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Blue Devils started season in south

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Returning Sophomore athletes, front row: Tyler Jones, Aaron Fisher, and Kris Caldwell. Second row: Kyle Young and Renne Araujo. Third row: Matt Cheesman, Brad Winkelman, Kyal Williams, and Reese Steckler.

Coming off another trip to the JUCO World Series last year, the Riverland Blue Devils are in Florida for spring training and the start of what they hope to be a successful baseball season.

The bus left on Thursday morning and the Blue Devils are scheduled to play this afternoon in St. Petersburg. Riverland will play a total of 14 games over the next week in the southern sunshine.

In the opening game, Riverland plays Montgomery-Germantown out of Maryland, the No. 5 ranked team in NJCAA Division III. The Blue Devils are ranked fourth in the country on the NJCAA website and third in the College Baseball Magazine poll.

"We've been going to Cocoa Beach for the last few years, but this spring we decided to play on the Gulf Coast," Riverland coach Scott Koenigs said. "All the top JUCO teams will be there, and the schedule will be a lot tougher.

"The team we play in the opener has also been to the JUCO World Series a couple of times, so we'll get tested right away. We'll play a lot of doubleheaders in the upcoming week."

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During their trip to the Florida, the Blue Devils will be playing five of the top 10 teams in the country for NJCAA D-III. They will also play a ranked D-II JUCO team and a Canadian All-Stars team.

"Our guys will get a lot of at-bats on this trip," Koenigs said. "It's more about getting them ready for the regular season than winning a lot of games. The spring training games will help them prepare for the tough schedule in April."

Leading the list of returning sophomores is Kyal Williams, a catcher/pitcher from Adlaide, South Australia. He hit .412 with six home runs and 35 RBIs last season. Williams was 8-1 with a 3.60 ERA on the mound.

In center field will be Kyle Young, a sophomore who was All-MCAC South and All-State last season. He hit .407 with 12 homers, 53 RBIs and scored 57 runs.

Coming back at first base is Reece Steckler, who hit .357 with five homers and 29 RBIs last season. Aaron Fischer returns at second base after hitting .351 with 17 RBIs last year.

Brad Winkelman, a sophomore who pitches and plays at third base, hit .333 with six homers and 24 RBIs. He had a 6-2 record with a 3.00 ERA last season on the mound.

Out in right field will be Renne Araujo, a sophomore who hit .402 with three homers and 19 RBIs last year.

"We have a number of guys who hit over .300 last year coming back," the coach said. "We have a lot of hitters with experience, so the team should be able to score some runs."

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Adding depth to the starting rotation is Tyler Jones, a sophomore who was 7-1 on the hill, with a 5.40 ERA last year.

Freshmen will also play a key role for the Blue Devils. Matt Boswell, a freshman from Austin, Texas, was an All-Star in high school at shortstop.

Jordan Mondeel, a freshman from Albert Lea who was a Lions All-Star, will be the starter in left field. A trio of former Austin Packers are on the team. Freshmen Brady Klingfus, Preston Higbe, and Mike Tindal are used to playing at Dick Seltz Field, the home of the Blue Devils.

"Mondeel can fly and he’s a pretty smart player, so we'll have speed in the outfield," Koenigs said. "Our whole starting outfield are all-staters. We're looking forward to the season."

Helping out as an assistant coach this season will be Alex Kasak, who spends his summers playing amateur baseball for the Austin Greyhounds. The home opener for the Blue Devils is scheduled for Apr. 2 with a crossover tournament.

RIVERLAND BASEBALL

ROSTER

Sophomores — Kyal Williams (catcher/pitcher), Aaron Fischer (infield), Kris Caldwell (outfield), Kyle Young (outfield), Kelvin Minnig (pitcher), Reece Steckler (first base), Chris Anderson (third base), Tyler Jones (pitcher), Brad Winkelman (pitcher), Matt Cheesman (outfield), Renne Araujo (outfield). Freshmen— Brady Klingfus (pitcher/first base), Preston Higbe (infield), Jordan Mondeel (outfield), Mike Tindal (outfield), Shane Barry (infield), Jon Mittag (pitcher/first base), Michael Osmundson ((pitcher), Richie Villanueva (pitcher), Nick Djorgonoski (pitcher), Adam Carroll (pitcher/infield), Jamie Adams (pitcher/infield), Andrew Schunck (first base), Dallas Coleman (pitcher), Matt Boswell (pitcher/infield), Braden Hunkins (pitcher/catcher), Dalton Woellert (pitcher/outfield).

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SCHEDULE

(Home games at Seltz Field)

Apr. 2 — Fergus Falls, Vermilion, noon

Apr. 3— Fergus Falls, Vermilion, 1 p.m.

Apr. 7— Western Wis. Tech (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 9— Vermilion (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 10— Hibbing (DH), 1 p.m.

Apr. 11— at Western Wis. Tech (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 14— North Iowa Area CC (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 16— at Central Lakes (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 17— Anoka-Ramsey (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 20— Anoka-Ramsey (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 21— at Iowa Lakes (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 23— Minnesota West (DH), 1 p.m.

Apr. 26— at Rochester (DH), 2 p.m.

Apr. 30— at Anoka-Ramsey (DH), 1 p.m.

May 4— Rochester CTC (DH), 2 p.m.

May 7— at Minnesota West (DH), 1 p.m.

May 13-15— MCAC State Tournament, TBA

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