DRS Baseball begins 70th season Sunday

The Dakota-Rice-Scott Baseball League will kick off its 70th season Sunday, April 24, with six games scheduled.

Teams will be competing for the chance to play in the State Amateur Baseball Tournament, which this year will be held at Dassel and Hutchinson over three weekends, concluding on Labor Day.

Each D-R-S team will play a 23-game schedule except for Elko, which will play 12 league games. Elko is the only Class B team in the league, with the other 12 teams competing in Class C.

With the 12 Class C teams all in one region for the post-season (Region 3C), last year the league did away with the its three-division alignment it had used for many years. Again this year, league standings will have all teams included, and the season standings will determine seeding for the regional playoffs.

In an informal poll before the season, New Market, Faribault and St. Patrick were again listed as the top teams for the coming year.

Games this Sunday are all scheduled for 2 p.m. They are: • Union Hill at St. Patrick • New Market at Montgomery • New Prague at Elko • Shakopee at Webster • Faribault at Lonsdale • Prior Lake at Veseli

The league schedule concludes on Sunday, July 24, after which the league/region playoffs will be held to determine the four teams to advance to the state tournament.

The DRS League All-Stars will face the River Valley League All-Stars in a game to be played at Prior Lake’s Memorial Stadium Thursday, July 7.

Here is a brief preview of each of the DRS teams:

Elko Express The Elko Express will play a partial league schedule as the only Class B team in the DRS League. Terry Fredrickson is manager and Mike Christianson is his assistant. Last year, the team went 11-1 in the DRS and 7-3 in Section 1 play. They had an overall record of 36-6. 

Top pitchers include Tyler Brekke, Dylan Thomas, Jordan Jacobson, Glenn Parker, Nick Dorfman and John Hayes. Top hitters include Jason Grimm, TJ Evanson, Nick Altavila and Ben Jenson. Nick Kulla joins the team this season. Will Lundquist will miss the 2016 season due to an arm injury.

Fredrickson expects big things from his team, with most of the squad returning. He said Faribault, New Market and St. Patrick are the teams to beat in the DRS.

Faribault Lakers The Faribault Lakers went 22- 8 last season and won the Region 3C championship, going to state for the second straight year.

Top pitchers returning to the Lakers this year are Matt Lane, Evan Knutson, Matt Stocker and Jack Helgeson. The Lakers’ offense is powered by Joey Grote, Lane, Helgeson, Blake Langerud and Dylan Valentyn.

New to the Faribault team are Porter Sartor, Egan Bonde and Christian Von Ruden. All three are freshmen college players (Sartor and Bonde at Buena Vista and Von Ruden and Southwest State).

"We are very excited to bring back everyone along with some new young faces," manager Charlie Lechtenberg said. "We hope to build off of the last two years and keep improving. We love playing in the DRS League and we are starting to create some fun rivalries with some of the teams."

New Market, St. Benedict and St. Patrick are the teams to beat in the league this year, Lechtenberg said.

Lonsdale Aces Darrel Vosejpka returns as manager for the Lonsdale Aces, with Matt Tschida as his assistant. Last year’s team closed strong, winning six of their final seven games to go 12-11 on the season.

On the hill, the Aces are led by Joe Sabal, who led the team in wins, saves and strikeouts and led the league with the lowest earned run average. Ben Lazzari led the team in innings pitched and was second in wins, while Phil Tisdel was second on the team in strikeouts.

At the plate, big hitters are Jason Kirschman (.367 average) and catcher Matt Tschida, who was third on the team in average and led the team in runs scored and stolen bases.

New players for Lonsdale include third baseman Dylon Eisele and pitcher Phil Goedderz.

Veteran infielder Kevin Kalina has retired, while Zach Sirek and Aaron Kes are also gone from last year’s roster.

"The league should have good parity once again," Vosejpka said. "Our team is looking to build on the run we had at the end of the 2015 season."

Vosejpka picks Elko, New Market and Faribault as the top teams in the league this year.

Highlights of the Lonsdale home schedule include the June 17 Little League Night against Montgomery and the July 3 game against Veseli, with fireworks following the game.

New Market Muskies The New Market Muskies were one of the dominant teams of the year last year in the DRS. They finished with a 25-16 overall record and made their third consecutive state tournament appearance.

Todd Bergstrom returns as manager. He returns both aces from last year’s pitching staff, Derek Bergstrom and Nate Rost. Parker Holmstrom and Brett Herber, both of whom pitched well down the stretch last year, will also return later in the season.

At the plate, Scott Lyden and Nate Rost will be the leaders. Lyden handles the bat well and Rost hits for both power and average. Kyle Bergstrom also has a big bat in the middle of the Muskies’ order.

New to the team this year are Kyle and Andy Henkemeyer. The Muskies lose their mainstay at catcher in Jay Chlan, along with Al Weeman and longtime veteran Tom Carpentier who retired after 40 years in the league.

"The league looks to be as strong as ever and only getting better, I'm hopeful that our team will be able to hold our own throughout the season and make some noise come playoff time," Bergstrom said. He picks Faribault, St. Patrick and Shakopee as the top teams this season.

New Prague Orioles Jerry Plambeck returns to manage the New Prague Orioles, who are coming off a 14-14 season. Nick Schoenecker is his assistant.

Top players for the Orioles include pitchers Dusty Beckius, Chase Buthe, Bryan Schmitz, Dust Steihoff, Ben Buthe and James Fuerniss.

Team captain Dan Novak returns for another season behind the plate. "He leads by example and his leadership is unmatched," Plambeck said.

Other returnees include Aaron Shetka, Justin Novak, Dan Shetka, Zac Dubanoski and Austin Bachman.

New players on the team are Taylor Lambrecht, Bridger Hahn, Matt Schmitz, Frank Bartyzal, Aaron Kes and Kevin Schmitz.

Gone from the roster are Scott Allar, Ross Skluzacek, Tyler Seurer, Nate Neimann, Jake Malz and Brian Pumper.

"We expect the DRS League to be very strong once again this year," Plambeck said. "There are some very good pitchers in the league and it’s rare that you face someone who isn’t top notch. We feel we can be competitive in the league when our pitchers are throwing strikes and we are playing good defense."

Plambeck said Elko, New Market and St. Patrick are the top teams in the league.

The Orioles will host their annual tournament June 10-12.

Montgomery Mallards After a 12-11 regular season, the Montgomery Mallards got hot at playoff time, falling one game short of a state tournament berth. Christian Anderson returns for his second year as manager.

Top players include Ted Christian, a college sophomore at St. John’s, who can be a very effective pitcher, Rob Marshall, a tough competitor who gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the mound, and John Krocak, a hard-throwing reliever who is effective at closing down opponents late in the game.

Krocak also is one of the better hitters for the Mallards, hitting for power and average. Ryan Iverson is a tremendous power hitter who anchors the middle of the lineup, Tom Flicek is a good leader and great top of the order pitcher.

Jaron Christensen joins the Mallards, giving them help both on the mound and elsewhere on the field.

"The 2016 Mallards should be a very talented offensive team," Anderson said. "In order reach the state tournament the team must find consistent pitching and defense which they are very capable of doing."

Anderson said Elko, New Market, Faribault and St. Patrick are the top teams in the league this year.

Prior Lake Mudcats Greg Faue leads the Prior Lake Mudcats, who are coming off a 12-11 season last year. Levi Schneider is his assistant.

Top returnees for the Mudcats include pitchers Ben Morrison, Justin Hacket, Jake Schmidt, Jon Houston and Andrew Gabbard. Other players include Cole Bjorge, Jake Lehrer, Levi Schneider, Ben Morrison, Jon Houston, Kyle Schmidt, Austin Schultz and Tony Loehr. Topher Rose is a new player for the Mudcats, while Casey Johnson has retired and Gary Mariscal has moved on.

"We will have some pitching depth and our young guys should be ready to take a step forward after a year in the league," Faue said.

He added that New Market, Faribault and St. Patrick are among the top teams this season.

St. Benedict Wade Olsen returns to manage a St. Benedict team that placed third in last year’s DRS standings.

The Saints return their entire roster from last season, and add a strong starting pitcher in Matthias Duevel, who pitched for St. Patrick last season.

Top pitchers returning are Tanner Oakes, Chris Hartman, Jeremy Heitkamp, Michael Pauly, Cole Minnick and Derek Karsky. Other players who will contribute at the plate are Scott Eischens, Johnny Dittman, Cullen Bahn and Andrew Huss.

"We will be OK again," Olsen said. "We have basically the same team with the addition of a quality starting pitcher. The league keeps getting better though and there is no league in the state with the depth that our league has."

He says New Market and Faribault are the top teams in the league. "After that, you can pick from a hat, there is so much talent."

St. Patrick Irish John Johnson returns as manager of the St. Patrick Irish, with Bill Dunker his assistant. Last year the Irish went 13-10 during the regular season and advanced to the state tournament, losing in the second round.

Josh Simon, Seth Ambroz and Bill Dunker return as the top veteran pitchers for the team. Also returning are Matthew Pexa, Matt Ambroz and Austin Isaacson.

Longtime Irish players Wade Schuknecht and Jeff Bjerke have retired, and Matthias Duevel and Colton Borwege have moved on.

The Irish look to be one of the top teams in the league again this year, with New Market, Faribault and Shakopee among the teams to beat. The Irish open their season with two tough games, against Union Hill and New Market. The team will hold its fan appreciation game on July 10 against New Prague.

Shakopee Coyotes The Shakopee Coyotes are managed by the team of Dick Steinhoff and Bozo Hoffman. Last year the team went 8-15 on the season.

The top pitchers for the Coyotes this year are Alex Johnson, the workhorse on the mound who gave the team many solid innings. Cody Pamperin pitched well also during a short stint with the team. The Coyotes expect to have him for the entire season and he will give the team a strong one-two punch in the bullpen. Zak Hoffman gives the team veteran leadership.

Hoffman had a down year last year at the plate, but expects to rebound this season and increase his average. Johnson surprised a lot of pitchers with his quick hands on inside pitches and gives the team some pop in the lineup. Alec Pauly will be the leadoff hitter. He brings speed to the bases.

New to the team are Justin Evans and Tyler Sloss.

"We are hoping to improve on our 8-15 record last season and return to the state tournament this season,"

Steinhoff said. "We are going to try to cut down on errors this season and being a young team, understand the situational hitting and what needs to be accomplished in each at bat." Steinhoff picks Elko, New Market and Faribault as the top teams this season.

Union Hill Bulldogs The Union Hill Bulldogs are managed by Adam Gill and Adam Wiener. The team is coming off a 13-12 season and a quick exit from the league playoffs. That came after the squad won eight of their last nine games to give themselves a winning record in the regular season.

Pitcher Dan Feneis is the team’s workhorse on the mound. The Minnesota State University pitcher will throw the bulk of the innings for the team once his college season is over. Other pitchers include Hunter Piehl, Rick Bell, Dave Anderson and Dan Meger.

At the plate, Eric Bisek is a dangerous middle of the order hitter who has both power and average. Matt Beckius also has a dangerous stick and Jeff Dietz, Danny Beckius, Nathan Olson, Bryan Lindner and Jesse Bastyr all return to the lineup.

Brady O’Neill is new to the team this season while Brooks Prochaska has moved on.

"Once again, the DRS should be one of the top leagues in the State. Anybody can beat anybody at any given time. We have a good mix of good young players with some very talented veterans," Gill said.

As for the top teams, New Market and St. Patrick should be at the top, and after that its really anyone’s guess, Gill said.

Key games on the schedule are Thursday June 30, when the Bulldogs host New Prague and the annual Fan Appreciation game July 23 against New Market.

Veseli Warriors Eddie Shimota is back for his second year managing the Veseli Warriors, with Chris Hertaus assisting. Last year, a young Warriors team went 9-21 in the league while gaining valuable experience.

Matt Perkinson and Jack Meyer are the top pitchers for the Warriors. Other top players are Nate Novak, Brett Kriha and Cody Shimota.

Veseli welcomes newcomers Jordan Chlan, Zach Skluzacek and Ben Doerr to the team. Chad Krenik has retired and Cole Giles, Tyler Buening and Austin Kilian have moved on.

"This is a very competitive league with lots of talented ballplayers," Shimota said.

The highlight of the Veseli schedule is their traditional Fourth of July game against rival Lonsdale, part of the community’s Fourth of July celebration.

Webster Sox After a winless 2015 season, Webster has made some significant roster changes, releasing 11 players from last year’s roster, but quickly signing 11 new players to fill out the squad. Top returning players from 2015 are Jason Nelson, Nate Nielsen, Jeremy Wieland, Marcus Pleiss, Brent Cheney, Alex Fischer, and Parker Hafermann. New roster additions include; John Stenzel, Zach Johnson, Jacob Schiffner, Ryan Stone, Morgan Blade, Simen Rested, Brooks Prochaska, Cole Giles, Hunter Solheid, Adam Neuger and Brett Hoffman.

In 2015 Webster noticeably was lacking in pitching and depth. The Sox believe that they may have finally filled both of those needs with the new signings.

Webster won their first game in over a year, an exhibition game versus The Waverly-Montrose Stingers; 13-12. Webster hopes for more consistency for 2016 and believes they are headed in the right direction.