Local high school baseball coaches all agree that their teams probably aren’t going to be at their sharpest in the early days of the season due to the inclement weather of the past few weeks.

Hitting, pitching and fielding will all be a bit rusty, they concur. But which part of the game do they think will be set back the most? Their answers varied, but many pointed to the offense.

“Hitting tends to start a little slower,” said Saint Thomas Academy coach Bobby Thompson. “Pitching tends to be a bit ahead of the offense at this time of year.”

baseball
Highland Park shortstop Jake Ettel tags out Saint Paul Academy runner Boden Strafelda on a steal attempt in the first inning of the Scots’ 7-4 win on April 19. Photo by Brad Stauffer

“We haven’t been able to see a lot of live pitching,” Glenn said nearly four weeks after the start of practice, “but we haven’t seen a lot of fly balls, either. I’d just like to get outside.”

Minnehaha Academy coach Scott Glenn agreed that hitting typically lags early because it’s more about timing than pitching or fielding. But this spring he said everything will probably be a little slow to start.

“We haven’t been able to see a lot of live pitching,” Glenn said nearly four weeks after the start of practice, “but we haven’t seen a lot of fly balls, either. I’d just like to get outside.”

Nova Classical coach Scott Lindholm said all three aspects of the game have been slow to come around because of this year’s stubborn weather. “It’s hard to simulate pitching and hitting when it’s 40 degrees,” he said.

 

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Two Rivers coach Greg Fehrman is more resigned about all aspects of the game. “Even if the weather is good, hitting always takes a little time to catch up with the pitching,” he said.

Once the weather finally warms up, here’s how the local clubs look this spring:

CENTRAL

League: Saint Paul City
Previous record: 10-8
Coach: Adam Hunkins

Key players: junior pitcher Cole Spitzer, senior outfielder Duncan Reyburn, senior third baseman/catcher Oscar Holm, junior catcher Peyton Vang.

Outlook: Central has good overall speed, pitching and defense, and will have a really good season if the offense comes around. The club also has good senior experience in key spots. “I expect us to contend for the conference title,” Hunkins said, “but we do have a very tough section.”

CRETIN-DERHAM HALL

League: Suburban East
Previous record: 11-15
Coach: Mike Kvasnicka

Key players: senior pitcher/outfielder Cooper Smith, senior pitcher/infielder Ben Weber, junior catcher Jack Taxdahl, senior pitchers Eric Stomberg and Bergen Manternach.

Outlook: The Raiders have pitching talent  to burn, while the rest of their game isn’t bad either. “We’re pretty balanced,” said Kvasnicka, noting that his squad also has a good mix of experienced and youthful players who should help them be a major contender in the league.

HIGHLAND PARK

League: Saint Paul City
Previous record: 10-9
Coach: Chris Steenberg

Key players: senior shortstop Jake Ettel, junior center fielder/pitcher Shea Landa, junior catcher/pitcher/infielder Thomas Bradford.

Outlook: Although Highland has only five players with varsity experience, Steenberg thinks his club might have enough to win the league title. “I believe we’re (a contender in the conference),” he said, “but we’re also trying to compete in our section.”

MINNEHAHA ACADEMY

League: Independent Metro Athletic
Previous record: 7-14
Coach: Scott Glenn

Key players: senior infielder/catcher/pitcher Owen Santiago, senior outfielder/pitcher Declan Huddleston, senior outfielder Peter Mollison.

Outlook: The Redhawks have only three juniors and five seniors. “We’re pretty young,” Glenn said, but he added his team could be pretty good later in the season. “We have some skills,” he said.

NOVA CLASSICAL

League: Skyline
Previous record: 10-10
Coach: Scott Lindholm

Key players: senior pitcher/first baseman Liam Borell, sophomore shortstop/pitcher Alex Ehlebracht, junior third baseman/outfielder Devin Joseph.

Outlook: The Knights have a strong sophomore and eighth-grade class coming up, but only one senior and one junior. Still, Lindholm sees light ahead. “My hope and expectation is to be competitive throughout the year, especially in the conference,” he said. “We have good pitching and defense.”

SAINT PAUL ACADEMY

League: Independent Metro Athletic
Previous record: 12-11
Coach: Rob Thompson

Key players: senior infielder/pitcher Boden Strafelda, senior outfielder/shortstop/pitcher Judah Thomas, sophomore catcher Griffin Schwab-Mahoney, senior outfielder Will Steinhacker, junior catcher/infielder Tommy Verhey.

Outlook: The Spartans return a stout senior class, and coach Thompson thinks a top-three league finish is quite doable. “I feel good about the season,” he said. “We have some good pitching and defense.” If SPA’s hitting comes around, it’ll be a good year. 

SAINT THOMAS ACADEMY

League: Metro East
Previous record: 18-12
Coach: Bobby Thompson

Key players: junior pitcher Michael Miller, junior first baseman Gavin Engelbert, senior center fielder Bobby Cunningham, senior second baseman/right fielder Keegan Cashill.

Outlook: The Cadets are dealing with the loss of 14 graduated seniors who helped the club to third place at state last season. Coach Thompson likes his pitching and said his defense is good enough to get by. Still, he knows that his team will need to hit more. “We’re not a team that can get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said.

TWO RIVERS

League: Metro East
Previous record: 11-12
Coach: Greg Fehrman

Key players: senior center fielder Abe Mogelson, senior infielder Blake Eckmann, senior outfielder/infielder/pitcher A.J. Boyken, senior pitcher/first baseman Will Gydesen, senior outfielder/pitcher Nick Reisig.

Outlook: The Warriors have a pretty athletic defense. The offense still needs to string hits together, and Fehrman said the team’s pitching could “take some time.” But he said the club will keep getting better. “We may struggle a little early,” he said, “but I think we’ll be OK come playoff time.”

 

— Bill Wagner

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