By Pat Garry, Staff Writer
The long-awaited and much-anticipated thaw is upon us, and area high school athletes are chomping at the bit to get the spring season rolling. Coaches are optimistic and look forward to successful journeys in 2019.
Head coach Dan Berg, starting his second year at the helm, leads the Eden Valley-Watkins Varsity baseball team. Berg’s staff includes Dave Schneider, Varsity head-assistant coach; and David Luhman, in just his second year, heads-up the junior Varsity squad. The Eagles were 3-17 last year, but the coaches are expecting to vastly improve that mark. EV-W graduated five seniors and return nine guys from last year’s team; many with good experience under their belts. “I think the defense should be our strength this season, since we bring back our entire infield and our catcher,” said Coach Berg. Grant Johnson caught every game last year and showed great improvement throughout the season. The infield is anchored by Alex Foehrenbacher, Luke Jansen, Carson Geislinger, and Damian Lincoln. Gavin Klocker secures center field and the other two spots are up for grabs. Other players vying for positions are Logan Hoff, Mitchell Utecht (who can also play some infield), Kobe Beattie, Dylan Utecht, Connor Lincoln, and Conner Kenning. The mound duties are primarily in the hands of Mitchell Utecht, Carson Geislinger, Alex Foehrenbacher and Luke Jansen. Hitting leaders from last year include Carson Geislinger .415 (also made all-conference team), Alex .275, Luke .275 and Gavin .259. “Overall, I can’t wait to see this group on the practice field. I’m anticipating our experienced guys will push everyone to play better and be contenders right up to the season’s end,” Coach Berg expressed.
Adam Beyer coaches the Kimball baseball team, and this year’s squad returns two full-time starters off last year’s team. Third-year letter winner and senior Thomas Pearson is back at shortstop and pitcher. Junior Tucker Schultz made the shift from infield to outfield last year, and he is a natural at tracking down fly balls. He plays centerfield this year. Junior Tyler Stang played a little over half of the Varsity contests last year and has shown he is capable of playing any position. Other returning letter winners include seniors Josh Donnay (pitcher, outfield) Jake Traurig (outfield, second base), Spencer Kenning (pitcher, outfield), and junior Noah Young (pitcher, infield). Two other juniors move up to Varsity full time this season; outfielder Jimmy Benson and first baseman Jimmy Wicker. The Cubs could be going young at catcher this season, with freshman Ashton “Shug” Hannan working there in early practices.
Offensively, Kimball returns two big hitters from the middle of last year’s order. Thomas Pearson likely hits third this year, after hitting .344 with five doubles and twelve RBIs. Tucker Schultz starts the year in the leadoff spot, ending last season at .338, with two doubles and nine RBIs. Much of the rest of the order is up for grabs and will be determined by practice and early games. The Cubs have some new faces on the mound this year. Pearson threw 34 innings last year and is the most experienced returning pitcher. He saved his best performance for his last and most important outing, throwing a shutout against Osakis in the playoffs. Schultz pitched 13 and 1/3 innings and Stang added 8 innings last season. Other pitchers this year are lefty Spencer Kenning, who was injured last year, Noah Young, and the Donnay brothers; senior Josh and sophomore Austin. The Cubs’ first game of the year is April 5 at home against ACGC, and their first conference game is April 11 at BBE.
K/EV-W boys’ head golf Coach Zach Boser is anxious to get back on the courses and start competing. The boys’ team has a lot of talent again this season, as the two all-conference golfers return (Luke Ashbrook and Adam Sanquist). The squad is strong this year, since just two were lost to graduation. The team is very senior-laden with Sanquist, Casey Gohmann, Branson Jensen, Drew Gustafson, and Brendan Maurer. However, the conference is in for a little bit of a shake-up, as Maple Lake and Howard Lake/Waverly/Winsted are now a co-operative school. Additionally, this is Pierz’ last year in the Central Minnesota Conference. “I have high expectations for our team this year. I would like to win our conference for the third year in a row, as well as have three players make it to the all-conference team. Too, it would be sweet for us to qualify for day-two of sections, and hopefully send some golfers to state. If Mother Nature cooperates, we should be on the course in a few weeks. This is going to be a great season for the K/EV-W boys’ program!” said an enthused Coach Boser.
The K-EV/W girls’ golf team is coached by Kit Pennie, and the 2019 squad consists of ten members. Included in that group are returning Varsity golfers Shaelyn Desm and Katie Madigan. “There are a lot of new faces on the team this year, so I’m looking forward to helping them develop their skills and promoting the game,” commented Coach Pennie.
Roger Utecht, in his inaugural year, replaces long-time favorite Eric Primus as the Kimball Girls Varsity head coach. Returning starters from last season are (seniors) Madaline Gustafson, Rachel Utecht, Julia Zipoy, Dani Lyrek; (juniors) Tori Harren, and Justice Boyer, along with Sidney Schreiner as manager; (seniors) Krista Loch, and Ashley Schindele. Roger’s capable and devoted coaching staff consists of Destiny Smith, assistant Varsity coach, and Ariel Laabs as the junior Varsity coach.
Tyler Warren coaches the Eden Valley-Watkins-Kimball girls’ track and field team. The girls team enjoyed a very successful and fun season last year, and this season should be no different. The registration numbers are still being finalized, but the squad should consist of circa 35 girls on the Varsity roster. The three girls who graduated are Hannah Ehlinger (high jump, 4×200); Hannah Holmberg (1600); and Danica Westrich (pole vault). In addition, Grace Wagner (100, 200, 4×100, long jump) moved out of the district, as her dad took a new superintendent job in Wyoming. Olivia Kuechle (4×800, 800, 4×400) is out with an injury, sustained during basketball season. “We do have a handful of new athletes and several returning girls, including thirteen who qualified for the Section 5A meet. Those veterans will provide great leadership and experience to the team. Our sprinting and distance running numbers look good once again, and I think our room for growth is in the field events. Coaching Staff: Head Coach Warren (also pole vault and mid-distance coach); Lisa Brown (distance); Holly Hansen (high jump and mid-distance); Chris Rossman (throws); Adam Tri & Ryan Tri (junior high coaches).
Track & Field
The Eden Valley-Watkins/Kimball boys’ track and field team is led by Coach Jason Mortenson, and it promises to be an exciting year. Following a week of practice, the boys are working hard, and the staff is excited for the season, to see what the new additions can contribute to the team. “After losing all-state athletes like Matthew Notch and Hayden Gagnon, we have big shoes to fill. Even though we do not have the big horses coming into the season, I am excited about our depth,” expressed Coach Mortenson. Captains Eric Fodstad, Donnie Frilstad and Alex Marquedant look to be great leaders for the team. The sophomore group, which includes Billy Fish, Parker Kenning, Matt Loch and Hunter Schlangen, are set to fill in some of the gaps. New members, including Adam Stommes, Tucker Schultz, Hunter Schlangen and Gavin Klocker, should also make an instant impact. “It is early, but I like what I am seeing. The guys are working hard, pushing each other; and anytime time you have a group like that. good things always happen,” Coach Mortenson said. Overall, the tracksters appear to be strong in sprints, jumps, and mid-distances. According to the coaching staff, they are concentrating on improving throws, vault and distances throughout the season.
The 2019 high school spring sports season promises to be a highly competitive and fun-filled experience for participants and fans alike. Good Luck, all!