RCTC baseball, softball season previews
2015 RCTC SOFTBALL
Head coach:Niki Peterson (1st year) takes over for Cyndi Raymond, who was not retained despite leading RCTC to a national berth a year ago. Peterson, then Niki Lynch, was an All-State middle infielder in high school at Winona Cotter. She went on to play for St. Mary's University where she was a four-year starter, captain, and an all-conference and all-region selection. During her time at SMU, the team won a Division III national championship and also placed fourth in back-to-back seasons. Peterson is a SMU Hall of Fame inductee with her teammates from the 2000 national championship team and a 2015 Cotter High School Hall of Fame inductee.
Assistant coaches:Rachel Svenningson and Bill Quistorff.
Last season:RCTC finished 27-15 overall and won the MCAC State and Region 13A Tournament. The Yellowjackets earned a berth in the NJCAA Division III National Tournament, where they placed fourth.
Season outlook:RCTC is currently ranked the top 10 of the Division III national poll. The Yellowjackets were 7-3 on their spring trip, including playing a number of games against solid Division II programs. The highlight of the trip was beating Brookdale, ranked No. 3 in Division III.
The team has a key cog back in All-America shortstop Ashley Bunting. Bunting is an elite hitter. Last year the Redwood Falls native hit a lusty .591 with 55 runs scored and 67 stolen bases.
Another offensive force should be freshman Haley Vanourney.
Defensively the team is anchored by catcher Katie Gatzlaff and center fielder Christina Stanger of Stewartville.
Top pitchers are Laura Chalmers, Lexie Schunke, Kristen Erickson and Amber Gehrke. Chalmers was the Region 13A MVP and on the All-Tournament team last year. Schunke is a transfer from Riverland and the Stewartville native had the team's top ERA (3.58) and a team-leading 11 RBIs early this season.
Coach's quote:"We have a lot of talent, but the key is that our talent works incredibly hard," Peterson said. "Our focus has been to be fundamentally sound both offensively and defensively. The players have been getting up and working hard at those fundamentals every morning at 5:45am. Practicing that early takes commitment and disciple. Couple that with talent and we should be playing long into the postseason."
Teams to beat in the conference, state:The competition should be strong as there are four nationally ranked D-III teams in RCTC (5th), Mesabi Range (6th), St. Cloud Tech (8th) and Ridgewater (10th).
Returning players:First team All-American, Ashley Bunting, shortstop, Redwood Falls (MN). Last season Bunting hit an astonishing .591, with 55 runs scored and 67 stolen bases. This season, Bunting is hitting .665 with 30 hits and 17 runs scored. She is currently leading the nation with 14 stolen bases. Another key returner is pitcher, Laura Chalmers. Chalmers was the Region 13A MVP and was Region 13A all tournament team. She was also MCAC All-Conference second team selection.
Sophomores:Ashley Bunting (SS, Redwood Falls), Katie Gatzlaff (INF, Springfield), Laine McCauley (OF, Coleraine), Laura Chalmers (IF/P, Red Wing), Alexis Schunke (INF/P, Stewartville).
Freshmen:Magi Card (INF, St. Peter), Ashleigh Dralle (U, Farmington), Kristen Erickson (INF/P, Rochester JM), Amber Gehrke (OF/P, Zumbrota-Mazeppa), Emmy Miller (OF, Cannon Falls), Jordan O'Connor (OF, Preston), Christina Stanger (OF, Stewartville), Raini Staudacher-Jacobs (OF, Plainview), Haley Vanourney (INF/P, Marion, Iowa).
April 3—at St. Cloud Tech (2), 3:30 p.m.
April 4— at Anoka-Ramsey (2), noon
April 7— at Riverland (2), 3 p.m.
April 10— Ridgewater (2), 3 p.m.
April 11— Fergus Falls (2), noon
April 14— at Minnesota West (2), 3 p.m.
April 17— Anoka-Ramsey (2), 3 p.m.
April 18— St. Cloud Tech (2), noon
April 24— at Ridgewater (2), 2 p.m.
April 25— at Fergus Falls (2), noon
April 28— Minnesota West (2), 3 p.m.
April 27— Anoka-Ramsey (2), 1 p.m.
April 30— Riverland (2), 3 p.m.
May 8-9— Region 13 Tournament, TBA
May 14-16— NJCAA D-III National Tournament at Rochester, TBA
— Guy N. Limbeck
Head coach:Steve Hucke (13th year, 250-238).
Assistant coaches:Mike Burton, Dave Adams, Greg Polt, Jay Baker.
Last season:The Yellowjackets finished with a .500 mark at 22-22-1. They qualified for the MCAC State/Region 13 Tournament before bowing out.
Season outlook:The Yellowjackets look to rely on a number of key newcomers to have a solid season. Five players return from last year's .500 team but a number of incoming freshmen could help the RCTC have a strong season. The team is currently 9-4 after its spring trip and some early outdoor area games.
"We are a young but talented team," RCTC coach Steve Hucke said.
There are five players back in Kody Larson, Alek Zentzis, Taylor Christopher, Richard Borquez-Mejias and Brandon Gilman. Christopher and Borquez-Mejias will anchor the middle of the infield. Gilman returns after receiving a medical redshirt. He was 3-1 last season before sustaining an arm injury. Larson is also expected to be a key pitcher.
Eleven newcomers will be counted on to contribute to the season. Two key incoming freshman hail from Wabasha-Kellogg High School in Austin Baab and Ben Glomski. They should be keys to the offense along with Anthony Rosario, Zach Bakko, John Brown and Damon Nuss. Right-hander Bryndyn Shipquist is off to a strong start on the mound at the start of this season.
Coach's quote:"We are young but have a very good freshman class that compliments our returners," Hucke said. "(We) need to stay healthy in key positions, but overall have good depth. (I) really like the energy this team has shown so far."
Team to beat in the conference, state: RCTC looks to compete for a state title. Other teams in the running should be St. Cloud Tech, Riverland, Itasca, Fergus Falls and Mesabi Range.
Sophomores: Kody Larson (P/C, Stoddard, Wis.), Taylor Christopher (2B), Alex Zentzis (INF/OF, Forest Lake), Richard Borquez-Mejias (SS, Bayamom, Puerto Rico), Brandon Gilman (RHP, Lake Crystal).
Freshmen: Austin Baab (INF/P, Wabasha-Kellogg), Ben Glomski (OF, Wabasha-Kellogg), Anthony Rosario (1B, New York City), Zach Bakko (OF, Northfield), John Brown (OF/RHP, Lake City), Damon Nuss (SS/OF/P, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Iowa/NIACC transfer), Quinn Cannoy (RHP, Marion, Iowa),
Bryndyn Shipquist (RHP, Minneapolis Southwest), Dante Heathcutt-Grant (RHP, Henry Sibley), Blake Stelzer (RHP, Lakeville South), Logan Fuller (INF, Marion, Iowa).
April 3— vs. Mesabi Range at Mausten, Wis. (2), noon
April 4— vs. Itasca at Mausten, Wis. (2) noon
April 7— at Kirkwood (2), 2 p.m.
April 11— Iowa Central, 2 p.m.; Itasca, 4 p.m.
April 12— Itasca, 11 a.m.; Iowa Central, 3 p.m.
April 16— at Iowa Central (2), 2 p.m.
April 18— at Anoka-Ramsey (2), 1 p.m.
April 19— St. Cloud Tech (2), 1 p.m.
April 22-- at Western Tech (2), 4 p.m.
April 25— at Ridgewater (2), 1 p.m.
April 26— at Fergus Falls (2), 1 p.m.
April 28— Western Tech (2), 3 p.m.
May 2— at Central Lakes (2), 1 p.m.
May 3— Minnesota West (2), 1 p.m.
May 9— Riverland (2), 1 p.m.
May 14-17— MCAC State/Region 13A Tournament at St. Cloud, TBA
May 23— NJCAA D-III World Series at Kinston, N.C., TBA
— Guy N. Limbeck