Big Nine baseball preview
The Cougars have a new coach in Dan Quame. They’re looking to bounce back after finishing 5-17 last season, including 5-13 in the Big Nine. The Cougars lost all-conference pick Dan Larson to graduation, but East returns three quality players in Ryan Totman, Mitch Kleist and Derek Quame. Kleist received an honorable mention for the All-Big Nine team last season and has been the team’s starting catcher since he was a sophomore. Totman is one of the team’s best hitters and is considered the staff ace. Derek Quame has been with the varsity team since he was a freshman and should hit in the middle of the order and be one of the team’s top pitchers. "With three players with quality experience and a handful of players that received some playing time last year, Mankato East hopes to be competitive and to improve every week," coach Quame said.
Ethan Anderson returns for his ninth season as West’s head coach after going 14-9 overall and 11-7 in the Big Nine last season. There are high expectations for the Scarlets this season because they return a wealth of experience, including three All-Big Nine first-team selections in Derrick Cattrysse, Brock Lloyd and Adam Trautman. No Big Nine team returns more first-team all-conference picks. Cattrysse is the team’s best player. He had a team-best .387 average last season and also led the team in RBIs with 19. Cattrysse had 15 stolen bases and scored a team-high 25 runs. Lloyd had a .343 average and 13 RBIs, while Trautman hit .321 with nine RBIs and 16 runs scored. Also back are Ray Teachout, Luke Weber and Andrew Bruggeman. All were major contributors last season. Lloyd was the team’s top pitcher last year, going 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA. Weber and Teachout were the team’s other regular starters last season. Coach Anderson said he hopes his team can fit into the top three in the Big Nine Conference race and compete for a section title.
Matt Smith returns for his third year at Winona after the Winhawks went 6-16 overall and 5-12 in the Big Nine last season. They were eliminated by Hastings in the Section 1AAA tournament in 2008. The Winhawks lost just two starters off last year’s taem and return three solid players in Brandon Schmit, Devon Grossell and Tom Kreidermacher. Schmit was an All-Big Nine first-team pick last year, and Grossell received an honorable mention. Schmit, an outfielder, hit .407 last season and was also an All-Section 1AAA pick. Grossell hit .259 as an infielder. Kreidermacher will be one of the team’s best pitchers and can also play in the outfield. Coach Smith: "The Big Nine is a great place to play. We hope to play good, hard, competitive baseball throughout our conference schedule this year."
Tate Cummins is in his third season as the Owatonna head coach. The Huskies went 19-8 overall last season and made it to the Section 1AAA finals before falling to John Marshall. The Huskies finished third in Big Nine play with a 13-4 mark, behind only Mayo and John Marshall. The Huskies return loads of experience, including two All-Big Nine first-team picks and a pair of honorable-mention selections. Kyle Melcher and Quinn Christenson made the first team, and Mitch Berg and Brian Sebring were honorable-mention picks. Also back are experienced players like Neil Eddie, Paul Satterlund, Derek Ritter and Cody Johnson. Coach Cummins: "We hope to finish in the top three and be in the running for a conference championship."
Troy Watkins is back for his seventh season with the Packers, who went 8-14 overall and 6-12 in the conference last season. Ther Packers were eliminated by John Marshall during the section playoffs last season. The Packers return a pair of All-Big Nine Conference selections from last season in Nate Wagner and Mark Harber. Also back is Adam Hemann, who received an honorable mention for the all-conference squad. Harber was one of the conference’s best left-handed pitchers last season, compiling a 5-0 record with a 2.42 ERA in 37 innings pitched. Wagner had a .352 batting average and led the team with 14 RBIs and three home runs. Hemann hit .339 last season, and also had a 1-1 record and a 3.82 ERA on the mound. Other returning letter-winners for the Packers are Steven Rizzi, Dylan Monson, Brady Klingfus, Jacob Winters, Jordan Hall, Nate Justice, Adam Johnson and Mike Hoeper. Coach Watkins: "We hope to be competitive and finish in the top half of the conference. Our pitching will be the key this year, as it needs to be much more consistent than it was last year."
Brent Hawkins enters his first season as the Faribault head coach. The Falcons went 7-16 overall last season and were 4-14 in the Big Nine. They were eliminated by Owatonna in the section tournament. The Falcons return All-Big Nine Conference pick Adam Hallet. The outfielder hit .361 last season. The Falcons also have three all-conference honorable mention picks back in pitcher Evan Knutson, infielder Adam Jensen and catcher Derek Driessen. Knutson went 4-3 with a 2.58 ERA last season. He struck out 48 batters in 52 innings pitched. Jensen hit .311, while Driessen finished at .333. Outfielder Alex Larson also is back after hitting .348 last season. Other returning starters include Joe Clapp, Andy Hein and Jake Stocker. Coach Hawkins: "If our pitching is consistent, we have a chance to be a nice team. We have a lot of experience returning and some solid juniors eager to step in. Hopefully we can steal a few games from those ahead of us and peak at the end of the year."
Coach Joe Sczublewski is back for his 20th season as the Albert Lea head coach and 31st season overall as a high school head coach. Last season, the Tigers were 3-19 overall and 2-16 in the Big Nine. They were bounced from the section tournament after losses to Northfield and Century. The Tigers lost several experienced players from last season, including Casey Woodside, Anthony Tippett, Adam Royce, Jared Matson, Adam Madrigal and Matt Hockinson. The team’s top returning player is Logan Kortan, who was an all-conference honorable-mention pick last season. Kortan is a solid fielding shortstop who had a .370 batting average last season. Coach Sczublewski: "We hope to be competitive. We only have two seniors on the roster, so we will have a lot of young players that are juniors and sophomores playing key roles."