D-R-S Baseball League set to 72nd season

The 2018 Dakota-Rice- Scott League baseball season is scheduled to begin play this weekend, though Mother Nature appears to have different ideas.

Six games were originally scheduled to be played Sunday, five league games and a non-league game. Three of those games have been postponed due to the prolonged winter weather. Announcements have yet to be made on the other three, but it is expected most fields will not be ready after the record-breaking mid-April snowfall.

At press time, opening day games still scheduled for Sunday, April 22, included Union Hill at New Prague and Veseli at New Market in league play; and the Faribault Lakers hosting the Rochester Roadrunners in a non-league game.

All games are scheduled for 2 p.m., and all are subject to change due to weather and field conditions. Check newpraguetimes. com for updates.

The three games that have been postponed are Lonsdale at St. Patrick, rescheduled for June 23, Webster at St. Benedict, with no makeup date announced at this time, and Prior Lake at Shakopee, with no makeup date set.

The three-month schedule will conclude on July 22, with teams then taking part in league and region playoffs, hoping for a spot in the 2018 Minnesota State Amateur Tournament. This year’s tournament will be hosted by New Prague and Shakopee, with Jordan as a third site.

The 13-team league is in its 72nd season. Twelve of the teams are Class C teams and are in Region 3C for the post-season playoffs. Each of those teams play a 23-game league schedule. The 13th team, Elko, is a Class B team and plays each league opponent once.

Last year, Union Hill, New Market, New Prague, Faribault and Elko all competed at state, with New Prague advancing to the semifinals.

League standings will be compiled in one 12-team format, with teams being seeded 1 to 12 for the post-season. The top four teams get firstround byes into the region playoffs, with the remaining teams being seeded for a best-of-three series to fill out the regional playoff schedule. Four of those teams will advance to the state tournament.

Montgomery is the only team with a new manager for 2018. Tyler Bednar takes over the reins of the Mallards.

The DRS League All-Stars will face the River Valley League All-Stars on Saturday July 14. Fairfax of the River Valley League will host the game.

Team managers were asked to provide a brief profile of their team for the coming season:

Elko Express Hall-Of-Famer Terry Fredrickson returns as manager of the Elko Express. Last year’s team had a strong season, but lost a 20-inning marathon to Brooklyn Park in the opening round of the Class B State Tournament. The Express will rely on pitchers Mike Mehlich, Dylan Thomas, Grant Gunderson and Nick Bentley. At the plate, team leaders are Travis Evanson, Jason Grimm, Andrew Hanson and Ash Larsen. Twin brothers Ross and Ryan Bastyr join the roster this year. Ross will pitch and Ryan plays a number of positions. Joey Tschida has moved on to another team and Joey Larson is sitting out the season after arm surgery. Top teams in the league will be Faribault, Prior Lake, New Market and St. Patrick according to Fredrickson. The Express play each DRS team once and also plays a full schedule against Section 1 opponents to prepare for the Class B playoffs.

Faribault Lakers Charlie Lechtenberg returns as the manager of the Faribault Lakers, which won the DRS regular season title with a 19-4 record last season. The Lakers finished with a 24-7 overall record, losing in the state tournament to eventual runner-up Lake Henry. Top returning players for the Lakers are pitchers Matt Lane, Jack Helgeson and Egan Bonde. Top hitters are Joey Grote, Lane, Blake Langerud and Ryan Archambault. The Lakers have added Derek Ritter, Hunter Dienst, Omar Escobar and Payton Miller to their roster. “We are returning everyone from last year’s state team and have added a few younger guys as well,” Lechtenberg said. “We are excited to start another year in a very competitive DRS league. We know every game will be tough, and hopefully the weather cooperates so we can get the season started on schedule.”

Lonsdale Aces Darrell Vosejpka is back as manager of the Lonsdale Aces. The team is coming off a 6-17 record. Top pitchers for the Aces include Phil Tisdel, Joe Sabal, Ryan Thompson, Greg Johnson and Tyler Milford. At the plate, the team looks for contributions from Marty Kalina, Thomas Hoppert, Cole Pint, Peter Grassl, Zack Sexe, Jack Skluzacek, Isaac Pint, Jordan Yetzer, Brad Davis, Dan Turner and Justin Johnson. Devin Vosejpka joins the team as a utility infielder. Jake McGeorge and Zach Mikel are gone from last year’s roster. “We hope to improve our record from last year,” Vosejpka said. “All our young guys know how tough the league can be and have gained experience.” Vosejpka expects Faribault, New Market, Union Hill and Prior Lake to be the top teams this season.

Montgomery Mallards Tyler Bednar takes over as manager of the Montgomery Mallards. The Mallards had a 15-12 record last season and is looking forward to the season. On the mound, they will be led by Robbie Marshall, a consistent pitcher who’s able to change speeds effectively, and Ted Christian with a variety of off-speed pitches. At the plate, the Mallards feature Mike Flicek, who is a tough out with power to all fields and John Krocak, who can hit for both power and average. The Mallards parted ways with Jaron Christensen, who has moved to the Rochester area and is joining a team in that area. “This is a tough league,” Bednar said. “Each game your team has to come in focused and ready to play. Anyone can beat anyone.” Bednar expects Elko, New Market, Faribault and Union Hill will be the top teams in the league this season.

New Market Muskies Todd Bergstrom returns as manager of the New Market Muskies, a team that finished 23-12 last season and advanced to the state tournament. Top players include Nate Rost, a pitcher, first baseman and designate hitter. “Nate can do it all,” Bergstrom said. “He is an ace-type pitcher and middle of the lineup bat.” Andy Henkemeyer, pitcher and utility player, is a pure hitter with a nice swing, and shortstop Scott Lyden has been a top of the order mainstay with a consistent bat. “This year we will be adding a handful of newcomers, some fresh out of high school and others coming out of retirement. We think they will bring some much-needed athleticism to our roster, Bergstrom said. Veteran Dave Stewart is no longer with the team. “This will be a tough blow for the team,” Bergstrom said. “‘Stew’ has been a constant gamer for the past decade. “We are excited to see where this season will take us and hopeful that it will end with us playing in a state tournament close to home.” He said the DRS seems to get stronger each year, and expects St. Patrick Union Hill, Prior Lake and New Prague to post good seasons.

New Prague Orioles Jerry Plambeck returns as manager for the Orioles. The team had a 22-11 record last season and advanced to the final four of the state tournament last season. Nathan Sprouls returns as the staff ace. “He gives us a chance to win against anybody,” Plambeck said. Other top pitchers include Joel Zimmerman, a crafty veteran, and Zach Sirek, who is a third starter and a closer. At the plate, Justin Novak gets things started for the Orioles in the leadoff spot, with players such as James Fuerniss, Austin Bachman and Zack Dubanoski in the meat of the order. Max Fierst, a NPHS senior, joins the team, along with Zack Clark, who is originally from Luverne. Aaron Shetka and Chase Buthe have both retired from the Orioles. “The league will be extremely competitive,” said Plambeck. “There are at least eight teams in the league that can make the state tournament and two or three that are capable of winning the whole thing.” He picks New Market, Union Hill, Faribault and St. Patrick as the top teams in the league. The Orioles will host an amateur alumni night Friday, June 15, with any former Orioles or Robins players welcome to come to the ballpark, see the renovations and share memories.

Prior Lake Mudcats Greg Faue’s Prior Lake Mudcats are coming off a 12- 11 season and are hoping to be more consistent during the 2018 season. The Mudcats have a deep pitching staff, featuring Ben Morrison, Topher Rose, Isaac Saad, Jake Schmidt and Justin Hackett. Johnny Huston, Cole Bjorge and Jake Lehrer will contribute at the plate. Newcomer to the team this year is Matt Schmidt, while the Mudcats say goodbye to Austin Schultz, Kyle Schmidt and Tony Loehr. “The league is very tough. Many teams have a shot to get to State,” said Faue. “We need to be more consistent game in and game out. Last year we had a lot of big injuries and that cost us a few games in the standings.” He expects that New Market, Faribault, Union Hill and St. Patrick will be among the top teams in the league this season. He also said that New Prague and Shakopee will be great hosts for the state tournament. “I’m looking forward to that.”

St. Benedict Saints Wade Olsen returns as manager for the St. Benedict Saints. The team is coming off a 7-16 season. Olsen will rely on Tanner Oakes, Matthias Duevel and Michael Lambrecht to eat up a lot of innings on the mound this season. Andrew Huss, Mitchell Martin and Jeremy Heitkamp will provide offense for the Saints. New players include Shane Ahlbrecht and Jimmy Vollbrecht on the pitching staff and Trey Kocher and Carter Johnson, who will bring balance to the lineup. Zachary Bakko has left the Saints and will play for Northfield. “The league is the mostimproved league in the state over the last five years,” Olsen said. “We will be much better this year, but everyone is better, so it might not show in the record.” He expects New Market, St. Patrick Union Hill, New Prague and Faribault will be the top five seeds, in any order. “Prior Lake will be the team nobody wants to play in the playoffs, and Shakopee is an ‘under-the-radar' team set to move into the top half of the league.”

St. Patrick Irish John Johnson returns as manager for the St. Patrick Irish, and the core returns from a 13-10 team that had a disappointing season last year. But the returning players, including a couple who are back after a couple year’s absence, give Johnson hope for a stronger 2018 season. Josh Simon returns as the anchor to the pitching staff. He provides veteran leadership to a talented squad. Seth Ambroz, Bill Dunker and Zach Seurer add depth. Matt Ambroz and Seth Ambroz return and give a pair of powerful bats to the lineup, and the team also returns Jordan Goracke, Derrick Isaacson, Kyle Rhodus and Kyle Sticha. Two veterans return after a couple years away - Matt Pexa and Dom DeLuca. The team has added some new pitchers, Collin Denk, Nick Spitt and Phillip Garcia. “We’re looking to improve over last year in an ever-improving league,” Johnson said. “We look to advance to the state tournament this year. That is our top goal.” Johnson expects Union Hill, Faribault, New Market and New Prague will be among the top teams in the league.

Shakopee Coyotes Dick Steinhoff and Brett “Bozo” Hoffman are managers of the Shakopee Coyotes, and they are looking to improve on last year’s 7-16 record. The Coyotes advanced to the regional playoffs and won one game in the double-elimination tournament. The Coyotes are led by Zak Hoffman, a solid shortstop with game-changing ability, Logan Becker, a young player coming into his own at third base, and Tanner Graff, a great utility player on the infield who is turning into a team leader. Chris Isensee will be a solid starter and inning-eater this season. The team also hopes to have Cody Pamperin available for the playoffs. He plans to play in an independent league out-ofstate this summer. Other players who should contribute include Lance Bechtel and Matt Theis. “We are hoping to improve on last year’s season record and make it to the state tournament, which we will be hosting along with New Prague this year.”

Union Hill Bulldogs John Masberg returns as manager of the Union Hill Bulldogs. The team had a league record of 15-8 last season and went on a strong postseason run Top returning players include Matt Beckius and Nate Berg, who provide strong infield defense, and Jesse Bastyr in the outfield. Pitchers Dan Feneis and Derik Masberg both demonstrated their ability to compete last season and take the game to the next level. Both pitched more than 100 innings for the Bulldogs last season. At the plate, the team will be led by Conrad Masberg, Dusty Steinhoff, Erik Bisek and Bryan Lindner. Ben Novak joins the team this season, and young players Jack Becker and Luke Zweber return as well. “This is a great league. It’s competitive and there are some great rivalries,” Masberg said. “We have a lot of young developing talent like Danny Beckius, Peter Lim and Will Busch.” Masberg expects that New Prague, New Market, St. Patrick and Faribault will be the top teams this season.

Veseli Warriors Chris Hertaus returns as manager of the Veseli Warriors, his second year back after a one-year hiatus. The Warriors went 6-17 during the regular season and advanced to the Regions after a two-game sweep in the league playoffs. Pitching is deep for the Warriors. Top starters are Matt Perkinson and Ben Doerr. John Solheid, Mike Bartusek, Jason Kazlauskas, Blake Radloff and newcomer Brian Schmitz add depth to the staff. At the plate look for Tyler Busch, Perkinson, Nate Novak, Bartusek, Corey Fridges, Kazlauskas and Doerr to lead the squad. Schmitz and Drew Picka are new to the Warriors’ roster. Curt Brezina, Matt Stocker and Brett Kriha have retired and Ryan Bastyr is playing for Elko. “Advancing to the region tournament last season was a definite high for the team,” Hertaus said. “We have not been there for a number of years. It added a lot of excitement for this young squad. “We have a good group of youngsters led by young veterans who have gained a lot of experience to pass on to the younger players, which will help make our team more competitive.” He expects New Prague, New Market, Faribault and Union Hill to be the top teams in the league this season.

Webster Sox Mike Sandmann returns as manager of the Webster Sox. The team is coming off a 2- 21 league record, which doubled the win total from the previous season. Top returning pitchers include Jeremy Wieland, who has a veteran presence and can throw many innings while keeping hitters off balance, Jack Meyer, a left who can keep hitters honest with a decent fastball, and John Barten, a crafty young righty who can eat innings. At the plate, the team features Brent Cheney, a catcher/ infielder who had the best offensive year of his career, hitting .333 and being solid behind the plate. JJ Stenzel, an infielder, grew into an offensive threat as his playing time increased, and Jake Mc- Donald, an excellent defensive outfielder with a good arm, will be a threat at the top of the order. “Although the record has not shown it, there has been an upgrade in the talented youth that have joined our team,” Sandmann said. “Once these younger players can play for Webster full time, without commitments to other summer ball teams, we have a chance to improve quickly. Guys like Parker Hafermann and Tyler Rodewald are a big part of Webster’s future.” Sandmann expects Union Hill, Faribault, New Market and New Prague to be among the top four teams this season.

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