Dakota, Rice, Scott League teams hoping for solid summer of town baseball

The New Prague Orioles started tough against Elko Sunday, May 19, at Memorial Park. Aggressive Elko base running and timely hits helped Elko top the Orioles, 9-2. (John Mueller photo)

Amateur baseball in the Dakota, Rice, Scott League began a few weeks back. Teams are hoping for a good summer of town baseball. Here is a brief look at the DRS teams that responded to a request for information on their teams.

New Prague Orioles Manager: Nick Schoenecker Record a year ago, place in DRS: 10-11 in the DRS, 14- 16 overall. Strengths of your team: New Prague is more experienced than it hase been. It hase a group of players that understand what it takes to win in the DRS, said manager Nick Schoenecker. “Eric Wagner, James Fuerniss and Gavin Bergman will lead our offense this year,” he said. Biggest challenges your team faces: The DRS is full of a lot of very good and talented teams. “You have to be at your best to have a chance to win,” he said. Goals for the season: The Orioles aim to build throughout the season and make sure they are playing their best baseball at the end of the year. “We'd are looking for individuals to step up and improve as baseball players as well as grow as a team,” Schoenecker said. Expectations for the season, regular and playoffs: “Our goal for the year is finish the season with a winning record and play in the state baseball tournament,” Schoenecker said.

Union Hill Bulldogs Manager: Dustin Steinhoff Record a year ago, place in DRS: 13-8 tied for 1st (2 seed in region). Strengths of your team: Brady O'Neill, coming off a stellar season last year, got married and has been hitting the weight room in the off-season, said manager Dustin Steinhoff. “We are excited to see what he will bring in 2024,” he said. Biggest challenges: Staying healthy. Injuries hurt the Bulldogs a little last year and if Union Hill can stay healthy, Steinhoff believes the team will be OK. Goals for the season: The Bulldogs want to have fun, compete at a high level and make it to Labor Day, Steinhoff said.

St Patrick Irish

Manager: Brent Goracke, 21-11, Section 1, first place, final 8 teams in Class B at the 2023 State Tourney

Team's strengths: The guys are young and will come to play every game.

Challenges the team faces: We have a lot of players playing in collegiate leagues this year and getting them back at the end of the year will be important. That being said, we have a lot of very good baseball players here for the summer and they will come to the park to compete every day. They are a very fun group to watch play the game. We will be playing a lot of baseball in June/July, health always plays a part for every team and the challenges that brings.

Goals for the season: The team's goal is to finish strong in a very competitive Section 1. "Hopefully, we'll be playing our best baseball at the end of the year," Goracke said.

Expectations: Like mentioned early, we have a great core group of players that will be here for the summer and looking to fill needs at the end of the year after players get back. "The goal each year is to win Labor Day," Goracke said. "Getting there is an extreme challenge that the guys look forward to."

Webster Sox Manager: Todd Klehn. Record a year ago: 18-3. Strengths of your team: “We play good defense and have solid pitching depth,” said manager Todd Klehn. Biggest challenges: The Sox need to be more consistent at the plate, Klehn said. Goals for the season: Finish in the top third of the league and make it to the state tournament, Klehn said. Expectations for the season, regular and playoffs: “We want to finish in the top third of the league and make it to the state tournament,” he said. Any other thoughts? “I look forward to a great summer of baseball for the Sox and the rest of the DRS League,” Klehn said. “It should be a competitive summer of baseball as the DRS league continues to get better every year.”

Montgomery Mallards Manager: Greg Westerman Record a year ago, place in DRS: 11-11, fourth place. Team strengths: We have great depth this year, hitting, pitching and fielding, Westerman said. “All 24 players on the roster are good baseball players that will contribute,” he said. “Solid veteran leadership with a younger group that has been gaining experience and expected to step up a level this year.” Biggest challenges your team faces: Staying healthy and keeping older players rested for the playoff run. “We were pretty tired at the end of the regular season last year due to injuries, a short bench and back-loaded schedules. All those things look better already in 2024,” Westerman said. Goals for the season: “We only have one goal, to be playing on Labor Day weekend,” he said, referring to being in the state tournament. Expectations for the season, regular and playoffs: We expect to compete in every game we play and to get better throughout the summer, playing our best baseball in August, Westerman said. “The Mallards should finish in the top three of the DRS and advance to the state tournament. Once there, we expect to be as good as any team we get matched up against,” he said. “The league is very deep and there will be no easy games, helping prepare all the teams to represent the DRS and Region 3C very well in the state tournament. We've increased our number of games from 24 last year to 29 this year to keep all of our players sharp and ready to contribute.”

Veseli Warriors Manager: Bill Dunker DRS record: 4-17 (6th) Team strengths: Youth, depth, pitching depth. Biggest challenges: Hitting good pitching, youth, overcoming adversit. Team goals: Improve on 2023, state tournament Season expectations: The DRS is always a strong league. Now, the so-called bottom teams have improved, said manager Bill Dunker. The team expects the most competitive season in a long time. Playoffs: I'm not sure anyone matches up well with Webster over the long haul, but anyone can beat anyone on a given day. With three spots to the state tournament available and saying that, I wouldn't be surprised if anyone of about eight teams secure the final two spots. “Look for a surprise again perhaps,” Dunker said.

St. Benedict Saints Manager: Wade Olsen DRS record: 4-17 a year ago, eliminated by Veseli in the region playoffs. Biggest strengths: Manager Wade Olsen said the team’s pitching depth and defense up the middle is its strength. “We have so many pitchers who love to throw,” he said. “They maybe are not the most talented arms, but guys love to battle. Our defense down the middle with Derek Albers in center, Mitchell Martin at short, and Nolan Eischens behind the plate gives us solid defense at the three most key positions.” Team goals: “Our goals for this season are to hang in there. The league has topend pitching and with the spaced out schedule and not counting the ‘B’ games in standings, we will be facing 1s and 2s every game,” Olsen said. “We are built best to play games where our depth pitching faces other teams depth pitching. That probably can’t happen much this season.” Expectations: Eischens and Albers figure to lead the bullpen. Tyler Hughes, Alex Donkers, Matthias Duevel, Cole Minnick, and Cody Pirkl will most likely lead the team in innings pitched. “The heart of the order will consist of Eischens, Albers, Martin and Patrick Huisman,” Olsen said. The St. Benedict Saints defeated the Faribault Lakers, 6-3, Saturday, May 18, in St. Benedict. Tyler Hughes went five strong innings in the Saints season opener. Casey Anderson got the win in relief, while Cody Pirkl notched the eight-out save. Derek Albers had three hits and three RBIs for St. Benedict. Joe Pesta had two hits and scored twice, while catcher Noah Miller hit a solo home run for the victors. Faribault stranded 14 runners on base and scored their runs in the middle innings. Joey Grote had an RBI single in the fifth. Stefan Anderson had a double to key a two-run rally in the sixth to briefly tie the score at 3. Albers’ two-run double in the bottom half of the inning was the eventual game-winner.

The St. Benedict Saints edged the Prior Lake Mudcats, 3-1, Sunday, May 19, in St. Benedict. Alex Donkers, Matthias Duevel, Cody Pirkl, Cole Minnick, and Derek Albers all pitched well for the Saints. Duevel earned the win with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. Albers earned the save working the final two frames striking out five. Offensively, St. Benedict was led by Joe Pesta, Albers, and Nolan Eischens with two hits each. Eischens drove home two. Prior Lake got quality pitching performances from Ben Morrison and Nick Albee who combined to strike out 10 Saints batters. John Parker and Johnny Houston had singles in the seventh inning leading to the team’s lone run.

Lonsdale Aces Manager: Phil Tisdel Record a year ago: 12-9, third in the DRS Strengths: Overall depth and experience of a relatively young team. “We have a strong core of players that have now played together for over five seasons. They are the heart of the team and the catalyst for success. In addition to them, we have a lot of young men that are getting more experience each season and developing into a great complement for when it is their turn to take the reins, Tisdel said. “I can't forget about the experienced vets as well, leading the team on and off the field and showing what it takes to take ownership of the team. Our pitching depth is what keeps our team competitive and makes us a tough team to play each and every game.” Biggest challenges: As is usual for most teams, playing error-free games and jumping out to early leads. “Consistency is key and starting strong typically leads to success in the DRS,” Tisdel said. Goals: The Aces aim to play consistent baseball and keeping the throttle down to win as many games in the regular season in preparation for a deep run in the playoffs, Tisdel said. Expectations for the season, regular and playoffs: “We always are striving to win and put out the best team to represent Lonsdale proudly. Make the playoffs or bust,” he said. Lonsdale Aces defeat Union Hill in pitcher's duel Both teams were strong on the mound Sunday, May 19, but the Aces defeated Union Hill 2-1. Issac Pint started the game for Lonsdale and recorded 27 outs. Issac Pint struck out 10 batters on the day. The starting pitcher also gave up three hits and one run over nine innings while walking none. The Aces got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning after Mike Alvestad homered to left field, and Thomas Hoppert singled, each scoring one run. Joe Becker hit a solo home run to left field in the top of the seventh for Union Hill. Charlie Otteson took the loss for Union Hill. They went eight innings, giving up two runs on four hits, striking out four and walking three. Thomas Hoppert and Mike Alvestad each drove in one run for Lonsdale. Mike Alvestad led the Aces with two hits in three at-bats. The Aces were sure-handed in the field and didn't commit a single error. Joe Becker went 1-for-4 at the plate as they led the team with one run batted in. Becker, Nate Lee, and Conrad Masberg each collected one hit for Union Hill. Union Hill turned one double play in the game. Next up for Lonsdale Aces is a game at New Market on Sunday, May 26.

Shakopee Coyotes Manager: Ben Fredenburg 2023 record was 2-19, last place. The Coyotes beat New Prague. They had a 1-2 playoff record. Team strengths are: “We have young, developmental players and are eager to grow as a team,” Fredenburg said. Biggest challenges: Shakopee is a young team in a rebuilding period. “Finding competitive players for our roster, we are still under restrictions of only signing players from/in Shakopee with no college experience,” he said. Goals for this season: Soak everything in and learn from it. There will be struggles but it's how we respond to them, Fredenburg said. Expectations: The Coyotes want to be competitive in every game, make adjustments, develop and grow.

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