Team: Waconia Lakers
League: Crow River Valley
Reg./State: Region 7, Class C
2013 finish: Ending the season by losing in extra innings in the region semifinals can make players hungry to return to the field and remake a name for the team.
In 2013, the Lakers finished the season 20-8 and battled for the CRVL North title against Winsted, finishing as runners up. Waconia also had the chance to make a run at a state tournament entry, but lost to Brownton in the Region 7C semifinals, losing 6-5 in 10 innings to end the season.
Brownton went on to lose to CRVL North champion Winsted. Winsted drafted Evan Buhr and Ben Smothers for the state tournament, while Chris Bullis (Plato) and Ronnie Olson (Green Isle) were also picked up for the state tournament.
Salden led the team in RBIs last season and will again hit in the middle of the lineup in 2014, according to comanager Ronnie Olson.
Along with Buhr, Ryan Naughton and Chris Bullis will all return to the pitching mound for significant innings.
“We expect to get the same production as last year from all three,” Olson said.
Also back on the mound will be Josh Lenz, fresh from his freshman season at Concordia University – St. Paul.
“We think as he matures he will be one of the better pitchers in the Crow,” Olson said.
Back for the Lakers will be strong hitters throughout the lineup, including Ben Smothers, who has fully recovered from a broken wrist that hindered him early last season.
“He should benefit from a healthy off season and will bat lead off,” Olson said.
The 2014 roster also includes Eric Aeling, Peter Brown, Kevin Bullis, Dan Butz, Jeff Chrest, Nick Hukriede, Craig LaPlante, Nick Litfin, Tom Lyons, Olson, Kodey Simon, Robbie Smothers, and Jake Stevenson.
Teams to beat: The Crow River Valley League is full of talented teams that have made recent state and region final appearances, including Plato, Brownton, Green Isle, and Winsted, teams that all return talented athletes.
According to Olson, Winsted boasts the talented duo of brothers Joe and Tony Kley. Although out last season, Joe Kley has been one of the best hitters in the CRVL, while Tony is one of the best pitchers.
Green Isle returns CRVL legendary pitcher Mac Zachow, while Brownton and Winsted have both added strong pitchers this season as well.
“It sounds like other Crow teams have added some talent, so it will be interesting to see how the league shakes out,” Olson said.
This year’s state tournament will be held in Belle Plaine and Jordan, making games close to Waconia fans, if the Lakers reach the tournament. Before that, however, formidable opponents stand in the way.
“After last year’s disappointing finish in which we lost the game in extra innings to go to state, we have our base goal of making it to the state tournament,” Olson said. “We hope to be able to win the CRVL North to get the No. 1 seed in the regional tournament, but we know we have our hands full with Winsted.”
First games: The Lakers were scheduled to open the season Sunday, April 27 against the Cologne Hollanders, but that game was postponed due to the significant rainfall. In hopes this week of rain hasn’t done too much damage to the local fields, Waconia is scheduled to now begin the season May 4 in Norwood. The Lakers’ home opener will be Sunday, May 11 against Winsted. Both games begin at 2 p.m.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]