A weather-compressed schedule and Year 2 of BBCOR bats continued to take their toll on offensive statistics throughout the state of Minnesota. The state tournament alone boasted 12 shutouts, including two no-hitters in the first three games. A third no-no on Day 1 was busted up with one out remaining in the seventh inning.
Although the bats with a reduced sweet spot are mandated by the Minnesota State High School League and the weather plagued spring sports across the upper Midwest, the Marshall area was especially affected by the adverse conditions.
Just four area teams advanced beyond the first weekend of their section tournaments, while just a year removed from two conference champions, no area team captured a conference crown in 2013. Marshall was closest, however, as the Tigers and Worthington Trojans tied for second place in the Southwest Conference.
In spite of the tough spring, a group of 23 players representing 10 area teams managed to overcome the six-week delay in their seasons and play inspired baseball.
Chief among them is 2013 Independent Player of the Year Colton Peterson. The Marshall senior proved to be the Tigers' most consistent batter under first-year head coach Chace Pollock. Peterson, Marshall's No. 3 batter, led the team in average at .426. He was third on the team in RBIs, doubles and tied for the lead in home runs. When not jump-starting the Marshall offense, Peterson was most often found behind the plate where the catcher handled a mostly-inexperienced pitching staff, which saw 10 players take the mound. Peterson was one of those new faces on the bump for the Tigers and produced a 3.16 ERA over 24 1/3 innings in his first year as a pitcher.
Three other Tigers join Peterson on the All-Area first and second teams, while Wabasso also placed four members on the squad.
- Wabasso senior Seth Guetter wrapped up a stellar career for the Rabbits in 2013. The four-year starter was one of the area's top pitchers this past season, as well as one of its most feared hitters. Guetter produced a 4-3 record for the Rabbits with a 1.40 ERA over 45 innings pitched. A two-time All-Area selection, Guetter had 34 strikeouts to just five walks in the spring.
At the plate, Guetter continued to build off of his breakout campaign a season ago with a .375 batting average, .500 slugging percentage and .444 on-base percentage. Guetter drove in just six runs this season, but belted seven doubles and swiped seven bases. He also scored 14 runs.
"He was a four-year starter for us, real good stats every year hitting and pitching. He was kind of our steady Eddy," Wabasso head coach Chad Olson said. "He was our go-to guy."
- Joining Guetter on the first team is Wabasso teammate Blake Altermatt. Like Guetter, Altermatt put the finishing touches on a four-year starting career for the Rabbits in 2013. Primarily situated behind the plate, the senior catcher led Wabasso in hits (22), batting average (.386), slugging percentage (.596) and on-base percentage (.462) and was named to the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Associations Class A All-State team. His five doubles and 12 RBIs were second on the team. Altermatt picked up a home run, two triples and 14 stolen bases on the season, while scoring 19 times.
When not behind the plate, Altermatt was on the mound where he recorded a 1.87 ERA over 15 innings. Altermatt fanned 25 batters, walked 18 and allowed just 11 hits en route to a 2-0 record with two saves.
"I thought he performed real well. He was a great catcher for us and it's always nice to be strong up the middle," Olson said. "A lot of that starts with a good catcher. Without him we certainly would not have been as good as we were."
- After graduating their top five batters from 2012, the Minneota/Lincoln HI Vikings knew there would be plenty at-bats available for new faces in 2013. No player on the team took greater advantage of his opportunity than junior infielder Jordan Beck. Beck finished first on the team and fourth in the area in batting average at .420. He also plated 13 runs, scored 13 himself and stole 10 bases. His two home runs were tied for the area lead as well.
"He just stepped in. He didn't play a whole lot of varsity last year, a few games here or there," Vikings head coach Keven Larson said. "We were just looking for a guy who would be able to lead off and he said he had done it in the summer for Legion and things. He just stepped in from Game 1 and was a good leadoff guy. Took a lot of pitches, got on base a lot and had a good average."
- One of the four teams to advance beyond the opening weekend of section playoffs was Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove. Thanks to pitcher Brady Bierl's performance in their opening game of the Section 3AA tournament, the Falcons were able to upset No. 3 seed Benson. Bierl, a senior, went 5-3 for the Falcons in 2013, sporting a 2.28 ERA. The southpaw struck out 63 batters over 43 innings pitched and picked off six runners.
"We thought going into this year it was going to be a good year for Brady, especially with him being left handed. He grew a couple inches, he didn't drop weight to wrestle so he was bigger and stronger than he had been," RRC/WWG head coach Derrick Jenniges said. "We knew going in that we had to make sure we were playing our best baseball when he pitched, because he was going to be our Game 1 playoff pitcher. For most of the season he did a great job of keeping guys on their toes, throwing strikes and challenging hitters."
- Arguably the area's top pitcher in 2013 was Murray County Central's Sam Erickson. A two-time All-Area first teamer, Erickson was credited with each of the rebuilding Rebels' five wins, putting together a 5-3 record and boasting a microscopic 0.77 ERA. Erickson, who was selected for the 2013 All-Star series and the MSHSBCA Class A All-State Team, allowed just 16 runs over 44 2/3 innings of duty and gave up just 22 hits in that span. The senior's strikeout to walk ratio was nearly 8:1 (79 strikeouts and 10 walks).
"Really good control, that's the big thing. He's not overpowering, but the control is there," MCC head coach Tarry Boelter said of the standout pitcher. "He throws from different angles which makes it tough for the hitters. Sometimes he is over the top, sometimes it drops down. And he just doesn't walk a lot of guys.
"I can't say enough about his leadership. He's just a coaches dream because he has a great passion for the game," Boelter added. "He just loves baseball and works really hard. He leads by example and is positive with his teammates. A competitor, that's another thing that stood out when I watched him on the mound. When he really needs a strikeout, he'll bear down and get it."
- Another senior called upon to lead a young team was Dawson-Boyd catcher Justin Lee. Lee put together .433/.733/.553 splits (batting average/slugging percentage/on-base percentage) in 2013, with his average and on-base percentage both ranking second in the area. Lee roped six doubles, launched one home run and picked up nine RBIs on the year, while also throwing out five base-runners foolish enough to test his arm behind the plate.
"Very mature, extremely mature while dealing with some young pitchers," Dawson-Boyd head coach Preston Schwegel said. "He never made a bad decision the whole time, calls the right pitch, he does it all right. He's a better hitter than he showed, but he didn't see a lot of pitches. He'd hit a home run and then wouldn't see a pitch for the next three at-bats. But he was a great leader for our younger players."
- Aaron Mathiowetz joins Marshall teammate and 2013 Player of the Year Colton Peterson on the All-Area first team. Mathiowetz led the area in RBIs (24), hits (24) and doubles (9). The senior first baseman/pitcher struck out just four times all season while finishing fifth in the area in batting (.406). Mathiowetz also slugged .610, boasted an on-base percentage of .493 and scored 19 runs.
On the mound, Mathiowetz was called upon to act as Marshall's ace after the Tigers graduated three All-Area pitchers from 2012 (Alex Fenske, Mason Schnaible, Riley Carpenter). In his first season as a starter for the Tigers, Mathiowetz put together a 4.00 ERA over 28 innings, striking out 27 batters, walking 17 and allowing just 16 earned runs.
"With what we had schedule-wise and the days rest that we had, we had to have somebody step up for us and Matho definitely was a kid that came in and threw some quality innings for us," Marshall head coach Chace Pollock said. "Matho swung the bat well for us in the four hole. Him and Colton back-to-back and both doing a great job for us. He came out of the gate early in our first game of the year, hitting a grand slam against Windom, and that carried through to the end of the year."
- The surprise team of 2013 was the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights, led by senior infielder/pitcher Shay Wabeke. Wabeke led the area in batting with a .447 average, slugged .474 and compiled an on-base percentage of .580. He also hit .750 with runners in scoring position.
Wabeke scored 20 runs and stole 20 bases, while driving in eight runs despite being RTR's leadoff man. On the mound, Wabeke struck out 43 batters, while walking 30 and posted a 4.54 ERA over 37 innings of duty.
"That's why we had him batting leadoff, because his average was in the high .400s," RTR head coach Cody Curry said. "Basically he could get on every other at-bat and then steal second, steal third and then we'd have the next guy in line hit him in. It was just perfect having him get on all the time."
- After waiting his turn behind two-time All-Area first teamer Matt Campion, Derek Buysse provided the kind of production that the Marshall Tigers have become accustomed to at the hot corner. Buysse hit .372 with a .576 slugging percentage and .486 on-base percentage in his first full season with the Tigers. The senior was second on the team with seven doubles, adding a triple and home run to help drive in 18 runs. Buysse also scored 17 runs himself, while swiping five bags. His 31 assists were a team best.
"Buysse did a nice job for us this year defensively just as much as he did with the stick, I thought," Pollock said. "Derek played very, very well for us at third; a very reliable kid to have over there. He's another kid that hit near .400 for us and that's three in a row in the lineup and that's always nice to see. He's a good kid, a hard worker and I'm very proud of him this year."
- One of two freshman to make the 2013 All-Area team was Marshall's Drew Hmielewski. In his first year of high school, Hmielewski burst onto the scene in the Southwest Conference hitting .345 with 14 RBIs and 16 runs scored. Hmielewski stole 11 bases on the year while slugging .436 and posting an on-base percentage of .428. The middle infielder had 23 put outs and 23 assists as part of Marshall's double play tandem with senior Leo Zerr.
"We made adjustments on the fly with him and Drew made adjustments more than anything. It was a learning experience like no other year he'll ever have, baseball-wise," Pollock said. "He did a nice job for us offensively and defensively and we just hope to build off that."
- Although Tracy-Milroy-Balaton freshman Beau Priegnitz didn't have quite the breakout season offensively as Hmielewski did (.279/.302/.396 with five RBIs and seven stolen bases), he did make a name for himself on the mound. Priegnitz set down 51 batters over 30 innings pitched en route to a 5-0 record and 1.40 ERA. He walked 21 batters, but allowed just eight runs (six earned) for the year.
"Beau definitely was not one of those kids who is intimidated by anybody," TMB head coach Bill Tauer said. "He's very confident and he's a good ball player. He did a great job this year coming in and pitching. He had great stats and ended up being the No. 1 pitcher on our staff, statistically.
"He was our everyday catcher unless he pitched, so we knew coming into the year that he had the ability to step up. But we were pleasantly surprised in how well he handled himself at the varsity level."
- TMB sophomore Austin Gleis also made his name known throughout the Camden Conference in 2013. Gleis led TMB with a .365 batting average and three doubles. He also scored 15 runs, stole eight bases and picked up seven RBIs while slugging for .423 and recording an on-base percentage of .431.
"He was a first-year varsity player and ended up being our leadoff for the season," Tauer said. "He was kind of our spark plug offensively. When we were able to score runs, usually Austin was on base. He has a pretty good knack of running bases. He led the team in hitting and had a solid year for us in the outfield. It's not his natural position, this was his first year playing in the outfield, but with the veterans we had he went to the outfield, accepted that role and did well."
- Wabasso's Neil Eichten finds himself on the 2013 All-Area team after putting together a 4-0 record for the Rabbits with one save in relief. His 1.56 ERA was third best on the team, while his 31 1/3 innings were second only to Seth Guetter. Eichten struck out 37 batters he faced on the year. While on offense, the junior scored 14 runs for Wabasso and drove in 11 more.
"It was his second year at shortstop and he pitched a little last year and this year," Olson said. "He's kind of had a nagging elbow that always bothers him, but he's more than willing to come out there when we need him and do it for the team. He's a real good leader. If I wanted to call anybody our top leader, Neil would be that guy."
- The final Rabbit on the 2013 All-Area team is Dirk Pistulka. Just a sophomore, Pistulka hit .373 with a .431 slugging percentage and .475 on-base percentage for the Rabbits. The center fielder/pitcher also stole 10 bases and plated 13 runs. In 14 2/3 innings pitched, Pistulka recorded a 1.43 ERA behind 23 strikeouts.
"He's a good outfielder, probably our best outfielder," Olson said. "We struggled there a bit, finding a guy who would go out there and fill a spot for us, but he was definitely very capable. Only a sophomore and I expect big things from him in the future."
- Behind two home runs, including one grand slam, and a .570 slugging percentage, Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove third/first baseman Henry Rogotzke was able to drive in 15 runs this season for the Falcons. Rogotzke hit .347 over the course of the year with a .467 on-base percentage and five doubles.
"I think as a junior he hit around .330 but he struck out an extraordinary amount of times. This year we did some things with his mechanics to try and help him make more contact, not better contact just more contact," Jenniges said of Rogotzke. "He had some really big hits for us this year. In a lineup full of inexperienced players, we needed somebody to step up and get some big hits. He hit a walk-off against MCC early in the season. He hit a grand slam in a 1-1 game against Adrian to give us that victory. Half of his hits this year were extra base hits, so in a shortened season it would have been nice for him to have more at-bats for the three weeks we missed because of the weather."
- Russell-Tyler-Ruthton third baseman Brent Wiering busted onto the area baseball scene in 2013. As a sophomore, Wiering racked up 18 RBIs behind a .359 batting average, .385 slugging percentage and also sported a .429 on-base percentage for the Knights.
"It was great to see. He progressively gets better every day," Curry said. "He works hard and wants to get better. He had a huge improvement from last year and that's why we stuck him at the three hole. He did well with runners in scoring position, so it was nice having him there."
- Isaac Josephson, a senior from Minneota/Lincoln HI, rounds out the second team. Josephson hit .303 for the Vikings in 2013, driving in nine runs and launching two home runs. He also struck out just four times on the season. On the mound, Josephson went 2-4 for the young Vikings but recorded a 3.84 ERA and piled up 51 strikeouts over 38 innings of work.
"It was tremendous because we graduated a lot of guys the year before," Larson said of Josephson's leadership. "We didn't have very many seniors, but he was a guy who throughout the whole school year with the different sports and things he was involved in took a leadership role. All the younger guys knew who he was and he was a mentor to them. He'd be an extra pitching coach, even, with some of the younger guys. When he wasn't throwing he was able to see different things that they could do or different things they could change."
Austin Buysse, Minneota/Lincoln HI; Tate Citrowske, Canby; Bayley Enstad, Lakeview; Jordan Holmlund, Canby; Leo Zerr, Marshall