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TRC BASEBALL PREVIEW Last season: In the first year of the super-sized Three Rivers Conference, Chatfield won the South Division title and Dover-Eyota and Elgin-Millville shared the North Division crown. There was no championship game between the division

2004 outlook: The conference appears to be strong overall this season, with many coaches reporting five, six and as many as seven returning starters. Lewiston-Altura and E-M look like veteran teams in the North Division. In the South Division, Caledonia and Rushford-Peterson have most of their players back. St. Charles is ranked No. 20 in the Class AA preseason coaches' poll. There are three new coaches in the 13-team conference, Jim Dusso at Dover-Eyota, Dick Schulz at Wabasha-Kellogg and Brian Gilbertson at Southland.

SCOUTING REPORTS

North Division

Dover-Eyota (15-2, 17-3) had another strong season in 2003 despite a midseason coaching change, as activities director John Ostrowski replaced nine-year coach Dean Wieck. The Eagles' new coach this year is Jim Dusso, 37, who coached the C squad the last two years. Four starters are back, including senior C/P Drew Gernand (.270), junior IF/P Stuart Kimball (.245), sophomore IF/OF/P Travis Meiners (.338, 15 RBI), and sophomore IF/OF Tory Zamzow (.320). "Pitching will be be a question mark for us, yet our fielding should help to offset this," coach Dusso said.

Elgin-Millville (15-2, 20-7) had a good 2003 season, sharing the division crown, advancing to the Section 1A final four, and nearly doubling its win total from 2002. The Watchmen may be able to sustain their momentum with an experienced lineup anchored by two all-conference players, senior OF Tyler Johnson and senior IF/P Erik Rollie. Other returning starters are senior IF Tyler Miller, senior IF Dan Beck, senior C Jim Speer, senior IF/P Jesse Kahn, and sophomore IF/P Trevor Keilholtz. "We return three of our top pitchers and our hitting should be improved," said coach Mike Ohm, 40, who enters his 12th season at E-M.

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Lewiston-Altura (10-8, 11-10) should make a strong bid for the division with one of the most veteran teams in the TRC. Coach Jerry Stensgard lists seven returning starters, including two pitchers who combined for over 110 innings, seniors Travis Spencer (6-3, 3.42 ERA/.339) and Taylor Halverson (4-4, 5.79 ERA/.299). Also back are senior Pete Kreidermacher (.355, 13 RBI), junior C Titan Haag (.371, 15 RBI), senior OF Paul Rahn (.333, 21 RBI), senior IF Andrew Doehling, and sophomore IF Jay Stensgard (.486, 21 RBI). Coach Jerry Stensgard, 45, is in his 12th season with the L-A program.

St. Charles (9-9, 14-13) made a great tournament run last season, with section wins over Dover-Eyota, Winona Cotter, Caledonia and Lourdes. The Saints hope to start winning sooner this season, with six returning starters. Three of them are junior pitchers, Matt Kohn (3-1, 2.59 ERA/.306), Shawn Sanders (2-0, 0.43 ERA/.421), and Sam Pedersen (0-1/.188). Also back are senior IF Tommy Hagen (.337, 23 RBI), senior OF David Dunn (.286, 11 RBI), and senior C Kevin Banitt (.341). Saints coach Scott McCready, 36, is in his second year as head coach after 11 seasons as assistant.

Plainview (7-11, 7-13) is expecting better results this season with a lineup full of experienced players. Six starters are back for third-year coach Scott Flattum, including three top pitchers, senior P/IF Clayton Kolb (4-5, 4.86 ERA/.308), senior P/IF Matt Ihrke (.311), and senior P/IF John Weaver. Other returning players are senior CF Kyle Gosse, senior IF Neil Gessner (.263, 12 SB), junior C Michael Nielsen (.328), senior 1B Jonathan Timm, and senior OF Benji Schneider. "A lot of our team put in time during summer baseball and I hope that experience will pay off," said coach Flattum, 32, who has a 16-25 record at Plainview.

Goodhue (5-12, 8-14) will try to follow up on its fall and winter season successes, when the Wildcats went to state in football and basketball. Many of those players will make Goodhue competitive in baseball as well. Six returning starters provide experience, including three senior pitchers, P/2B Andy Strauss (3-2, 3.53 ERA/.365), P/SS Brian Buck (1-5, 6.89 ERA/.257), and P/OF Corey Ryan (2-2, 4.34 ERA/.281). Also back are senior C Matt Peters (.361), and junior OF/P Brandon Voth (.340). "Our strength should be our pitching depth and experience in defense," said coach Bob Bitzan, who has a 114-138 record entering his 12th season.

Wabasha-Kellogg (4-13, 8-16) has its third head coach in as many seasons, with Dick Schulz replacing Jon Auge. Schulz was an assistant football coach at W-K, and at Bemidji before that, but this is his first baseball coaching job. He should benefit from a veteran team with six returning starters, five of them seniors. Leaders are four seniors, P Brandon Gosse (.380), 1B Tyson Wolfe (.343), SS Justin Passe (.353) and 3B Paul Klees (.306). Gosse and Wolfe were all-conference picks last year.

South Division

Chatfield (14-3, 22-8) has some holes to fill after three-peating as the Section 1A champion last season, but coach Brian Baum said the Gophers should be solid up the middle with junior SS Nate Neis (.375, 31/31 SB), senior 2B/P Adam Clark (1-1, 2.80 ERA), and senior CF Tanner Gilbertson (.340, 23 RBI/3-3, 2.70 ERA). Another key returning starter is junior P/1B Nick Bernard (5-0, 1.68 ERA/.310). "We lost some quality players due to graduation so we will be looking to newcomers to step up and contribute right away," said coach Brian Baum, 37, who is in his fourth season after replacing his father Molly as head coach.

Caledonia (11-6, 14-10) will have a familiar look with eight returning players. Pitching depth and good team defense will likely make the Warriors contenders in the division. Four seniors are captains, SS Kasey Meiners, and OFs Ted Hanson, Colin Monarch and Derek Voight. Four juniors also played last season, SS Justin Conway, OF Cory Wiebke, 3B Ross Meyer and IF Kyle Welscher. Coach Scott Sorenson said his team's offense is the biggest question, and replacing a four-year catcher who graduated is a challenge.

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Rushford-Peterson (9-8, 13-9) returns "lots" of players according to veteran coach Jon Pettit, including a solid four-pitcher rotation with two left-handers. Eight returning starters should make R-P strong division contenders. The leaders are senior 2B Reid Anderson (.338) and senior P/1B J.J. Pettit (3-3, 3.88 ERA/.333). Others are juniors, 3B Jacob Agrimson (.245), SS/OF Chad Frick (.309), and Alex Mierau (.227); and sophomores, 3B/P LUke Anderson (.292), P/OF/IF Tyler Drinkall (.250), and P/SS Tony Rislove (3-0, 5.05 ERA/.255).

Kingsland (8-9, 12-12) made huge strides last season after winning only one game in 2002. The Knights should be formidable again behind three key returning players, senior SS Brad Bernard (.348, 13 SB), senior P Andrew Engesser (9-3, 2.19 ERA), and junior 3B/P Tyler Volkart (1-1, 2.73 ERA). Second-year coach Jaime Fenske said the Knights have a solid starting group but not much depth. Fenske thinks Kingsland can pitch well, hit for average, and make use of good team speed. "I think our weakness could be our defense and will determine whether or not we win; we look to be very competitive as long as we stay healthy," said Fenske.

Southland (5-12, 8-13) has a new head coach for the first time in 30 years, as Brian Gilbertson takes over for longtime coach Larry Luke. Luke guided Southland for 30 seasons, and coached high school baseball for 34 years. He finished with a record of 296-280. Three returning starting infielders/pitchers are back for coach Gilbertson, senior SS/P Greg Retterath (.537/2.61 ERA), senior C/P/3B Scott Hanson (.466), and senior 2B Shawn Kiefer. "Starting pitching is going to be strong, and defensively we should be solid; we will need underclassmen to step up," Gilbertson said.

Fillmore Central/Lanesboro (2-14, 3-14) struggled last season in its first year in the TRC Conference. A big group was lost to graduation. Two third-year varsity players are junior C/RHP Caleb Feine, and junior 2B Joel Johnson. Darrin Ellsworth, 33, is back for his second season as coach. No new information was available at press time.

BOX; 2004 Three Rivers schdule

April 1 -- *Chatfield at Pine Island.

April 2 -- Dover-Eyota at Elgin-Millville.

April 5 -- Southland at Dover-Eyota; Kingsland at St. Charles; Rushford-Peterson at Wabasha-Kellogg; Caledonia at Goodhue; Fillmore Central at Plainview; Lewiston-Altura at Chatfield.

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April 6 -- Southland at Rushford-Peterson; Chatfield at Caledonia.

April 8 -- Plainview at Chatfield; Dover-Eyota at Rushford-Peterson; Lewiston-Altura at Caledonia; Wabasha-Kellogg at Kingsland.

April 12 -- Wabasha-Kellogg at St. Charles; Dover-Eyota at Lewiston-Altura; Chatfield at Rushford-Peterson; Caledonia at Fillmore Central; Kingsland at Southland; *Hayfield at Plainview.

April 13 -- St. Charles at Lewiston-Altura; Dover-Eyota at Wabasha-Kellogg; Caledonia at Rushford-Peterson; Plainview at Goodhue; Chatfield at Kingsland; Fillmore Central at Southland.

April 15 -- St. Charles at Goodhue; Rushford-Peterson at Fillmore Central; Kingsland at Caledonia; Plainview at Elgin-Millville; Southland at Chatfield; Wabasha-Kellogg at Lewiston-Altura; *Southland at Chatfield.

April 16 -- *Houston at Chatfield.

April 17 -- *Wabasha-Kellogg tournament.

April 19 -- Kingsland at Dover-Eyota; Chatfield at St. Charles; Rushford-Peterson at Elgin-Millville; Caledonia at Plainview; Fillmore Central at Wabasha-Kellogg.

April 20 -- Lewiston-Altura at Goodhue (2); Elgin-Millville at Dover-Eyota; Plainview at St. Charles; Kingsland at Rushford-Peterson; Caledonia at Southland; Fillmore Central at Chatfield.

April 22 -- Dover-Eyota at Plainview; St. Charles at Elgin-Millville; Wabasha-Kellogg at Goodhue.

April 23 -- St. Charles at Fillmore Central; *Houston at Rushford-Peterson; *La Crescent at Caledonia.

April 26 -- Goodhue at Dover-Eyota (2); Plainview at Wabasha-Kellogg; Elgin-Millville at Lewiston-Altura; *Chatfield at Byron.

April 27 -- Dover-Eyota at Fillmore Central; St. Charles at Caledonia; Goodhue at Rushford-Peterson; Wabasha-Kellogg at Chatfield; Southland at Fillmore Central; Elgin-Millville at Kingsland.

April 29 -- Wabasha-Kellogg at Dover-Eyota; Lewiston-Altura at St. Charles; Rushford-Peterson at Caledonia; Goodhue at Plainview; Kingsland at Chatfield; Southland at Fillmore Central; *Elgin-Millville at Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

April 30 -- Kingsland at Fillmore Central; *Rushford-Peterson at Spring Grove.

May 3 -- Plainview at Kingsland; St. Charles at Rushford-Peterson; Elgin-Millville at Caledonia; Goodhue at Chatfield; Lewiston-Altura at Fillmore Central; Wabasha-Kellogg at Southland.

May 4 -- Lewiston-Altura at Dover-Eyota; Kingsland vs. Fillmore Central; St. Charles at Wabasha-Kellogg; *Rushford-Peterson at Mabel-Canton.

May 6 -- Chatfield at Dover-Eyota; Rushford-Peterson at Lewiston-Altura; Caledonia at Wabasha-Kellogg; Plainview at Southland; Fillmore Central at Elgin-Millville; Kingsland at Goodhue.

May 7 -- St. Charles at Plainview; *Zumbrota-Mazeppa at Goodhue; *Minnesota Business Academy at Kingsland.

May 8 -- *Elgin-Millville at Rochester Lourdes; *Kingsland at Houston.

May 10 -- Elgin-Millville at Plainview; Goodhue at St. Charles; Fillmore Central at Rushford-Peterson; Caledonia at Kingsland; Chatfield at Southland; Lewiston-Altura at Wabasha-Kellogg.

May 11 -- Dover-Eyota at St. Charles; Rushford-Peterson at Chatfield; Fillmore Central at Caledonia; Plainview at Lewiston-Altura; Elgin-Millville at Wabasha-Kellogg; Southland at Kingsland.

May 13 -- Lewiston-Altura at Elgin-Millville.

May 14 -- Wabasha-Kellogg at Plainview; *Caledonia at Spring Grove.

May 15 -- *Dover-Eyota, Mabel-Canton, Le Roy-Ostrander at St. Charles tournament.

May 17 -- Dover-Eyota at Caledonia; Southland at St. Charles; Rushford-Peterson at Plainview; Chatfield at Elgin-Millville; Goodhue vs. Fillmore Central; Wabasha-Kellogg at Fillmore Central; Kingsland at Lewiston-Altura.

May 18 -- Plainview at Dover-Eyota; Elgin-Millville at St. Charles; Rushford-Peterson at Southland; Caledonia at Chatfield; Kingsland at Lewiston-Altura; Goodhue at Wabasha-Kellogg;

May 20 -- St. Charles at Dover-Eyota; Rushford-Peterson at Kingsland; Southland at Caledonia; Lewiston-Altura at Plainview; Chatfield at Fillmore Central; Wabasha-Kellogg at Elgin-Millville.

* -- Indicates non-conference game.

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