Baseball players had to make the adjustment to new BBCOR bats this season, and power numbers took a noticable slide. Even with less pop in their bats, Marshall-area players were still able to put up some impressive numbers in 2012.
Seventeen players batted over .350 and 15 pitchers had an ERA under 3.00. Two teams - Canby and Murray County Central - won a conference championship. There were also a couple of no-hitters, and even a perfect game by Russell-Tyler-Ruthton's Phil Madsen.
In his first year getting significant time at the varsity level, Marshall senior Alex Fenske emerged as the 2012 Independent Player of the Year. The Tigers' quarterback during the fall, Fenske was a standout pitcher for Marshall in the spring, going 4-1 with a team-best 2.43 ERA. At the plate, Fenske hit for a .402 average and led the Tigers with 22 RBIs.
Players from eight teams make up this year's Independent All-Area squad, with Marshall and Canby leading the way with four selections each.
g With the top batting average in the area (.500) and a .612 on-base percentage, Marshall's Matt Campion was an offensive juggarnaut for the Tigers this season. The senior third baseman had 31 hits, 20 RBIs and scored 26 runs.
A two-time All-Area first-teamer, Campion had a .709 slugging percentage this season and tied for the area lead with 11 doubles. He also had a reliable glove at third, committing just one error in over 140 innings while helping Marshall to a 14-6 overall record and a 9-3 mark in Southwest Conference play.
"Matt has always been a hitter. Since he's been nine, he's always been able to mash the ball," Marshall head coach Steve Fleck said of Campion, who will play at Concordia-Moorhead next year. "The biggest tool he has, in my mind, is his power to the opposite field. For a power hitter, he really uses the whole field as much as anybody. His extra-base hits to those right-center field gaps is what's so impressive about him."
g Finding a way on base from the leadoff spot, making highlight plays at the shortstop position, shutting down opponents when he got the ball on the mound ... Mason Schnaible did it all for Marshall while putting the finishing touches on a decorated career.
A three-time All-Area player and future Southwest Minnesota State Mustang, Schnaible led the Tigers in runs scored (27), walks (20) and stolen bases (14). He also had a perfect 5-0 record pitching for Marshall, sporting a 2.50 ERA over 36 1/3 innings.
"He's pretty much done everything you could ask. In my mind, he's the best shortstop in the area," Fleck said. "He's just that guy who leads by example and is a kid who works hard in the offseason to get in as many swings as he can.
"He was a pleasant surprise on the mound. ... We knew he could throw strikes and he benifeted from being able to throw his curve ball at any time for a strike."
g The lone All-State representative from the Marshall area in 2012, Canby's Stephen Huber broke out for a monster senior season while helping the Lancers to a perfect 10-0 record in the Camden Conference and a 15-3 record overall.
Offensively, Huber led Canby with a .491 batting average and also had a .616 on-base percentage while pacing the Lancers in doubles (8) and stolen bases (14), and finishing second on the team in RBIs (22).
"He's a hard worker. He's a guy who always stays after practice and gets more cuts in the cage, does extra fielding in the outfield," Canby head coach Ryan Arndt said. "He had a big role in helping out the younger kids this year. Just a good example for the other kids."
g Canby junior Tate Citrowske finds his way back on the All-Area team for the third time following another explosive offensive season. The Lancers shortstop had the best on-base percentage of any player in the area at .639. He also batted for a .480 average, the third-best batting average in the area, with 15 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
"In the early part of the year he struggled a little bit with the new bats, but he really caught fire the second half of the season," Arndt said. "Whenever we needed a big hit, it seemed like he would come through every time.
"He's a guy who always kept pitchers on edge when he was on the base paths. He just did all of the little things and was a leader in our infield after making the move from third to short."
g Murray County Central ran away with the Red Rock Conference title this year with a 9-1 record, and it was senior Nate Wieneke who helped lead the charge. The shortstop led the Rebels in nearly every statistical category, including hits (19), batting average (.365) and doubles (11). Always eager to try to make something happen on the base paths, Wieneke also led the area in stolen bases with 17.
"Nate's a complete player. He has all the tools," MCC head coch Tarry Boelter said. "He's got great speed, and for his size, he hits for both power and average.
"At shortstop, he has some of the best hands I've ever seen in my coaching career. He can make all the plays."
g While Wieneke handled a large part of the offensive workload for MCC, it was junior Sam Erickson who was a workhorse for the Rebels on the mound. He had the most wins on the team, posting a 5-2 record, and threw a team-high 44 2/3 innings. Erickson finished the season sporting a 1.86 ERA and struck out 45 batters.
"What I like about Sam is he's really a competitor," Boelter said. "He throws strikes, challenges hitters and really always gave us a good outing every time he went out to the mound. You can usually count on him to throw the whole ball game."
g One of the more powerful players in the area, Wabasso's Aaron Brau was an imposing figure in the batter's box for the Rabbits this season. The first baseman/catcher/pitcher had a .424 batting average, a .591 slugging percentage and led the Rabbits in RBIs (19) and stolen bases (10). Brau also worked 24 2/3 innings for Wabasso, earning three saves and posting a 2.55 ERA. He helped lead the Rabbits to an 11-9 overall record and a 9-7 mark in the Tomahawk Conference.
While Brau put up great numbers, it was another aspect of his game that stood out to Wabasso head coach Chad Olson.
"He was far and away the team leader," Olson said. "He's a really vocal guy and did all of the things in the dugout that you'd hope for out of a senior."
g The Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights had their struggles at times this season, but whenever ace Phil Madsen took the mound, they knew they had a chance to win, no matter the opponent. The senior sported a 1.23 ERA in 50 1/3 innings of work, piling up 67 strikeouts. On May 14, Madsen recorded a perfect game, striking out 11 batters in a 6-0 RTR win over Dawson-Boyd. Madsen was also strong at the plate, hitting for a .363 batting average.
"He works hard with the talent he has," RTR head coach Cody Curry said. "Every game he pitched he gave up no more than one or two runs a game. He kept us in a lot of ball games. I couldn't have asked for a better kid to coach."
g Marshall's Riley Carpenter is back on the All-Area second team after a productive senior year. On offense, he batted for a .391 average and had a .550 slugging percentage. Carpenter had seven doubles and tied for second on the team with 20 RBIs. He also carried the heaviest workload for Marshall on the mound, tossing 44 2/3 innings. He finished the season with a 4-2 record, a 3.29 ERA and had 53 strikeouts. Carpenter, who will play at Ridgewater College next season, also manned the outfield as well as anyone in the area.
"Nobody reads the ball off the bat on our whole team better than Riley Carpenter," Fleck said. "Better yet, when it's hit his way, you know they're not running on him.
"... If there's one guy on our team who likes to be at the ballpark, whether he's watching a game or playing, it's Riley Carpenter. He plays for Minneota in amateur ball, plays for our Legion team, I mean, that guy is at the ballpark every day and loves it."
g Taylor Hoffbeck was one of the few holdovers from Tracy-Milroy-Balaton's Class A state tournament team from 2011 and showed his maturity while helping lead a young group of Panther players during his senior season. On the mound, Hoffbeck earned nearly half of his team's 11 wins, going 5-2 and posting a 3.42 ERA. He tossed a team-high 45 innings and struck out 48 batters. On offense, Hoffbeck had a .409 on-base percentage and stole nine bases, the most of any TMB player.
g A standout player both at the plate and on the mound, Wabasso's Seth Guetter put forth a breakout junior season in 2012, his third year as a starter. Guetter had a .391 batting average and scored a team-high 17 runs. He posted a .551 slugging percentage, leading Wabasso in both doubles (5) and triples (3). He was just as effective on the mound as at the plate. Pitching a team-high 37 1/3 innings, Gutter had a slim 1.31 ERA with an oppontents' batting average of .232 and a record of 3-1.
"He was our ace, our guy who was able to get it done on the mound," Olson said. "He gave up some hits, but he was always around the plate and very steady."
g Murray County Central's Chris Halbur finds his way on the All-Area second team for the second time after another solid season for the Rebels. The senior had a .311 batting average, knocked in 12 runs and scored 13 runs. He was also a threat on the base paths, piling up 11 stolen bases.
Halbur also had 23 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched, earning a pair of wins on the mound and posting a 2.74 ERA.
"Chris is one of the most athletic kids I've ever coached," Boelter said. "The disappointing thing for him was, when he was a freshman it looked like he might be the best pitcher I ever coached, but unfortunately he had some arm injuries and was never really able to get back to where he could have been. But he really turned into a solid first baseman and really improved defensively."
g With 62 strikeouts in 47 innings, Yellow Medicine East's Aaron Zieske left a lot of opposing batters frustrated as they walked back to their dugout this season. Zieske had a 3.13 ERA and picked a pair of wins for the Sting, who went 6-13 overall and 2-10 in West Central Conference South play. Zieske was also one of the team's better batters. He led the squad with a .433 slugging percentage and scored a team-high 15 runs.
g An All-Camden Conference selection, Canby's Chris Kaddatz played a major role in helping lift the Lancers to 15 straight wins during the season. He led the team with 25 RBIs, and also had six doubles, a pair of triples and a homer. Kaddatz was also one of the Lancers' most reliable pitcher, working a team-high 41 1/3 innings and sporting a 2.20 ERA. His 58 strikeouts ranks third among area players.
"Whenever we went into a big game, he was the guy we'd give the start," Arndt said. "His hitting this year was a big improvement. He had our lone home run this year and some doubles. He filled the five hole really well for us."
g Canby sophomore Bryce Gorder broke onto the Camden Conference scene in 2012 by turning heads with his performances on the mound. In relief or starting for the Lancers, Gorder stepped up whenever his team needed him to. In 37 innings of work, Gorder posted a miniscule 0.76 ERA, the lowest in the area. He also tallied 28 strikeouts.
"He would come in a lot of the time for those last two innings, which is where teams can sometimes get you," Arndt said. "Early in the year I threw him in some bad situations, runners on second and third with one out, and for a sophomore, he came in and just had the mentality that he was going to come in and throw strikes. His strike to ball ratio was just tremendous."
g Hitting was an issue for Minneota/Lincoln HI this season, as the Vikings batted just .226 as a team, but one player they could count to make contact was senior shortstop Lee Bot. Bot had the highest batting average on the team at .339. The All-Camden Conference selection had 20 hits, seven more than the next-closest teammate, and also had nine RBIs while helping Minneota/Lincoln HI to an 8-8 record overall and a 6-5 mark in the conference.
"He was consistent all year long," Minneota/Lincoln HI head coach Keven Larson said. "I don't know if it was the BBCOR bats or experience or what, but our team batting average was down this year, but Lee was pretty consistent all year and didn't go through too many slumps.
"There were probably shortstops in the area who had stronger arms, but he got to a lot of balls. He was good at charging and throwing on the run and good at going back into the outfield and catching balls. He had a lot of range."
g A five-year letterwinner for Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Taylor Vollmer really came into his own his senior season for the Falcons. Vollmer was one of the Falcons' best hitters this year, batting .370 with 11 RBIs and 15 runs scored. He also had the team's best record on the mound, going 4-0 and sporting a 3.24 ERA for RRC/WWG, which finished 11-9 overall and 6-4 in Red Rock Conference play.
"He really came on strong the last couple of seasons and learned to play with the tools that he has," RRC/WWG head coach Derrick Jenniges said. "He was a lefty hitter and learned when to pull the ball right or go left with it. He really became a tough out. There was one point in the season where he reached base 11 or 12 straight times."