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Mayo, John Marshall could be Big Nine contenders, Lourdes looks for bounce-back season

Apr. 9—Head coach: Todd Stellmaker (5th season, 29-37 career record).

Last season: The Panthers were 8-13 overall, 6-9 in the Big Nine Conference and went 1-2 in the Section 1, Class 4A playoffs.

Top returners: Seniors Jerry Fletcher (.302 BA, four doubles, one triple, one homer), Harrison Esau (.295 average, six doubles, 14 RBIs), Jack Eustice, George Boyce and Sam Johnston (0.95 ERA); Juniors Owen Kelly and Mike Ruff (2-2, 1.69 ERA).

Season outlook: The Panthers have some nice experience as seniors Jerry Fletcher and Jack Eustice along with junior Owen Kelly are in their third year as starters and Harrison Esau is in his fourth varsity season. A couple of pitchers return in Sam Johnston and Mike Ruff, a left-hander who tossed a no-hitter against John Marshall in the section playoffs. Key newcomers include senior Ian Vasquez (OF), juniors Aiden Yochim (P/Inf) and Brady Buchmann (P/OF), and sophomores Carter Simonson (P/Inf) and Maddox Milene (P). The Panthers will look to be over .500 and be competitive in both the Big Nine and section tournament.

Coach Todd Stellmaker says: "We have a lot of experienced players who have shown some great dedication to the program. We have some talented players and our pitching is deep this year. The goal is the same every year, get better with each game and play our best baseball when it counts."

ROSTER

Seniors: George Boyce (P/1B), Harrison Esau (C/P), Jack Eustice (SS), Jeremiah Fletcher (2B/3B), Ove Herfindahl (1B), Samuel Johnston (P/OF), Cameron Stout (P), Ian Vasquez (OF). Juniors: Brady Buchmann (P/OF), Owen Kelly (P/OF), Mike Ruff (P/OF), Micah Satele (P), Aiden Yochim (INF/P). Sophomores: Maddox Milene (P/OF), Carter Simonson (INF/P).

Head coach: Tyler Zemla (3rd season, 12-33 record).

Last season: The Rockets finished 6-16 overall, 6-11 in the Big Nine Conference and went 0-2 in the Section 1, Class 4A playoffs.

Top returners: The Rockets return seven starters in Nolan Wayne (All-Conference, .380 average, .867 OPS, 16 runs), Ethan Loos (All-Conference, .310 average, one homer 19 RBIs, 1.91 ERA, one save, Aaron Terpstra (Honorable Mention All-Conference, .286 average, three wins, 36 K's, 4.31 ERA), Ben Satre (starting catcher), Gavin Konz (starting third baseman, relief pitcher), Mark Muenkel (starting center fielder) and Justin Jarland.

Season outlook: With a pair of All-Conference players back in junior infielder Nolan Wayne and senior pitcher/infielder Ethan Loos, and a lot of experience, the Rockets have hopes of contending for a Big Nine Conference title. Besides the top returners, Mason Konz, Luke Mayer and Tyrell Cain are expected to make impacts this spring. Konz and Mayer, just a sophomore, should be top-end starters in the rotation along with Aaron Terpstra. The Rockets also hope to be a contender in a tough Section 1-4A field, which includes the return of New Prague and Lakeville North this season.

Coach Tyler Zemla says: "We bring back a lot of quality varsity experience from last year's team. Pairing that with a fresh crop of young talent will make for strong competition to crack the starting lineup every night. We are hopeful that the hard work these boys put in every night will translate into more success on the field."

ROSTER

Seniors: Aaron Terpstra (U/P), Ethan Loos (SS/P), Ben Satre (Ca), Justin Jarland (OF/P), Tyrell Cain (OF), James Ostman (2B/P), Isaac Feenstra (1B/OF/P). Juniors: Nolan Wayne (2B/SS), Gavin Konz (3B), Mason Konz (2B/OF/P), Mark Muenkel (OF/P), Jaxsen Flatt (1B/OF/P), Ethyn Bertschinger (C/OF), Owen Janssen (C/3B/P), Alex Brankley (SS/2B/OF/P). Sophomores: Lukas Mayer (OF/P), Dylan Endle (3B/1B/P), Cooper Aschoff (OF/P).

Head coach: Dave Jenson (5th season, 47-20 record).

Last season: The Eagles finished 7-11 overall, 4-7 in the Hiawatha Valley League and were 0-1 in the Section 1, Class 2A playoffs.

Top returners: Seniors Isaac Wenszell (All-Conference, All-Section, .400 average, .1.317 OPS, 14 RBIs, five doubles, two triples, one homer, 2-2 record, one save, 1.27 ERA), Ben Reiland (1-4 record, 6.58 ERA), Collin Weinschenk (.462 average in 13 at-bats), Patrick Streefland (.286 average, .831 OPS, 1-1, 5.67 ERA) and Owen Bruining (.250 average, .650 OPS); juniors Nick Bowron (All-Conference, .353 average, one double, one triple, one homer, four RBIs, 1.139 OPS), Jack Roe (.214 average, two doubles, one triple, six RBIs, .619 OPS) and Jack McCabe (.250 avg, .619 OPS); and sophomore Easton Gasner (All-Conference Honorable Mention, .342 average, one double, four RBIs, .815 OPS, 1-1 record, 1.58 ERA).

Season outlook: The Eagles might return as a force after finishing under .500 in 2023, one year after placing third in the state in Class 2A. Isaac Wenszell and junior Nick Bowron were both All-HVL a year ago and are among the top players in the conference. They head a list of nine returning players for the Eagles. Depth, pitching and defense should be team strengths. A tough regular-season schedule features five games against Class 3A teams. Cannon Falls is the defending section champion, and along with Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Pine Island, the Bombers look to be the favorites in the section. Chatfield, Caledonia, Dover-Eyota and La Crescent could also be section contenders.

Coach Dave Jenson says: "The Lourdes Eagles have been working hard throughout spring practice and it is noticeable how many players made great strides in the off-season. Our goal will be to improve every week and to return to the section championship game for the third time in four seasons."

ROSTER

Seniors: Isaac Wenszell (P/OF), Owen Bruining (OF), Ben Reiland (P/3B), Thomas Markland (OF), Patrick Streefland (P/2B), Collin Weinschenk (1B/DH). Juniors: Nick Bowron (C/P/3B), Jack McCabe (P/INF), Jack Roe (SS/P), Evan Dierkhising (1B). Sophomores: Easton Gasner, (P/CF), Brayden Kottschade (P/3B/DH), Nolan Rolih (INF/OF), Connor Smith (C/INF), Jonathan Bergmann (OF), Isaiah Williams (INF/OF), Teddy Torborg (INF), Everett Oyen (OF). Freshman: Elliot Schell (C/DH).

Head coach: Tom Senne (8th season).

Last season: The Spartans finished 19-6 overall, 13-3 in the Big Nine Conference and were the runner-up to Lakeville South in Section 1, Class 4A.

Top returners: Seniors Carson Beavers (All-Big Nine, All-Section, hit .371 with six doubles, two triples, two home runs, 25 runs scored, 13 RBIs,1.082 OPS), Ethan LaBrash (All-Section,.356 average, .848 OPS, three doubles, 17 RBIs), Spencer Kober (All-Section), Chase Gasner (All-Conference Honorable Mention, batted .275 with two doubles, 15 RBIs, as 4-0 on the mound with two saves and a 0.79 ERA) and Alec Sadowy.

Season outlook: Mayo's top five returning players all started for a team that placed second in the section during the 2023 season. Carson Beavers, who has committed to Division I Wichita State University, Ethan LaBrash and Chase Gasner all had strong hitting seasons last spring and Gasner was also strong on the mound. Newcomers expected to come in and contribute include sophomore Kyle Leopold and juniors Mikey Johnson, Max Thorson, Jack Ryan and Wyatt Anderson. The Spartans again look to be in the mix for a Big Nine and Section 1 title. The section jumps from six to eight teams with Lakeville North and New Prague back in the fold.

Coach Tom Senne says: "We lost a number of contributing seniors last year. Replacing their contributions to the team will be challenging, but we have a good core of guys that have shown excellent growth and development and they are capable of filling in the gaps. Our success this year will take a team effort."

ROSTER

Seniors: Ethan Koepsell (INF), Spencer Kober (P/C/INF/OF), Carson Beavers (OF), Chase Gasner (C/P), Danny Cranston (OF), Alec Sadowy (P/INF/OF), Connor Dahl (P), Phillip Bransford (P), Hayden Mathern (INF), Ethan LaBrash (P/INF). Juniors: Mikey Johnson (INF/C/P), Wyatt Anderon (INF/P), Liam Williams (OF/C), Carter Funk (INF/P), Jack Ryan (C/P/INF), Max Thorson (P). Sophomores: Noah Hagen (OF), Kyle Leopold (INF/P).

Head coach: Justin Osborne (1st season).

Last season: The Lions did not field a team a year ago due to a lack of players.

Top returners: Seniors Owen Larson and Caleb Lanners both played on the team during the 2022 season.

Season outlook: After not fielding a team a year ago, the Lions are in a rebuilding stage. They will feature a lot of youth and inexperience as they are expected to have just two seniors, two juniors, a freshman and a number of eighth- and seventh-graders. Overall there are 17 players on the team in grades 7-12. "Those two guys will be leaned on heavily, for sure," Coach Justin Osborn said of seniors Owen Larson and Caleb Lanners.

Coach Justin Osborne says: "All you can do is look to improve. The goal is certainly to be competitive and we will for sure get there. The question is, how long until that happens?"