AREA NOTEBOOK: Schwab succeeds Brantl as Thompson's baseball coach
For the past 37 high school baseball seasons, Ryam Brantl was the man in the third-base coaching box at Thompson. Now Brady Schwab is the new guy in the box.
Schwab succeeds Brantl, who retired last June. Brantl left behind a 537-193 record in his 37 seasons as the Tommies’ baseball coach, including 15 appearances in the last 30 Class B state tournaments and four state titles.
“It is big shoes to fill,’’ Schwab said. “It’s never easy to follow somebody who did a job for that long and had that much success.
“The bar has been set high. But that’s a good thing for me. The foundation for success has been laid.’’
What Brantl also left was a solid base. The Tommies were 11-3 last season, winning the Region 2 title and finishing sixth at the state tournament.
Regulars back from that starting lineup are Calen Schwabe, Brandon Walsh, Ben Hippen, Ryne Dolleslager, Tom Nistler, Malek Larimer and Ty Myron. Walsh, Schwabe and Dolleslager were pitching regulars.
“There is a tradition here and an expectation of success,’’ Schwab said. “The kids understand that. And there is talent. We’re senior heavy.
“If we stay healthy, we should be right in the mix in the region again. We’ll play well defensively and we have pitchers who will throw strikes. We have kids up and down the lineup who have shown they can hit. The question is if they can do it consistently.’’
While the Tommies have an experienced lineup back from a region championship team, Schwab looks for a close region with Larimore, Hatton-Northwood, Mayville-Portland-C-G and Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page all looking like contenders.
Spoilers’ expectations high
Grafton started last season with only three returning regulars in its baseball lineup. The Spoilers ended their season as North Dakota Region 4 champions and, for the third straight season, runners-up at the Class B state tournament.
“I hate to use the terminology,’’ Grafton coach Chad Kliniske said, “but it really was a rebuilding year.’’
Going into this season, the Spoilers are long on experience. Only two seniors were in the regular lineup on last season’s 20-3 team. The offense, led by Brett Longtin, Jess Suda, Zak Hernandez, Garek Droog, Hunter Baldwin and Charlie Thompson, looks to be productive.
“These kids do hit the ball,’’ said Kliniske, whose American Legion team repeated as the state B baseball champion last summer. “I think we’re capable of putting up a lot of runs. We won’t play as much small ball as we have in the past. We have good hitters up and down the lineup. We should have good gap power.’’
Baldwin, Hernandez and Suda were pitching regulars last season.
“I’m excited about the potential we have,’’ Kliniske said. “You’d have to be a fool if you weren’t. I expect us to do well.’’
Kliniske looks for Drayton/St. Thomas/Valley-Edinburg, Midway-Minto with standout pitcher Adam Mach and Park River/Fordville-Lankin to be other top teams in Region 4.
Roseau has experienced look
After winning the Minnesota Section 8AA baseball title two seasons ago, Roseau reached the section final last season before being eliminated 5-2 by Perham.
With six starters back from that team, Roseau has high expectations.
“We’re going through a pretty good run of baseball players,’’ Rams coach Tracey Wensloff said. “Two years ago we had a loaded senior class. Last year we were very junior oriented. It’s a group with a lot of pretty good players. I think we have a chance to make a good run in the section again.’’
The top returners are outfielder Alex Halstensgard, pitcher-infielder Jacob Eaton, catcher Ryan Norberg and pitcher-outfielder Aaron Krahn. Senior pitcher-shortstop Alex Strand, a regular each of the past two seasons, currently is playing junior hockey in Bismarck and, Wensloff said, is expected to return and play.
“He’s one of the top players in the section,’’ Wensloff said. “Having him back would make a difference.
“Pitching and defense have taken us a long way the last two years. I expect that to continue to be the case. Eaton and Krahn are pretty tough pitchers. They don’t blow people away with their speed. But they throw fairly hard, have good command of the strike zone and they can mix in three good pitches.’’
Thompson senior Ryne Dolleslager is a recipient of the North Dakota High School Coaches Association scholarship, which is sponsored by Burger King.