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Alex baseball preview: Cards try to defend their CLC title

Parker Bowden pitches during a game against Fergus Falls on May 23, 2013. Bowden is a returning starter for the Cardinal basball team and one of nine seniors on the roster as Alexandria tries to defend its CLC title. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Cardinals went 17-8 overall in 2013 and tied for the Central Lakes Conference title with Rocori at 11-3. Gone from that group is a top-of-the-rotation starter in Beau Backhaus, as well as his battery mate behind the plate in Pat Leary.

Talented players Nick Knoblach, Ben Allen, Grant Becker, Christian Anderson and Jeff Swedberg were also lost to graduation. In all, that equals three starting outfielders and three starting infielders that Alexandria is trying to replace.

To do so, they will lean on a group of nine players who were a part of that run to a CLC title. Senior shortstop Zach Peterson is back to anchor the middle infield. He also hit .432 with a team-leading 24 RBIs and nine doubles last year.

The players responsible for helping the Alexandria VFW team to a state tournament this past summer will also get a chance to prove themselves at the varsity level.

“We return a good group from last year’s conference championship team and last summer’s Legion state tournament,” sixth-year head coach Russ Hinrichs said. “We also have a very strong group of juniors who had great success last spring and summer, including many players from the VFW state tournament team. The junior class will be counted on to replace a great group of athletes that we lost to graduation last spring.”

The Cardinals have plenty of arms to work with on the mound, led by senior Blake Stockert. The lefty signed with North Dakota State University in the offseason after posting a 3.00 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched last year.

“On the mound, we should be strong with the return of Blake Stockert, Jake Booth and Parker Bowden, along with juniors Dan Kuhn, Micah Hedstrom, Chris Leary and Grant Hockert,” Hinrichs said.

The Cardinals will have a lot of competitions for the open outfield and infield spots. Hinrichs said Cody McLaughlin, Revering, Toby Helgeson, Travis Krueger, Grant Toivonen, Bowden and Kluver will compete for jobs in the infield. Riley Hvezda, Booth, Brody Erdman, Kuhn and Spencer Lucas will fight for playing time in the outfield, while Thompson, Casey Hammerback and Kris Setterstrom will vie for time behind the plate.

“We will be competing to defend our conference title with Brainerd, St. Cloud Tech and Apollo this spring with Brainerd probably being the pre-season favorite,” Hinrichs said. “The section will be very competitive again this year with conference rivals Brainerd, Tech and Apollo, along with Bemidji and St. Michael-Albertville.”

2014 ALEXANDRIA BASEBALL TEAM

SENIORS – Ben Kluver, IF; Blake Stockert, P; Cody McLaughlin, 3B; Jake Booth, P; Mitch Thompson, C; Parker Bowden, P; Riley Hvezda, OF; Toby Helgeson, 1B, Zach Peterson, SS

JUNIORS – Brody Erdman, OF; Casey Hammerback, C; Chris Leary, P; Cody Weisel, 1B; Dan Kuhn, P; Grant Hockert, P; Grant Toivonen, 2B; Kris Setterstrom, C; Micah Hedstrom, P; Parker Revering, IF; Spencer Lucas, OF; Travis Krueger, IF; Tyler Kay, OF

COACHES – Head coach – Russ Hinrichs – 12th year overall, sixth as head coach, 68-53; Assistant coaches – Greg Toivonen, Kevin Engebretson, Jake Munsch, Gerry Hoelscher

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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