Panthers ready to reload with big numbers

Like many teams, Parkers Prairie does not have a bunch of experience back on the diamond, but the Panthers do have good numbers for a Class A program to build from heading into the 2021 season.

Brendan Johnson pitches against Wadena-Deer Creek in a game during the 2019 season. Johnson is back as one of the few players with varsity experience for the Panthers after teams missed the 2020 spring season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Parkers Prairie baseball created quite a name for itself with state tournament runs over the last decade, and the Panthers are excited to see what a new group of athletes can do this spring.

“We don't know what to expect from the upcoming season,” head coach Derek Denny said. “We have a lot of guys to choose from, and are excited to see how much they improve. In just a few days of practice, we are impressed by the good attitudes of everyone, and how guys are picking each other up. We should have competition for spots, so that will also push guys in practice.”

Denny, who has a 132-116 record in now his 15th season, said players and coaches alike have great anticipation for this season.

“I also feel like it could be somewhat guarded anticipation because we know that at any time, it could be taken away depending on regulations,” he said of playing during the pandemic. “I think there are a lot of us grateful for the opportunity to have a high school season.”

Denny likes the defense he believes his guys will play. That defensive side of the game was a huge piece to their best teams in recent years.


“We should be able to fill all spots with an athletic ballplayer, and will have plenty of guys to try out to see our strongest lineup,” Denny said. “Our biggest concern, like most other programs, will be lack of varsity experience with the lost season. We are thankful we got in what we did last summer, but we don't have a lot of guys that have had varsity game time.”

The Panthers have nine seniors to lean on in Florian Koep, Brendan Johnson, Wyatt Murray, Brock Peterson, John Oberg, Lewis Swedal, Micah Arens, Riley Thoennes and Owen Hezlep. Koep, Johnson, Murray, Peterson and junior Cole Gesell all have some prior varsity experience to fall back on despite the lost season in 2020.

“I think right now it would be pitching,” Denny said of the biggest area the team has to improve on as the season progresses. “So much in baseball success relies on quality pitching. We have guys who can throw and pitch, but many of our guys don't have a lot of varsity innings. We will be looking to develop stamina in our pitchers so we can get the max effort from them at the end of May.”

Denny said it’s hard to know early in the spring which teams might be front runners in the Park Region Conference or Section 6A fields.

“Some schools didn't get summer ball in,” Denny said. “I think both Section 6 and the Park Region Conference will continue to produce excellent baseball teams.”


ROSTER - SENIORS - Florian Koep, Brendan Johnson, Wyatt Murray, Brock Peterson, John Oberg, Lewis Swedal, Micah Arens, Riley Thoennes, Owen Hezlep; JUNIORS - Cole Gesell, Jake Wagner, Carter Thoennes; SOPHOMORES - Blake Adickes, Jacob Swedal, Gus Johnson, Chase Thieschafer, Justin Bushman, Hunter Holte, RJ Reigstad; FRESHMEN - Holden Truax, Zach Mrnak, Kayden Leininger, Devin Eggert, Cohen Noska, Dylan Debilzen, Isaac Grabow, David Revering, Seth Sansness, John O’Brien, Seth Schmidt, Matthew Golden; Student manager - Landon Wagner

COACHES - Head coach - Derek Denny - 15th season, 132-116; Assistant coaches - Paul Walsh, Michael Lorine, Andrew Johnson, Andy Steidl



April 8 at New York Mills, 4:30 p.m.

April 13 vs. Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale, 4:30 p.m.

April 16 at Wadena-DC, 4:30 p.m.

April 20 at OTC, 4:30 p.m.

April 23 vs. New York Mills, 4:30 p.m.

April 27 at Pillager, 4:30 p.m.

April 30 at Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale, 4:30 p.m.


May 4 at Menahga, 4:30 p.m.

May 6 vs. Pillager, 4:30 p.m.

May 7 vs. Wadena-DC, 4:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. Sebeka (UNC), 4:30 p.m.

May 13 vs. Osakis, 4:30 p.m.

May 14 vs. Menahga, 4:30 p.m.

May 18 at Sebeka (UNC), 4:30 p.m.

May 20 at Browerville-EV, 4:30 p.m.


May 21 vs. WCA, 4:30 p.m.

May 24 vs. Brandon-Evansville, 5 p.m.

May 25 vs. OTC, 4:30 p.m.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
What To Read Next
Get Local