GGF baseball preview: After state tournament run, Sacred Heart rebuilds behind strong pitching

The Eagles, who finished fourth at state last season, will be powered by the arms of all-section picks Ethan Arntson and Parker Erickson.

060221 S GFH SHBASE EthanArntson01.jpg
Sacred Heart pitcher Ethan Arntson winds up in the second inning of a Minnesota Section 8A west subsection baseball matchup versus the Northern Freeze at Stauss Park on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

EAST GRAND FORKS — The East Grand Forks Sacred Heart baseball team's task isn't that different than the Eagles' basketball challenge this school year.

In basketball, Sacred Heart made a state tournament run last season and was faced with replacing two of the program's all-time leading scorers. The Eagles' basketball squad overcame those challenges to repeat as section champions this year.

Now, it's baseball's turn to try to replace a large senior contingent from a state tournament team.

The Eagles, who finished fourth at the state baseball tournament a year ago, lost eight seniors and five regulars from their lineup but have a pair of all-section pitchers to help rebuild in senior Ethan Arntson and sophomore Parker Erickson.

"It'll be guys battling for a few spots and the returning starters will be asked to do a little more than the past," Sacred Heart coach Paul Bethke said. "While we might struggle a bit out of the gate offensively, we'll try to be similar to last year's team. There's probably less power but we'll still steal bases and probably bunt more this year. Hopefully our pitchers keep us in games."


Arntson and Erickson, along with Breck Bloom, will handle the majority of the innings.

"Parker and Ethan ... I expect them to be two of the top pitchers in the conference," Bethke said.

Erickson was dominant in Sacred Heart's first game of the season, striking out 12 in 5 and one-third innings during a victory over Ada-Borup.

"Parker started as an eighth-grader, so he has two full years of varsity experience," Bethke said. "He has multiple pitches and is comfortable using them whenever. We expect a lot from him. What he showed us in the first game this year was a pretty dominant performance."

Arntson went 3-0 last year with a 1.77 earned-run average. He struck out 22 in just over 35 innings.

"Ethan has a change of speeds and his ball moves a lot," Bethke said.

Like the basketball program, Sacred Heart will need to replace the dual-threat of departed senior and multi-sport standout Sam Gapp, who hit .361 last year and went 7-1 on the mound. The team also loses top hitter Cullen Rohrich, who batted .462 with 32 stolen bases in 27 games.

Bethke said losing that leadership will still need to be sorted out for this year's Eagles.


"We might have that again, but it's hard to tell," Bethke said. "Hopefully, we're developing some others, and it doesn't hurt these guys had success again during the basketball season."

GGF teams at-a-glance

EGF Senior High

Coach: Dustin Frize.

2022 record: 14-6.

Key returners: Sr. OF-P Tanner Nowacki (.286 batting average, 18 RBIs); sr. OF Caleb Schmiedeberg (.313); sr. IF Cam Kofstad (.256); jr. P-IF Drew Carpenter (all-section, .250, five 2Bs, 6-2, 28 Ks, 4.50 ERA); soph. P-IF Rylee Hams (all-section, .410, 4-1, 22 Ks, 3.28 ERA); soph. P-IF Noah Frize (.366).

Top newcomers: Soph. C-IF-P Jace Van Eps; jr. C-P Levi Anderson; soph. OF-P Jordan Nowacki; fr. IF-P Carson McDonald.

Coach Frize says: “I think we have a lot of strike-throwers who will allow us to use our defense. I think defense will be the strength of our team. First game out, we turned two double plays up the middle. A lot of teams might not do that early in the year. The biggest question mark on our team will be getting some key hits with guys in scoring position. We’ll have team speed and get on bases. We’ll have to play some small ball and hope for some big hits.”

EGF Sacred Heart

Coach: Paul Bethke.

2022 record: 22-5, Section 8A champions, fourth place at state.


Key returners: Sr. Ethan Arntson (all-section, .276, 3-0, 1.77 ERA, 22 Ks, 35.6 IP); soph. Parker Erickson (all-section, .341, 5-2, 3.13 ERA, 42 Ks, 31.3 IP); jr. Josiah Sundby (.182); sr. Breck Bloom (.365, 2 HRs); soph. David Larson (.200, HR).

Top newcomers: Soph. Elliot Arntson; fr. Isaac Sundby; jr. Mike Gapp; jr. Ben Wharam; sr. Landen Denney.

Coach Bethke says: “We lost eight seniors and five who were every-day players. We have one game in, by a miracle. We lost a lot of leadership so it’s hard to tell how that’ll be replaced. We have a lot of innings back from our pitchers, plus some younger kids who pitch, so we have a higher side of numbers in pitching. That’ll be our strength to start the season.”

GF Central

Coach: Tim Gregoire.

2022 record: 5-12.

Key returners: Sr. C-OF-P Cole Barta (all-EDC, .389 batting average); sr. IF-P Chance Colgrove (.404, 0-3, 29 Ks, 4.97 ERA, 25.1 IP) ; jr. IF-P Braden Brevik (.286); jr. IF-OF-P Jack Simmers; sr. IF-OF-P Zach Erickson (.293); sr. IF-OF-P Aidan Lee; sr. IF-OF Wyatt Wockenfuss (.265).

Top newcomers: Fr. IF-OF Keegan Hensrud; jr. IF-OF-P Landon Lima; jr. IF-OF-C Gabe Tande; jr. IF-OF-P Noah Morkve; jr. IF-OF-P Blaise Wocken.

Coach Gregoire says: “I think we’ll be able to hit pretty well and put the ball in play. We have 10 pitchers who can throw strikes and a couple who can strike some guys out. If we can make the plays defensively, it’ll give us a chance to win.”


GF Red River

Coach: Mark Varriano.

2022 record: 11-6.

Key returners: Sr. IF-P Brett Feller (all-state, .386 batting average, 4-1, 2.44 ERA, 41 Ks, 28.6 IP); sr. sr. IF-P Mason Stroh (all-EDC, .438, 2-3, 5.44 ERA); sr. OF-P Logan Okstad; sr. IF-P Cole LeDuc (.231); sr. IF-P Dylan Desmarais (.323), sr. OF Brady Price; sr. IF Gunnar Heuchert (.283); sr. OF-P Kelly Middleton (2-0, 3.76 ERA).

Top newcomers: Fr. C-P Adrian Gonzalez-Rodriguez.

Coach Varriano says: “With the way the season might set up, we’ll get games stuffed in together. We’ll have to have guys step up to throw. Mason and Brett can’t throw every game. We have to move pieces around.”

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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