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Baseball: Minnewaska head coach Joe Alexander likes what he sees in season-opening sweep

The Lakers beat West Central Area 7-0 on Thursday, and then got a walk-off sacrifice fly from sophomore Nathan Dell to beat Morris Area.

Nathan Dell
Minnewaska sophomore Nathan Dell slides into home for a run against West Central Area on April 21, 2022. Dell had a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning during the Lakers' win over Morris Area in the doubleheader as Minnewaska went 2-0 by also getting a 7-0 win over West Central Area.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

GLENWOOD — Both the West Central Area and Minnewaska baseball teams have quite a few young athletes they will break onto the varsity scene this spring, and it was a good debut for Minnewaska on Thursday.

The Lakers hosted a doubleheader on their home field as they took care of business in a 7-0 win over WCA in game one. Sophomore Nathan Dell then followed up a good game against the Knights by hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh that secured a 6-5 win over Morris Area in the nightcap.

“Our sophomores have played a lot of baseball coming into their first varsity games and are not afraid of the moment,” Minnewaska head coach Joe Alexander said. “Having coached them since they were 6, I know what they are capable of and they know how high my expectations are of them. They, along with the rest of their extremely talented classmates, are going to do great things for Minnewaska baseball.”

Dell is part of a sophomore class that includes 13 total players out for baseball. Dylan Alexander and Jack Majerus are two more.

Jack Majerus
Minnewaska head coach Joe Alexander congratulates sophomore Jack Majerus as Majerus smiles at his dugout after sliding into third base in front of the tag of Knights' third baseman Ty Fuoss on April 21, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Dylan Alexander had a 3-for-4 game with a double, a triple, two runs scored and an RBI against Morris. Majerus was 3-for-3 with a double, three runs scored and an RBI against West Central Area.

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The Lakers have six seniors, and one of those in Jacob Blair helped lead the way against WCA. Blair went 3-for-4 with a run scored in the opener. He also got the win on the mound by going five innings and allowing just two hits. He scattered four walks and struck out seven before Dell threw two shutout innings to end it.

“Jacob is all you can ask for in a senior leader,” coach Alexander said. “Not only is he exceptionally talented, he is also one of the hardest workers in our program. He is a kid that I use as an example over and over again to our other players about commitment, work ethic, and how hard you can work when no one is watching. Handing him the ball and putting him at the top of our order was an easy decision for me. After visiting with him about it, I could sense his excitement and knew he was going to have a big day. He will, no doubt, play a huge role on our team this season.”

Jacob Blair
Minnewaska senior Jacob Blair threw five shutout innings against West Central Area to get the win in the 7-0 final on April 21, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexander loved the work ethic his guys showed leading up to this season in the weight room and through volunteer hitting sessions. That has him excited about this team after a good start to the spring.

“They have stayed locked in during the prolonged winter and wet spring indoor practices,” Alexander said. “As a first-year coach, the fact that they show up every day ready to focus on getting better at the great game of baseball and the way they hold each other accountable means a lot to me and my staff. It no doubt shows they are an extremely hungry group with very high character.”

Connor Stein and Bryce Kjesbo
Minnewaska's Connor Stein slides into second base as West Central Area's Bryce Kjesbo tries to apply the tag on April 21, 2022 during Minnewaska's 7-0 win over WCA.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

West Central Area struggled to get its offense going against Blair and then Dell as the Knights finished with just two hits. Junior Dane Anderson and sophomore Jack Courrier both singled. Junior Cole Anderson drew two walks in a game where the Knights drew five walks total.

“It’s our first time outside other than hitting some fly balls in the parking lot,” WCA head coach Andy Koloski said. “We’re young. I’ve got three, four sophomores starting, a freshman who’s playing a lot. I guess I would take more positives than negatives out of the game.”

Cam Anderson, Dane Anderson, Adam Lohse and Bryce Kjesbo are four sophomores who were in Thursday’s starting lineup, while freshman Ben Bye started at first base.

Colton Lindquist and Ashton Danner are the two senior starters. Lindquist started on the mound, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out two. Courrier and Cam Anderson each threw two innings in relief as the Lakers got to Courrier for four runs, and scored one on Anderson.

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“I want to put them in situations where they can succeed,” Koloski said of his young pitchers. “Your command is the biggest thing in pitching. Just let it fly. You could tell a couple of them when they get up there, they’re nervous. They’ve never done it before. It’s just getting comfortable so when we get to the end of the season, we’re playing our best baseball.”

Koloski liked a lot of what he saw as the game progressed.

“We played a pretty clean defensive game with just one error,” he said. “I used three different pitchers, and for the most part, they worked themselves out of jams. Colton, my starter, is really the only pitcher who has a lot of varsity experience. Our at-bats got better as the game went on. We did a good job of swinging at strikes and putting it in play, hitting it right at people.”

The Knights are a team that will try to play station-to-station baseball in order to score runs until the bats get more comfortable at the plate. Progress is the goal for this group as WCA heads into the spring season.

“We’ve talked about that in practice a lot,” Koloski said of manufacturing runs. “We’ve worked a lot on bunting and situations and moving runners. Hitting the ball the other way when we have guys on base. We’re working on it. Today, there wasn’t a ton of situations to bunt and things like that. But yeah, with this bunch, we’re going to have to find ways to score runs, early especially.”

MORRIS AREA     003 200 0 - 5 11 1

MINNEWASKA     012 020 1 - 6 10 0

MINNEWASKA PITCHING - P.J. Johnson - 6IP, 11H, 5R, 5ER, 2BB, 5SO; Torii Johnson - W, 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 1SO

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MINNEWASKA OFFENSE - Jacob Blair - 0-2, HBP; Torii Johnson - 1-4, 1 run; Dylan Alexander - 3-4, 2B, 3B, 2 runs, RBI; Jack Larson - 3-3, 2B, HBP, 2 runs, 2 RBI; P. Johnson - 1-3; Jack Majerus - 0-3, BB, 1 run; Nathan Dell - 1-4, 2B, RBI; Hunter Johnson - 0-1, 3 BB; Connor Stein - 1-3

MORRIS AREA PITCHING - Bryce Jergenson - 5IP, 8H, 5R, 5ER, 3BB, 3SO; Brett Hansen - 1.2IP, 2H, 1R, 0ER, 1BB, 2SO

MORRIS AREA OFFENSE - Ross Marty - 3-3, 2B, BB, 1 run, 2 RBI; Jergenson - 2-4, RBI; Riley Asmus - 0-3, BB, RBI; Samuel Kleinwolterink - 0-4; Kaleb Breuer - 2-4; Durgin Decker - 0-4; Hansen - 1-3, 1 run; Trevor Buss - 2-3, 2 runs; Dylan Rose - 1-3, 1 run

WEST CENTRAL AREA     000 000 0 - 0 2 0

MINNEWASKA                   023 110 X - 7 14 0

MINNEWASKA PITCHING - Jacob Blair - W, 5IP, 2H, 0R, 4BB, 7SO; Nathan Dell - 2IP, 0H, 0R, 1BB, 2SO

MINNEWASKA OFFENSE - Blair - 3-4, 1 run; T. Johnson - 1-4; D. Alexander - 0-2, 1 run, 2 BB; Larson - 0-2, 2 BB, 1 run; P. Johnson - 1-3, RBI; Majerus - 3-3, 2B, 3 runs, RBI; H. Johnson - 2-3, RBI; Dell - 3-3, 2B, 1 run, RBI: Stein - 1-3

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.
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