Thompson faces replacing strong cast in baseball
Ryam Brantl will have to get used to filling out new lineup cards this season. Brantl's Thompson team is three-time defending North Dakota Region 2 baseball champion. A lot of familiar names graduated last spring. Jacob Wurtz, Zach Kvidt, Matt Gr...
Ryam Brantl will have to get used to filling out new lineup cards this season.
Brantl's Thompson team is three-time defending North Dakota Region 2 baseball champion. A lot of familiar names graduated last spring. Jacob Wurtz, Zach Kvidt, Matt Greek and Dave Swatkowski were regulars on each of the last three state tournament teams, while Nick Dunham and David Torok were two-year regulars who graduated.
"That was a great group," Brantl said. "They loved baseball. They worked hard and understood the game. It was one of our better baseball classes.
"But we hope to be competitive again in our region. We have a lot of good players who, in many years, would have been starters. But these kids were playing behind that class that graduated last spring."
The Tommies have a solid group of pitchers. Tyler Kjemhus was 6-0 on last spring's 28-3 team that finished fifth at the Class B state tournament. Aaron Kjemhus and Jake Cooley also are experienced pitchers.
"Tyler is one of the premier pitchers in the state," Brantl said. "He's been throwing well the last two years. Aaron was effective last season, and Cooley threw quite a bit in Legion ball and was effective."
The Kjemhus twins and Randy Syrstad figure to provide the Tommies with a solid middle of the batting order. "They're good contact hitters, with some power," Brantl said.
While Thompson has been the dominant team in Region 2 in recent seasons, Brantl doesn't see that this spring. Instead, he looks for balance, with Central Valley-Hillsboro, Hatton-Northwood and Minto all expected to field competitive teams along with Thompson.
Langdon was runner-up in the Class B state high school baseball tournament last spring and won the B American Legion title last summer. The Cardinals have a solid nucleus around which they can build.
"We have some holes to fill," said Langdon coach Jason Schwabe, whose graduation losses include Justin Flink and Class B senior player of the year Zack Schaefer. "But we're trying to build on what we did last year."
Langdon has two of its top pitchers back from a 29-6 team in Drew Wold (7-0) and Tanner Adam (4-1). Lineup regulars returning are Adam at catcher, Wold and Ryan Bachman in the infield and outfielders Chris Beneda and Zane Jacobson.
"Wold and Adam will throw strikes, and they have the ability to overpower hitters," Schwabe said.
"The bats are the question for us, switching wood. But I don't think it's necessarily bad for us. We've done a lot of bunting and playing small ball in the past. And we're blessed with good speed."
Grafton enters the season as the primary challenger to Langdon's Region 4 title. The Spoilers return their entire starting lineup from a 25-7 team that lost 6-3 to the Cardinals in the region title game last year. The still-young team - Grafton has only four seniors - has a deep pitching staff led by Anthony Kliniske, Garret Molde and Jordan Lutovsky.
Rolette-Rolla is two-time defending North Dakota Region 5 baseball champion, finishing eighth at state last season. Only three regulars, Andy LaFrance, Michael McAtee and Tommy Zinke, return from a 12-7 team.
LaFrance, a pitcher-infielder, was the cleanup hitter, McAtee caught and Zinke played first base. LaFrance and Zinke both had 2-1 mound records.
"We had a nice senior class last year," R-R coach Tim Pfeifer said. "We do have some experience back. I think our defense will be pretty solid, and our pitchers will be better than average. Offense is the biggest question mark. We graduated six kids who supplied a lot of the punch.
"Right now, we're a long shot (to repeat as region champion). Rugby and Munich return their top pitchers. They're probably the favorites right now."
Munich-Starkweather-Cando has good mound depth with Trevor Schommer, Zack Sager and Riley Beck leading the way.
Lakota came up shy in its bid for a berth in the North Dakota Class B state baseball tournament last season after taking the No. 1 seed into the balanced Region 3 tournament. Third-seeded Midkota wound up beating second-seeded Harvey in the region final, with fifth-seeded Dakota Prairie finishing third.
Lakota graduated only two starters from an 11-5 team. Heading the veterans are pitchers James Olderbak (4-1, 1.45 ERA, but missed the region tournament due to illness) and Lance Johansen (6-2, 2.04), who will throw to two-time all-region catcher Chris Hoerth.
"Olderbak and Johansen will be as good as anybody we'll play in the region," Raiders coach Joe Harder said. "They throw strikes, and they throw fairly hard. And we play good defense behind them. The big thing for us is finding a few more pitchers."
Harder looks for another close region. Harvey, with hard-throwing mound ace Tanner Lorenz, Dakota Prairie, with the 1-2 pitching combination of Seth Nichols and Ross Severson, and Midkota with its strong program all figure to contend.
"It will be back and forth between all of us again," Harder said. "It all comes down to pitching."
Midway-Minto point guard Betsy Dickson has made a verbal commitment to play basketball at Minnesota State-Moorhead. . . . Warroad teammates Josiah Head and Jake Bahnmiller were named co-most valuable boys athletes at the Paul Bunyan Express indoor track meet Saturday in Bemidji. Head was a top-four finisher in four events, winning the 400, while Bahnmiller won the high and triple jumps and was second in the long jump. Roseau's Tyler Leverington won the 800 and 1,600. . . . Kyle Nowacki of Warroad and Tony Lenz of Northwood have signed letters of intent to play baseball at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls.
DeVillers can be reached at (800) 477-6572, ext. 128, (701) 780-1128 or by e-mail at email@example.com .