With the spring season shorter than others, the Journal Sports Director has less opportunities to form opinions on all players over the years. And thus their will not be a top 20 for baseball. Below are those players who stood out over the past decade. Thanks to Coaches Brian Baum, Jordan Aug, Dakotah Rostad and Karl Urbaniak, former coaches Keith Larson, Jamie Fenske, and Dan Mlsna for their assistance.
Chatfield baseball finished above five hundred seven times from 2010-2019. The Gophers biggest season was 2014, a state third place campaign aided greatly by a pair of four-year starters, Jake Neis (2011-2014) and Nate Skare (2011-2014). Neis (SS/P) was a three-time All-TRC pick who was busy freshman (.342, 18 R, 11 RBI), sophomore (.359, 26 R, 12 RBI; 4-2 pitching, 1.52 ERA, 46 Ks), junior (.323, 21 R), and senior years (.440, 33 R, 19 RBI, 5-2 pitching, 1.25 ERA, 40 Ks). He never struck out as a senior, pitched Chatfield to state in the section title game, and made the All-State Tourney team. Coach Baum: “A gamer…great player for us his entire career…never afraid of the moment.” Skare (P/1B) was the Gophers ace as just a frosh (4-2, 5.00 ERA) and also was solid as a sophomore (7-4, 2.86 ERA, 62 Ks). Junior pitching stats couldn’t be found. Just a one-time All-TRC pick, Skare nursed an injured arm as a senior but pitched the Gophers to a game one win in their two-game section final with W-K. Coach Baum: “Loved the game and always played hard…a very solid four-year starter for us.” Also on the state squad was Ethan Woltz (2013-2015), a two-time All-TRC pick. Woltz (CF) was a good contact hitter junior (.412) and senior years (.348, 21 R). Baum: “Really played a key role in our state run…great outfielder with a very good arm…always got a great jump on the ball.” In 2016, the Gophers finished as section runner-up, helped by a trio of two-time All-TRC picks in Carter Duxbury (RF), Aaron Paulson (CF/P), and Tristin Aguiar (IF/P). Duxbury (2014-2016) was the smasher of the group (.431, .542 slugging, 21 R, 17 RBI as a junior; .293, .439 slugging, 15 R, 18 RBI as senior). Baum: “Went from an average outfielder to a great outfielder. He sure could hit the ball.” Paulson (2014-2016) manned another outfield position (.412, 26 R, 15 RBI as a senior). Baum: “I have been blessed with many great outfielders and (Aaron) is right up there.” Aguiar (2014-2016) was key offensively and pitching (.373, seven 2Bs, 19 R; 5-2 record, 2.43 ERA as a senior). Baum: “Solid all-around player who knew the game very well…one of the best bunters I have ever had.” Maybe the Gophers best player of the decade then came along. Ben Ihrke (2016-2018) was a three-year starter (OF), a two-time All-TRC pick, made Class AA All-State, and played in the All-Star Series. Sophomore (.346, four 3B, 18 R, 16 RBI), junior (.390, 12 2Bs, 14 R, 10 RBI), and senior years (.457, 3 HRs, 12 R, 16 RBI) were all impressive. Baum: “(Of) all the great outfielders I have had in my career, Ben would rank at the top…great instincts, solid arm, and knew the game very well.” Rounding out the decade was Max Aug (2017-present, SS/P), who was named All-TRC as a frosh (.489, six 2Bs, 15 R) and sophomore (.393, 15 R, 19 RBI, 4-2 pitching, 2.20 ERA). Coach Baum: “I have never had a player get off to such a great start offensively to their career…can play anywhere and plays the game hard.” Beginning the decade was the Gophers first two-time All-TRC pick of the 2010’s. Erik Hilgren (2009-2011, IF) hit .441 as a senior. Baum: “The Michael Cuddyer for us, could play any position and play it well…a great first baseman.” Justin Viss followed (2011-2013). The two-time All-TRC pick (OF) was a good three-year player (.318 as a sophomore; .408 as a junior; senior year stats unknown). Baum; “Great kid who worked his butt off to become the player he did…great outfielder who could crush the ball.”
FCL baseball’s heyday was amidst the Keith Larson era from 2013-2017. The 2017 squad went 18-6, headed by a great group of guys. Seniors Sam Peters (P/SS) and Cole Schwichtenberg (OF) each were twice All-TRC. Schwichtenberg (2015-2017) had two strong offensive years (.398, 26 R, 17 RBI as a junior; .405, 22 R, 18 RBI, as a senior). Former Coach Larson: “One of the most talented players I had a chance to coach…the quickest hands to the ball I have ever seen.” Peters (2015-2017) was the Falcons’ ace (4-0, 2.02 ERA, .384 as a junior; 5-1, 1.69 ERA, .349, 17 R as a senior). Larson: “Pitched the most memorable game for us as an 8-seed beating 1-seed (St. Charles) and that’s the attitude he took to the mound every game.” Collin Scott (OF/P > .337, 19 RBI as a junior; .405, 18 RBI, 22 R as a senior) and Riley Means (3B/OF > .431, 13 RBI, 27 R as a senior) were two other key three-year players (2015-2017). Each made All-TRC in 2017. Larson: “Collin was a great leader by example, the most constant player on offense and on the mound. Riley was an impressive player with speed and power.” Logan Corson (2016-2018) graduated a year later, making All-TRC (IF > .477, 27 R, 13 RBI as a senior). Larson: “Very versatile on defense, playing many positions.” The Falcons also had big post-season run in 2015, section 3rd place. Kiel Larson (SS) was the sole All-TRC player that year (.346, .935 field percentage from shortstop). He was twice named All-Section (2014/2015). Larson: “A student of the game defensively, always positioning himself properly.” In 2013, the Falcons made it to the section Final Four (2013). Third-year player Dan Gatzke (2011-2013) earned his second All-TRC honor (OF > .309, 2 HR, 15 R, 12 RBI as a sophomore; .350, 2 HRs, 14 RBI as a junior; .357, 13 RBI, 16 SBs as a senior). Larson: “The rock of the 2013 team…bought into our new program and leadership, so made the (coaching) transition easy.” Early in the decade, Tyler Eickhoff (2009-2012) and Colton Hampel (2009-2011) were stalwarts. The three-time All-TRC pick Eickhoff (SS/P) was alleged to have led the TRC in hitting as a frosh. Junior (.346, 20 R, 18 SB) and senior (.367, 18 R, 12 SB) year stats were known. Former Coach Scheevel: “A special talent…a dynamic player at the plate and on the defensive side of the ball.” Hampel was twice All-TRC. He pitched six of eight FC/L wins in 2011 (6-5, 3.07 ERA, 70 K’s; .338, 2 HRs, 14 RBI). Scheevel: “He was a bulldog on the mound. It goes all the way back to his little league days when he was a pitcher. He just wanted the ball.”
GMLOK baseball struggled early in the decade. Gradual improvement led the Bulldogs to their best season of the decade in 2019. The Bulldogs won the SEC and finished with 17-3. A main impetus behind that was Drew Copley (2016-2019). A three-year starter and two-time All-league pick (TRC 2017, SEC 2019) despite missing his junior year to injury, Copley (SS/P) was the SEC Player of the Year as a senior (.554, ten 2Bs, 4 HRs, 28 RBI; 6-1, .321 ERA, 109 Ks, 14 BBs). Copley was also very good as a freshman (.348, 2 HRs, 16 R, 10 RBI) and sophomore (.419, 20 R, 18 RBI; 4-5 record, 2.06 ERA, 81 Ks). Former Coach Fenske: “Drew was a warrior. He did what it took to be successful every day and it showed.” Coach Rostad: “Drew was everything you would want in a player, teammate, and captain.” The 2017 team also featured a couple other good guys. Zach Myrhe (C > 2015-2018) was twice All-TRC (2018, 2016), courtesy of strong play as a sophomore (.455, 2 HRs, 18 R, 20 RBI), junior (.379, 10 2Bs, 23 R, 12 RBI), and senior (.435, three 3Bs, 13 R, 15 RBI). Fenske: “A kid who I didn’t have to push to work hard. He worked so hard at practice and outside of practice that it wore off on the other kids and made them better.” Zach Bubany (P/IF > 2015-2018) pitched both play-off wins in 2017 and was an All-TRC pick in 2018. Fenske: “A strong competitor who seems to come through in under-pressure situations. He pitched a complete game playoff win over Cannon Falls 5-3, and when I went to the mound in the 7th to take him out, he had so much confidence that he could finish, and wanted to finish, I left him in.” In 2016, fourth-year player Quinn Larson (2013-2016) was All-TRC as the senior (5-2, 2.35 ERA, 76 K’s). Coach Fenske: “A quieter kid that spoke with his game. His senior year, we were in every game he pitched including his complete game one-hit play-off loss to D-E 1-0.” The Bulldogs top player of the early decade was Caleb Leichtnam (2008-2011). Full stats weren’t available on the (at least) two-time All-TRC pick, except his senior year (.393, 16 R, 13 RBI, 26 SBs).
Rushford-Peterson’s baseball decade hit its peak in 2018, a 15-10, Section 1A champion, state season. That team naturally had talent. Heading the cast was Ben Ansell (P/SS), a four-year player (2015-2018) who was twice All-TRC and twice All-Section 1A (.367, 26 R, 11 RBI as a junior; .385, seven 2Bs, 23 R as a senior). Coach Aug: “(Ben) was like another coach on the field…always knew the situation, where to go with the ball.” Another four-year player (2015-2018) was Dawson Dahl (CF). He was All-TRC in 2018 (.297, 17 R, 15 RBI as a junior; .470, 27 R, 20 RBI as a senior). Aug: “One of the best CF’s I have ever seen…what seemed to be unlimited range and ability to track the ball. The overall best (most consistent) hitter on the (2018) team.” A third four-year player was pitcher Shawn Marg (P/1B), who was also All-TRC in 2018 (.458, 16 R, 19 RBI; 6-3, 3.68 ERA, 52 Ks). Aug: “Hands down the team ace. One of the best left-handed pitchers I have seen in the area…it was the off speed pitches that made him great.” A fourth four-year player on that team (2016-2019), was catcher Carter Weidemann. He had two super strong hitting seasons (.412, eight 2Bs, four 3BS, two HRs, 16 R, 31 RBI as a junior; .493, seven 2Bs, five HRs, 13 R, 16 RBI as a senior). Aug: “I have never seen anyone play with as much energy and (so) fearless at any position, let alone catcher.” Preceding them was another three-year player (2014-2016), Mason McManimon-Myers (P/SS). A three-year starter at shortstop, 3-M was All-TRC and All-Section in 2016 (.349 career average, .418 average as a senior). Former coach Mlsna: “Just an outstanding kid, and baseball player. Mason did whatever was asked of him.” Playing alongside him at times was Zack Ansell. The older brother of Ben, Zach (2011-2015) was also twice All-TRC despite missing junior year to injury. He started at catcher since 8th grade (career 7 HRs, 37 RBI, .351 average). Former coach Mlsna: “One of the most coachable players around, Zack was a real baseball nut…was constantly watching and observing the game.” Prior to that, Cale Stensgard (P > 2011-2014) was a Trojan stand-out, notching the most All-TRC nods (three) of any R-P baseball player this decade.
Mabel-Canton and Houston baseball didn’t have a ton of team success throughout the decade. Each school had some stand-outs. Drew Wyffels (SS/P > 2015-2019) was a five-year varsity player, a four-time All-SEC pick, three times All-Section 1A for M-C (.600ish average as a senior; .400’s in other seasons). Coach Urbaniak: “Like other sports, great speed and (Drew) has a tremendous feel for the game.” Dalton Stoen (2008-2011) was a four-year catcher, three-time All-SEC pick. Urbaniak: “Tough hard-nose player.” Jacolby Bigalk (2009-2012) was thrice All-SEC as a shortstop and pitcher. Urbaniak: “A sound player who had a great offensive season his senior year for us.” The latter two were part of M-C’s best winning streak of the decade, a 7-0 start to the 2011 season. Houston’s Christian Sires (2011-2014) and Dylan Lee (2011-2014) each were twice All-SEC and All-Section in 2014. As seniors, Sires (.462, 7 2Bs, 2 HRs, 10 R, 13 RBI) and Lee (.358, 6 2Bs, 14 R, 10 RBI) had notables years.