin is the only senior, the only letter winner – a three-year letter winner who shared the 2019 team Gold Glove Award for his error-free, often eye-popping performance in the outfield. Now, he will also be the primary pitcher, but logged only one start and six and two-thirds innings on the mound as a sophomore in 2019.
Sophomore three-sport athlete Caleb Griffin is extremely valuable due to his versatility – capable in both the outfield and the infield and right behind his brother in the pitching rotation. When he is not pitching, look for him to play the defensive position of whoever is on the mound.
Three other sophomores are slated for key positions – Nathan Solberg at shortstop, Ty Cleven at first base and Logan Brumm at catcher.
Expect eighth grader Brandon Jahnke to open at third base, meriting a varsity start without playing any junior high baseball. Junior Jonah Udstuen is the leading candidate at second base with competition from sophomore Lawrence Skauge and freshman Caleb Ranzenberger.
Griffin and Griffin are the most proven outfielders. Other candidates for vacancies in the outfield are junior Matthew Doering plus four freshmen Jaxon Strinmoen, Braedon Solie, Elijah Solum and currently injured Jacob Olerud. Also coming off an injury, Solum is also the primary backup at first base. Strinmoen and Caleb Griffin offer depth behind the plate.
Eighth grade infielders/pitchers Ezra Griffin and Zach Brumm will suit up for varsity games but may also see action in junior high games.
Strinmoen wants a three-starter pitching rotation and is still deciding on the third starter and a couple of relievers. Certainly in that mix are Cleven, Strinmoen and Solum. Other pitching possibilities are Solberg and Jahnke.
Strinmoen enters the sixth season as head coach of the program where he was voted Most Valuable Player in both 1995 and 1996 before playing baseball at Wartburg College. Blaine Storlie, 2013 SG Male Athlete of the Year and collegiate basketball athlete at Hamline University, will be guiding the junior high program for the fifth season. Chandler Bergrud, the Lions’ 2019 batting champion and All-Section and All-Conference selection, will be the varsity assistant while continuing his education at RCTC.
Cold temperatures and very brisk winds have kept many practices indoors. Coach Strinmoen says progress in the batting cage has been “good so far.” Baseball builds around dependable pitching and leadership behind the plate. Potential and past summer recreation preparation offers promise. But for Lions on the high school varsity stage, the key word is “unproven.” These young players have experienced success in the past and should at the high school level as well – sooner or later. The question for 2021 is how soon? How quickly will potential be developed?
Conference newcomer Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland (coached by former Spring Grove standout and college athlete Dakotah Rostad) won the 2019 baseball championship in the Bulldogs’ first season of Southeast Conference membership, breaking the seven-year stranglehold of perennial title holders Randolph and Lyle/Pacelli. This spring, Southland, another traditionally competitive program, joins the SEC for the first time since 2002. (The Lions defeated the Rebels in the 2019 sub-section championship game.)
It will be a nine-team conference race for the first time since the Rebels and three other teams (Caledonia, Rushford-Peterson, Fillmore Central/Lanesboro) departed after that 2002 campaign. This will be the final SEC season for Randolph, which returns to the Gopher Conference next school year.
Spring Grove has scheduled the state-maximum 20 games, including a 16-game league slate plus four non-conference encounters with Fillmore Central/Lanesboro (home), Wabasha-Kellogg (away) and neutral site contests versus Hayfield and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.
For postseason, baseball is joining basketball in abandoning the two-sub-section format in favor of one large 15-team Section 1A Tournament. In the last season of high school baseball (2019), Spring Grove placed third in the Southeast Conference and won the East Sub-Section crown before falling in the Section 1A championship to Hayfield.
the Last 6 seasons – SG Baseball
2020 season canceled, pandemic
2019 16-8 (9-5 SEC, 3rd of 8) 2019 sub-section champions
2018 10-5 (9-3 SEC, 2nd of 7)
2017 8-10 (7-5 SEC, 3rd of 7)
2016 7-11 (no conference)
shared program with Caledonia 2010 – 2015
7 postseason titles (SG only teams):
district – 1952, ‘60, ‘61, ‘69, ‘78, ‘79
sub-section – 2019
Spring Grove Baseball 2021
Fri. 04/09. at Houston
Mon. 04/12 at Wabasha-Kellogg
Tues. 04/13 GMLOK
Fri. 04/16 at Lyle/Pacelli (Austin)
Mon. 04/19 Schaeffer Academy
Tues. 04/20 Mabel-Canton
Fri. 04/23 at Randolph
Fri. 04/30 Southland
Mon. 05/03 at Alden-Conger/Glenville-Emmons (Glenville)
Tues. 05/04 Houston
Fri. 05/07 at GMLOK (Spring Valley)
Sat. 05/08 vs. Hayfield (at Rushford-Peterson) 10 a.m.
Sat. 05/08 vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (at Rushford-Peterson) 2 p.m.
Mon. 05/10 vs. Alden-Conger/Glenville-Emmons
Tues. 05/11 Lyle/Pacelli
Fri. 05/14 at Schaeffer Academy (Rochester)
Mon. 05/17 at Mabel-Canton
Thur. 05/20 Randolph
Tues. 05/25 Fillmore Central/Lanesboro
Thur. 05/27 at Southland (Adams)