DRS Baseball will open 73rd season Sunday

The Dakota-Rice-Scott Baseball League begins its 73rd season Sunday, April 28, with six games on the schedule.

The league includes 13 teams - 12 of which are Class C teams. Elko is the lone Class B team. The Express will play each league team once, while the rest of the league will play a double round-robin schedule for a total of 23 league games.

Last year saw one of the most exciting seasons in recent history, and five DRS teams qualified for the state tournament: Elko, Faribault, New Market, New Prague and St. Patrick. Three of them - New Market, New Prague and Faribault - played their way into the final weekend of the tournament, which was hosted by league members New Prague and Shakopee.

There are three new managers in the league this season - Nick Schoenecker replaces Jerry Plambeck in New Prague, Dave Readmond takes over for the legendary Darrel Vosejpka in Lonsdale and Jesse Nystrom takes over for Dick Steinhoff in Shakopee.

League play is scheduled to conclude on July 21, after which teams will enter league and regional playoffs, hoping to qualify for the State Class C Amateur Baseball Tournament, which will be played in Delano and Maple Lake.

Opening day in the DRS will see Prior Lake at Shakopee, Union Hill at Veseli, New Prague vs. Montgomery at Le Center, Faribault at Webster, New Market at St. Benedict and Lonsdale at St. Patrick. All games are at 2 p.m.

The New Prague-Montgomery game was moved to Le Center due to field conditions in Montgomery.

Two DRS teams will play exhibition games Saturday, April 27. Young America is at St. Patrick and Champlin Park is at Prior Lake.

Each team was asked to highlight their upcoming season, including roster changes, top players and an outlook on their team and the rest of the league:

Team summaries: Elko Express Terry Fredrickson returns as manager of the Elko Express, the only Class B team in the DRS League. Mike Christianson is a coach. Last year’s team went 25-16 and qualified for the State Class B Tournament, losing in the first round. Mike Melich and Ryan Van- Dusen have retired, while Glenn Parker is playing elsewhere and Ben Jensen has moved. One new player for the Express includes Billy Riach, a pitcher from Lakeville. Top pitchers for Elko this year will be Nick Dorfman, Grant Gunderson and Ross Bastyr. Top position players include T.J. Evanson, Dylan Thomas, Ash Larsen, Jason Grimm, Kyle Kraska and Kyle Kalina.

Faribault Lakers After battling injuries for the second half of the regular season, the Fairbuat Lakers recovered and made a deep run in the state playoffs, losing in the quarterfinals. Charlie Lechtenberg returns as manager and Chris Reuvers is his assistant. “We’ve got a good group of guys who respect the game and support each other. We have great leadership,” Reuvers said. Top pitchers for the Lakers include Matt Lane, who Reuvers said is one of the top pitchers in the state, and a great leader as well.” Jack Helgeson and Egan Bonde provide one of the best rotations in the league. Joe Grote is the Lakers No. 3 hitter, Blake Langerud and Adam Kline will also be among the top hitters for the team. Reuvers said that New Market, is the team to beat in the DRS, with Union Hill, St. Patrick and New Prague among the contenders. “This league is very competitive. There are lots of good teams.”

Lonsdale Aces Dave Readmond is the manager for the Lonsdale Aces. He took on an interim basis last year when manager Darrel Vosejpka was battling a health issue. Paul Milford is his assistant. Last year, the Aces were 6-19. “We increased our total runs scored in league games more than any other team in the league,” Readmond said. Two players have retired for the Aces - Jake Snyder and Bert Westerman. Cole Pint will be playing for Montgomery this year. New players for Lonsdale include Sheldon Carpentier, Ross Beumer and Jacob Grimm. Top pitchers for Lonsdale include Joe Sabal, who is looking to bounce back from a rough 2018 when he battled health issues, Phil Tisdel, an experienced arm who gives a solid seven innings each outing, and Dan Turner. Top position players include Beumer, Jack Skluzacek and Turner, who will form the heart of the batting order. Other top players include Marty Kalina, Peter Grassl and Tyler Milford. with Trevor Smrekar, Devin Vosejpka, and Brad Davis getting a lot of RBI chances. The Aces also hope to have Zach Breedan back for the stretch run. He will be playing in a college league in Kansas this summer. “We are hoping to get to .500 this year and surprise somebody in the playoffs,” said Readmond. “We have a very exciting mix of veterans who are all excellent leaders who help the young kids learn to play at the DRS level.” Readmond expects Union Hill, New Market, New Prague and St. Patrick to be among the top teams in the league.

Montgomery Mallards Tyler Bednar returns as manager of the Montgomery Mallards, with Tom Flicek serving as his assistant. “Last year’s team was able to fight through injuries and shorthanded pitching,” Bednar said. “We were just a game away from punching a ticket to state.” A new addition for the Mallards is Cole Pint, a second baseman who had played with Lonsdale. There are high hopes for the Mallards as Johnny Krocak, one of the team’s top pitchers the last few years, returns to the mound this year after not pitching last season due to Tommy John surgery. “He is a power pitcher that can start and close,” Bednar said. Other top pitchers are Ted Christian and Robbie Marshall. At the plate, the Mallards feature Krocak, who was able to play in the infield in the second half of the 2018 season, along with Mike Flicek and Pat Lloyd. “We want to build off our success from the second half of last year and make a run at state,” Bednar said. He said teams that stand in their way include Union Hill, New Market, St. Patrick and Faribault.

New Market Muskies The 2018 version of the New Market Muskies compiled a 31- 6 record, 21-2 in DRS play. “We made our best run in the State Tournament to date making it to Labor Day weekend before bowing out after a marathon game with Young America,” said Manager Todd Bergstrom. The Muskies lost seven players from last season, most of whom have retired, but several moving to other teams in the league. Newcomers to the Muskies include: Reece English and Michael Swanstrom, both are high schoolers joining their first town team. Also coming aboard is Tony Vocca a pitcher and utility player from Lakeville who will also be joining his first townball team. Veteran David Stewart is making a comeback to the Muskies after taking last year off. Top pitchers include Nate Rost, one of the aces in the DRS over the past few years.“We look for him to have another strong season hopefully building off his All-Tournament team selection from last year's State Tournament,” Bergstrom said. Other top pitchers include Riley Ahern and Derek Bergstrom, who moved into a closer role last season. Top position players include Andy Henkemeyer - a big lefthanded bat in the middle of the order, Nate Rost, who had a big state tournament at the plate, and Scott Lyden, a consistent hitter at the top of the lineup. “We are hoping to have another successful season this year with a good mix of youth and veterans, hopefully ending in a long state tourney run,” Bergstrom said. Bergstrom named St. Patrick, Union Hill, Faribault and his team as the top contenders in the DRS.

New Prague Orioles Nick Schoenecker takes over for Jerry Plambeck as manager of the New Prague Orioles. The longtime player and assistant manager has a rebuilding season ahead of him, with four starters not returning. Catcher Dan Novak is retiring after 24 years of amateur baseball. Aaron Kes is also retiring, Zack Dubanoski is playing for Union Hill and Zach Clark has moved out of the area. The Orioles had a 23-14 record and advanced to the third round at last year’s state tournament. New players for the Orioles include infielder/pitchers Spencer Kajer and Jacob Deutsch, pitcher Frank Ruzicka, pitcher/first baseman Luke Tupy, pitcher/outfielder Mitch Shambour and outfielders Nathan Osborne and Collin Dorzinski. Top pitchers for the Orioles include Nathan Sprouls, a biggame pitcher, who’s one of the top pitchers in the state; Joel Zimmermann, a calming veteran leader; Zach Sirek, power pitcher; and Max Fierst, second-year player who helped pitched part of a no-hitter last year against Green Isle. Top position players are Justin Novak, Eric Wagner, Austin Bachman, Ben Buthe, James Fuerniss, Bryce Novak and Jake Klein. “The expectation is always to play hard, play fundamentally sound baseball and have fun,” said Schoenecker. “We want to be playing our best baseball in July and August just like the last couple of years.” Schoenecker, who is assisted by Dan Shetka, says New Market and Faribault are the top two teams, and he expects St. Patrick to be up there as well. “Veseli is going to be strong this year, they have a good core group of guys that have been playing together for a few years now and they will make some noise in the league.” The Orioles will also benefit from a full season in their home ballpark. The park had been closed for parts of each of the last three seasons while renovations were made to upgrade it for last year’s state tournament.

Prior Lake Mudcats Greg Faue returns as manager of the Prior Lake Mudcats, with Ben Morrison serving as his assistant. The Mudcats went 11-12 in league play last year, but lost their playoff series and were eliminated in the first round. Kyle Schmidt and Skylar Pumper have moved on from last year’s team. The Mudcats have picked up Parker Hafermann from Webster and Derek Kay. Top pitchers for Prior Lake will be Morrison, Isaac Saad, Lucas Pumper, Justin Hackett, Alex Watermann and Topher Rose. “We have some consistent pitchers returning, along with some new young arms,” Faue said. Saad returns to the Mudcats after a year away. Johnny Houston, Cole Bjorge and Jake Lehrer are the top three hitters for the Mudcats. “We hope to play well early and get ahead in the standings,” Faue said. “We need to be more consistent, and if we can play consistently, a top-four finish is possible. We have some talent that has joined us, and it is important to get those guys off to a good start.” He said Union Hill, New Market, Faribault and St. Patrick are the teams to beat this season.

St. Benedict Saints The St. Benedict Saints competed last season in the region playoffs after placing eighth in the DRS and defeating Veseli in a best-of-three to qualify for regions. The Saints say goodby to several long-time players, Scott Eischens, Chris Hartman, Michael Pauly and Cullen Bahn. Top players for this year’s squad include pitchers Tanner Oakes, Matthias Duevel, Paul Hentges, Jeremy Heitkamp and Cole Minnick. Top position players are power hitter Andrew Huss, Mitchell Martin, Oakes, Zach Bakko and the versatile Jeremy Heitkamp. “Until we prove otherwise, St. Benedict is a team that can beat any team in our league on any given date,” said Manager Wade Olsen. “We're also a team that can be beaten by any team on any given date. One of our goals this year is to be a more consistent team with less bad losses.” "I think last season the league was at it's absolute best I've seen it since I've been managing. It will be hard to duplicate as the league has lost some of its best veterans.” Olsen says Montgomery is the team on the rise. “New Market and Union Hill will fight for the top two spots, with St. Patrick, Faribault, Montgomery, New Prague and Prior Lake all wellpositioned to earn a bye.”

St. Patrick Irish John Johnson returns as manager of the St. Patrick Irish, a team that went 16-7 in league play and advanced to the second round of the state tournament. Bill Dunker is his assistant. Nick Friedges has moved on to Veseli this year, but the Irish are picking up two new players, Joe Weiers and Blake Woodson, both seniors at New Prague High School. Top pitchers for St. Patrick include Zach Seurer, Phillip Garcia and Josh Simon. Johnson said the bulk of last year’s team returns pretty much intact, with a solid group of veterans returning in the field and at the plate. “We expect to battle through the DRS season and finish in the top four to earn a bye, then continue on to state tourney play,” Johnson said. “We expect to be in the top four, other top teams are New Market, Montgomery, Faribault and Union Hill.” The Irish will also have some improvements that were made to Bonin Field, their home ballpark. A new backstop was added and other improvements were made to the park.

Shakopee Coyotes Jesse Nystrom is the new manager of the Shakopee Coyotes, and he is assisted by Bozo Hoffman. Last year the Coyotes had a 7-16 league record, but advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Coyotes welcome a pair of new players this season, Caleb Friedrich from New London- Spicer and Jordan Carday from Wisconsin. Shakopee’s pitching will be led by Cody Pamperin, providing leadership and experience on the mound, Chris Isensee, who had a number of quality outings last year, and Josh Dvorak, a quality young player with potential. Top position players include Zak Hoffman, Henry Henk and Alex Pauly. “We expect to have a better season than last year,” Nystrom said. “Another year of experience for our young players should help tremendously. We should have more pitching depth this year.” Nystrom picks New Market, St. Patrick, Faribault and New Prague to be the top teams in the league this season.

Union Hill Bulldogs John Masberg returns as manager of the Union Hill Bulldogs, with Dusty Steinhoff his assistant. The Bulldogs lost a number of players who have either retired or moved on. That includes longtime veterans Jesse Bastyr, Rick Bell, Eric Bisek, Jeff Dietz, Matt Beckius, Bryan Lindner and Andrew Weiers. New players on this year’s squad include Zach Dubanoski, from the New Prague Orioles, Matt Collins from Cleveland, Sam Novak, Seth Huiras and Gavin Bergman. Top pitchers for the Bulldogs will be Dan Feneis, Conrad Masberg, Luke Zweber and Derek Masberg. Dubanoski and Adam Giesen will be key parts of the Union Hill lineup. “This is a team that will have to work through the huge loss of veteran leadership,” Masberg said. “There will be a lot of opportunity for the next generation to step into the vacated roles. Staying healthy will dictate the success.” Masberg expects the top teams in the league to include New Market, Faribault, St. Patrick and New Prague.

Veseli Warriors Chris Hertaus is back as manager of the Warriors, assisted by Matt Perkinson. Last year, Veseli had a 7-16 record. A host of players are retiring from the Warriors, including Mike Bartusek, Blake Radloff, Nate Novak, Travis Vikla, Bryan Schmitz and Jake Meyer.The Warriors have signed a number of new players, including Will Forberg, Nick Friedges, Michael Nezerka, Kevin Dudley, Ethan Shimota and Jack Maxa. Top pitchers will be Perkinson, Ben Doerr, Jackson Jirik, Forberg and Friedges, “Matt and Ben will give us quality starts, with Jackson, Will and Nick helping the pitching staff,” Hertaus said. Top position players include Drew Picka, Logan Reger, Cody Shimota, Perkinson and Corey Friedges. “We will have a strong defense in the infield,” Hertaus said. “And Tyler Busch will give us a strong player behind the plate.” Hertaus said John Solheid, Mason Mayer, Jack Krause, Jordan Chlan and Corey Fridges will give the team a strong outfield. “With all the players retiring, especially Novak and Bartusek, we will have some big shoes to fill,” Hertaus said. “I believe we have the players to do the job.” Hertaus said New Market, Faribault, Union Hill and St. Patrick are the teams to beat in the league.

Webster Sox Things are looking up for the Webster Sox as they prepare for the 2019 season. Last year’s squad went 6-17 in league play, tripling their win total from the previous season and one of their top win totals in recent years. Players who are gone from the squad include Parker Haferman, Cole Giles, Zach Johnson, JJ Stenzel, Brandon Sather and Jake Ekness. The Sox expect to sign a few new players before the season gets underway. Top pitchers for Webster include veteran Jeremy Wieland, who throws strikes and keeps his team in the game, John Barten, another inning-eater who throws strikes, Jarod Opshahl and Jack Meyer. Position players include Brent Cheney, who has shown added power in recent years, Jared Tucker, a mid-season addition last year who is a strong outfielder and a good hitter, and Brooks Prochaska, who looks to continue his improvement at the plate. “Last year was a large step in the right direction for this team,” said Manager Mike Sandmann. “After a few years of very few wins, Webster tripled their win total and lost a few other close games. With most key contributors back it will be important to move forward with the momentum built and win a few more games.” Sandmann expects New Market, Faribault, Union Hill and St. Patrick will be among the top teams this season.

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