Crusaders excited for years to come with strong incoming class

Sophomore pitcher Jack Chmielewski, right, is slated to return for Dave Lane and the Mayer Lutheran baseball team next season, but he will need someone new behind the plate as Mitchell Baumann (center) was a 2014 LHS graduate along with several other key Crusaders. (Patriot staff photo by Melissa Marohl)

Sophomore pitcher Jack Chmielewski, right, is slated to return for Dave Lane and the Mayer Lutheran baseball team next season, but he will need someone new behind the plate as Mitchell Baumann (center) was a 2014 LHS graduate along with several other key Crusaders. (Patriot staff photo by Melissa Marohl)

With such a young roster in 2014, there are certainly good things to come in future years for the Mayer Lutheran baseball team.

Head coach Dave Lane conceded that this season was probably a bit of a disappointment for the senior players, but said that the underclassmen grew up quickly, stepping into varsity roles with little experience at that level, and leading the Crusaders to a 2-16 season, including a playoff upset of Maranatha Christian. LHS finished last in the Minnesota River Conference with a 1-13 record.

“I can’t call it a good season in terms of wins and losses, but we had great kids,” Lane said. “Hopefully that will bode well for the future.”

With many freshman and sophomores on the starting roster and regular varsity faces shifting positions, it was a year of change for the Crusaders.

Mayer Lutheran started the season on an 0-10 run until grabbing their sole regular season win, a 3-2 victory at LeSueur-Henderson on May 13.

“That was a real highlight, we were really struggling,” Lane said.

However, the season losses weren’t blowouts, despite what scores may reflect. Only twice during the season were the Crusaders 10-run ruled.

“And I think that says a little bit about our team,” Lane said.

In each game, the Crusaders stuck with their opponents, sometimes leading, only to be failed by one or two poor innings in which the other team would capitalize on errors and disappearing Crusader morale for runs.

“We were always kind of on the edge,” Lane said. “We almost had to play perfect defensively and that was a lot to ask.”

The weather didn’t help either, as many early season games were cancelled or postponed, keeping the Crusaders in the gym and off the fields. Game situations became learning moments, and as the season progressed, the Crusaders kept improving.

Mayer Lutheran finished the regular season 1-14 and pulled off a surprising extra-inning upset of No. 7 Maranatha Christian in the first round of the Section 4A tournament in late May. The season closed with subsequent losses to New Life Academy and Southwest Christian.

Mayer Lutheran says goodbye to four seniors this year who poured their hearts into a team that has fallen on hard times in recent seasons. Chase Anderson, Mitchell Baumann, Cole Buttenhoff, and Joel Burfeind all leaves holes on the field and in the batting lineup that Lane and the remaining Crusaders will need to fill next season.

While the team will still be rather young, Lane expects this season’s varsity players to bring much needed experience to the field next year, including Karrington Boelke, Jack Chmielewski, Nic Voelker, Jack Buttenhoff, Kyle Gillund, Zach Thole, Brandon Holmes, Seth Pauna, Alex Baumann, Mitchell Johnson, and Brandon Jilek, who made up this season’s varsity roster.

In addition, the Knights program will feed other players into the LHS system.

“We really do have some very, very good baseball players coming into the freshman class next year,” Lane said. “We’re excited about that.”

While a truly successful season in the stats book may be a few years out, Lane is seeing lots of potential and heart from both his outgoing seniors and upcoming upperclassmen.

“The kids were great and they were positive and I think they’ll look back and say they had a lot of fun,” he said. “We’re excited about the future and we’re hoping it will start to show next year, but we might be a year away. We think that in two years, we’re going to be very, very competitive, even in the Minnesota River.”

This year’s All-Conference awards went to Mitchell Baumann and Joel Burfeind (Honorable Mention).

 

Contact Melissa Marohl at melissa.marohl@ecm-inc.com

 
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