DRS opens 69th season Sunday

The Dakota-Rice-Scott Baseball League will kick off its 69th season Sunday, April 26, with five games slated.

Teams will be competing for the chance to play in the State Amateur Baseball Tournament, which this year will be held at Cold Spring and Watkins 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 postseason (Region 3C), the league has done away with the three-division alignment it had used for many years. League standings will have all 13 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 listed as the top teams for the coming year.

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

The New Prague-Lonsdale game has been changed from the original schedule due to work being done on New Prague’s field. Lonsdale will play at New Prague on Monday, May 25.

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

Elko Express Terry Fredrickson returns as manager for the Elko Express, with Mike Christenson as his assistant. The Aces had a 37-9 overall record last year, and advanced to the final eight in the Class B Tournament. The Express have Dylan Thomas back on their roster this year, after he played last year with the St. Paul Saints. Top returnees are TJ Evanson, who brings power, Gordon Kappers, a leadoff hitter and great defensive player, Tyler Brekke, Joel Klinkhammer and Thomas are the top pitchers. Dalton Lehman is not on the team this year. He is playing in the Cape Cod League. “Our pitching should be better this year, but it’s going to be a tough league. It should be a fun year,” Fredrickson said.

Faribault Lakers Charlie Lechtenberg returns as manager, and he is assisted by Bob Fielitz and Chris Reuvers. The Lakers had a great year in 2014, going 24-10 and advancing to the Class C semifinals, where they lost to Sobieski 2-1. Top returnees include pitcher Matt Lane, the staff ace and also one of the team’s top hitters, Joey Grote, anchors the infield and Blake Langerud is the leadoff hitter and a big part of the team’s pitching rotation. Newcomers to the team include Kyle Novak from Bethlehem Academy, Evan Jenson from Faribault High School and Mitch Johnson from Hastings. The Lakers have some improvements to their ballfield, including a new leftfield fence and new mound and home plate areas. Tyler Tousignant has moved and will not be on the roster this season. “We had a great season last year and made our first appearance in 24 years at the state tournament,” said Lechtenberg, whose team hopes to build on last year’s success. “We had a great run in the tournament and came up one game short.”

Lonsdale Aces Darrel Vosejpka returns as manager for the Lonsdale Aces, with Matt Tschida as his assistant. The Aces had a 7-16 record last season. Top players for Lonsdale include Kevin Kalina, in his 13th season. He led the Aces in batting (.348), on-base percentage (.479), and slugging (.500) last year. Phil Tisdel is the top pitcher in his eighth season. He led the team in earned run average (2.62), wins (4) and strikeouts (46). Also back are Lance Anderson (58.1 innings, 40 strikeouts on the mound, 20 RBIs at the plate) and Matt Tschida (10 doubles, 22 runs scored). The Aces have several new players, Ben Lazzari (Shakopee Coyotes), Zach Sirek (New Prague Orioles), Brady Loew (Lakeville Athletics) and Michael Robohm (North End - St. Paul) Tyler Bastyr, Darren McEathron, Garett Moselle and Matt Lilledahl have retired and Alex Rayman has moved to another team. “We’re looking to have a rebound season after losing seven one-run games in 2014,” Vosejpka said. “This league has great parity as last year showed - any team can beat any team on any given day.” Vosejpka picked Elko, New Market, St. Patrick and Faribault as the top teams in the league.

Montgomery Mallards Christian Anderson is the new manager for the Montgomery Mallards, who are coming off a 9-14 regular season last year. Top returning players for Montgomery are John Krocak a physically strong player who has power with the bat and off of the mound as a pitcher; Tyler Bednar a core player being depended on to lead in the field and provide a solid bat in the middle of the lineup, Ted Christian a young but talented pitcher, looking to build off of his success in 2014, and Robbie Marshall, a veteran pitcher expected to anchor the staff and eat innings. Pat Lloyd, a TCU High School graduate, also joins the team this season. The Mallards lose Eric Franek, who has moved. The Mallards look to build off a successful second half of 2014 with a new manager and several young players looking to contribute. They will likely have a slow start due to injuries and college commitments, but once the entire roster is available the team looks to be very competitive. Anderson says New Market, St Patrick, St Benedict and Faribault are the teams to beat, along with Elko, which is a Class B team.

New Market Muskies Todd Bergstrom is the manager for the New Market Muskies, with Tom Carpentier as an assistant. The team had a 29- 12 record last season and made its second straight state appearance. Top returnees include Nate Rost, an all-around player who is among the top players pitching, hitting and on defense, Heavyhitting first baseman Kyle Bergstrom and left-handed pitcher Derek Bergstrom. Bryce Rippentrop returns to the team in 2015 after taking a year off. “I think our team is in line to have a good season, provided we stay healthy and keep working hard.” Bergstrom said. “The league just keeps getting better and better, top to bottom every team brings a lot of talent to the park for every game.”

New Prague Orioles Jerry Plambeck returns as manager for the Orioles, with Nick Schoenecker as his assistant. The team was 12-19 last year, 9-14 in league play. Top players are Justin Novak, a very good leadoff hitter and one of the best shortstops in the DRS. Dusty Beckius is the ace of the staff and is a big-time inning eater. Austin Bachman is a 5-tool player patrolling centerfield and Dan Novak is back as the team captain and will handle a lot of the catching duties once again. Ben Buthe, Jake Klein and James Fuerniss will join the team when the high school season is completed, and Ross Skluzacek is back after taking a year off due to injury. Two players not on this year’s roster are Zach Sirek, who returns to the Lonsdale Aces, and Schoenecker, who is retiring as a player but will continue to coach. “We believe that we can bounce back from a down season, but in order to do this we will need to be more consistent pitching the ball. We also need to stay healthy and play good defense,” Plambeck said.

Prior Lake Mudcats Greg Faue returns for his 19th year as manager of the Prior Lake Mudcats, with Levi Schneider as his assistant. Prior Lake had a 17-14 record (15-8 DRS). Top returning playes for the Lakers are Cole Bjorge-Outfielder, Ben Morrison-P/SS, Jake Lehrer-OF. Jake Schmidt-P and Levi Schneider-C. Newcomers to the team include Luke Anderson, Gary Mariscal, who had taken a year off, Austin Schultz and a group of players who joined the team after the high school season last year - Jon Houston, Kyle Schmidt, Tony Loehr and Andrew Gabbard. Mason Holmquist has retired. “I like our squad, we'll have more pitching depth with the addition of our new players,” Faue said.

Shakopee Coyotes Dick Steinhoff and Bret Hoffman are the managers for the Coyotes this season. Top returning players are Scott Bode and Alec Pauly. Zach Hoffman, a St. Cloud State University player, returns to the roster this year, and the Coyotes have a number of new home-grown players, all of whom are recent graduates of Shakopee High School. “Our outlook is for the new players to breath new life into the team had help us move forward,” said general manager Dave Pass, who managed the team last season.

St. Benedict Saints Wade Olsen is back as manager of the St. Benedict Saints, which finished the DRS season with a 15-8 record and qualified for the state tournament for the second straight season. The Saints’ pitching staff will be formidable again this season, with Tanner Oakes, Chris Hartman, Michael Pauly and Jeremy Heitkamp. Scott Eischens and Andrew Huss return to join the four pitchers to form the top of the Saints lineup. "We will be OK,” Olsen said. “The league is substantially better, with three of the final 16 teams at the Class C Tourney, and many of the top teams have improved their rosters.”

St. Patrick Irish John Johnson is back for his third year as manager, with Bill Dunker and Matt Ambroz his assistants. The Irish had an 18-5 league record last season, 27-10 overall , and advanced to the third round of the State Tournament. Top returning players include Mathew Pexa, who brings leadership as well as skill and will be a mentor to the younger players, Matt Ambroz, Josh Simon and Seth Ambroz are also experienced and talented players. Newcomers to the Irish are Jack Friedges from Jordan and Noah Kraml from Cologne. Ben Doerr and Austin Vind are gone from last season. “The Irish look good again this spring, with the addition of a couple more young players we continue to have a very young average age,” Johnson said. “Our goal to make the state tournament and make a deep run as we did last year.” Top teams listed by Johnson are Faribault, New Market, Montgomery and Union Hill.

Union Hill Bulldogs Adam Gill is back as manager of the Union Hill Bulldogs, with Adam Wiener as his assistant. Last year the Bulldogs were 12- 11 in the regular season and made some strides at the end of the season before losing to State Tourney Participants St. Benedict and New Market in the Region Playoffs. Top returning players include Eric Bisek, arguably the top overall catcher in the league, who provides experience and leadership. Also, Danny Beckius is one of the young promising outfielders in the league, with all the tools to have a long career in the league. Nathan Olson is a another youngster with lots of potential, a solid infielder who loves the game. Daniel Feneis and Hunter Piehl provide strong, young arms and should log lots of innings for the Bulldogs. Eric Olson returns to the team after several years with the Minneapolis Patriots, and other newcomers are David Anderson (Staples Lumberbats), and high schoolers Casey Busch and Brooks Prochaska. Players who have moved on include Tyler Busch, Nolan Hodapp and John Solheid. “Our team has had some better turnouts for practices this year, more than any other year. We look to play a lot of guys both in the field and at the plate. We will have a good mix of arms on the mound, and will look to have better approaches at the plate. We will be young but competitive in every game. “

Veseli Warriors Eddie Shimota is the new manager of the Veseli Warriors, with former manager Chris Hertaus helping as an assistant. The team will look to improve on its 3-20 record from last season, and the new manager is optimistic that a young group can come together and be competitive. Top players for Veseli include Matt Perkinson, who contributes with his pitching, leadership, and hard work; Mike Bartusek, a solid outfielder with a strong arm, Eric Steinhoff, another veteran, Cody Shimota, a young player with lots of energy and a good glove and bat, and Casey Behrens, who will provide a strong arm on the mound. New players include Nate Novak (New Market), Joe Lehman (St. Patrick) and Jack and Jake Meyer, who are new to the league. Two players will sit out the season due to injuries, Jason Kazlauskas and Mike Gillen, and Ryan Dietz has moved. “I am looking forward to being back on the field with Veseli to give back to the game as head coach,” Shimota said. “I am looking for hard work and commitment out of my players to come together as a team.” Shimota lists St. Patrick, St. Benedict, Faribault and New Market as the top teams.

Webster Sox Mike Sandmann returns as manager of the Webster Sox, who had a 4-19 league record last season. Sandmann says top returning players include Nate Nielsen, Jason Nelson, Marcus Pleiss, Alex Fischer and John Barten. New players include Nate Koppi and Derek Salsbury. The Sox’ top catcher, Brandon Sather, has moved, leaving a hole to fill behind the plate. “We’re just looking forward to playing ball, It’s always fun to get out there and play,” Sandmann said.

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