April 12, 2023 at 5:46 p.m.
Sauk Centre baseball boasts depth headed into spring season
SAUK CENTRE- With the winter waging a seemingly-endless war on spring sports, practices remaining indoors became common practice for Sauk Centre High School and other Minnesota High School League member schools as competitions began to be postponed.
However, underneath this layer of snow and weather-related challenges is an optimistic baseball team in Sauk Centre, one with an exciting roster ready to show its skills whenever the schedule begins.
“The guys are excited to get outside and play ball,” said Bryan Zollman, head coach. “It’s been a long process, being indoors for almost a month, but they are staying positive and understand every team is in the same boat and are excited to get after it and have a good spring.”
Zollman and the Streeters are coming off a memorable season that ended in unfortunate fashion, a first-round section playoff loss to rival Melrose. Despite the tough ending to a winning season, Sauk Centre maintains many of its key contributors from that squad, including three seniors: outfielder and pitcher Hunter Danielson, pitcher and utility piece Matthew Warring and jack of all trades Eli Fletcher.
“Matt, Eli and Hunter are our leaders, not just because they are our seniors, but they are our best players,” Zollman said. “They work hard and they are good teammates. We will go as they go. But, they will need a strong supporting cast, and I think we have that in our underclassmen.”
This underclassmen group also features valuable experience, as junior shortstop and pitcher Zac Bick and junior outfielder, catcher and pitcher Keegan Middendorf both stepped up in big-time situations for the ballclub last spring. With many players having acclimated to the varsity level, Sauk Centre is ready for low-scoring and high-scoring games alike.
“We have a lot of guys with varsity experience, which will be an advantage we have,” Danielson said. “We also have a lot of team chemistry and get along with each other.”
Chemistry and cohesion will not only be important in the dugout, as the Streeters look to their wide selection of pitchers to build off one another in what will be a shortened season. Sauk Centre’s surplus of throwers on the mound will be a critical asset moving forward.
“We are as good as anyone with our top pitchers, but what will be magnified this spring is what teams are solid with their 4-5-6 guys, the kids who are relied on to pitch later in the week,” Zollman said. “With the pitch count and the likelihood of having several four or five-game weeks, pitching depth will be a huge factor in determining success.”
Improving on a 13-win season will also require more than five or six regular playmakers. Hunter Dickinson and Mason Hokanson provide disciplined hitting to a formidable lineup, while Neal Stadsvold, Logan Frank and Trevor Roelike will be candidates for time at second base.
Joining those five players in a loaded sophomore class is Evan Zales, who moved to Sauk Centre from Colorado and can play a variety of positions. The team also has a pair of brothers, senior Eric Isenbart and sophomore Ethan Isenbart, with left-handed pitcher and hitter Hunter Broich and junior pitchers and first basemen Cole Roering and Owen Messer also in the mix..
‘It’s important we don’t try to do too much,” Zollman said. “We have a good team. We just need to go out, have fun and do our best. If we do that, we will be successful, because I think our best baseball is as good as anybody’s.”
Even with this confidence, setting a win total or a specific conference or section mark is secondary to simply learning how to play together and doing the little things right. Should they do that, the sky is the limit for the Streeters.
“Some goals we have for this year’s team is just to throw strikes and play well as a team,” Danielson said. “I think we have the team to accomplish those goals.”