Small-school baseball programs at the Class A level tend to be set up well when having a senior-laden team, and that was certainly the case for Brandon-Evansville this spring.
The Chargers won 16 games a year ago. Now, B-E was expecting to build on that with a group of 10 seniors in Jesse Perleberg, Tanner Bitzan, Marshall Riedel, Keagan Schiele, Zackary Haugen, Tony Schaffran, Seth Stelzer, Sam Fuller, Corbin Olson and Andrew Perrin.
Those guys never got the chance to see what this group could accomplish due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down spring sports.
The Echo Press reached out to each senior for the Chargers. For those who responded, this story is a chance to recognize them with a piece centered around four questions: Why do they play baseball? What do they miss most about it this spring? What is a favorite memory from competing? What are their future plans after high school, and do they plan on competing again?
(Editor’s note: Look for more stories like this highlighting seniors from area teams both online and within print issues of the Echo Press in the coming weeks.)
Why he competes: I play baseball and all sports because I'm a very competitive guy, but with baseball it's a little more relaxed compared to basketball and football. With baseball, the weather is nice and there is always good music playing during the game.
I love that hotdogs and burgers get grilled mid-game too. Baseball is just that special sport where all of that can happen compared to others. The friendships and memories you make playing baseball or any sport stay with you forever.
What he misses most: The thing I miss the most is all the fun I have with all my teammates and all the good memories we make. What is the most frustrating to me and my teammates is that we were really ready for this year and thought we had a good shot to go all the way.
This year, we had stacked pitchers and tough batters all throughout the lineup, all with lots of experience. It makes us all wonder, what if we executed each day and no one gets hurt? How far would we have gone if we would've had our season?
Favorite memory: My favorite memory would be the playoff game at Minnewaska my freshman year where we beat Parkers Prairie. That game, I went 3-for-4, and on defense, I made many diving stops and was able to get the runners out at first.
One of my diving stops was really crucial when it was bases loaded, and we were able to end the inning with no runs. I will always remember that inning and also that game. Games like that are my favorite when I'm making lots of plays at third base.
Future plans: My plan is to go to Alexandria Technical and Community College for machine tool where I will hopefully be working at the family Bitzan Machine shop. I will also be working on the family farm. I won't be playing any college ball, but I will be in many summer leagues from my town team (Millerville Millers) and other leagues like men's slow pitch softball. Unfortunately, I will not get the opportunity to play Legion baseball this summer with all my classmates and friends from Ashby and West Central Area either, due to the pandemic.
Why he competes: The reason I play baseball is simply because I love the sport. To me, baseball is relaxing. The atmosphere in games is awesome and playing with guys that are your friends with makes it even better. And I love the game because my teammates have allowed me to become a better athlete.
What he misses most: What I miss most about the game is playing games obviously, but I miss having practices with my teammates and having fun. My teammates are what I miss because they make the game fun. And not being able to play this spring is heartbreaking knowing that I might never play with any of them again.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory over the years is probably my freshman year when I played with guys like Kevin Campbell and Jake Nohre when we beat Parkers Prairie in Minnewaska in the playoffs.
Future plans: I am going to be attending Minnesota State University-Mankato where I will further my education, and this summer I will be working to keep myself busy. I plan on continuing to play the sport, whether it’s competitive or casually, but I just want to play.
Why he competes: I play baseball because I enjoy being in the dugout with friends, eating seeds and just enjoying the game.
What he misses most: What I miss most about the game this spring is being able to play with my friends, and knowing that we would’ve had a competitive squad this year really makes it suck more.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory from baseball is last year when I was a junior and we were going to Minnewaska for playoffs. There was a big rainstorm coming, so we all piled into the Minnewaska Auditorium for about an hour, and we all got to just mess around and hang out with each other.
Future plans: I will be attending (Minnesota State University-Moorhead) next fall and majoring in biology with the intention of being a chiropractor. I do hope to play Legion ball (again) and after that I don’t know.