Baseball: Season ends for Parkers Prairie after Panthers take next step in the process

Parkers Prairie fell in a 4-1 game to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on Tuesday as its season ended in the second week of the Section 6A playoffs, but head coach Derek Denny is excited about the future for a group that will graduate only two seniors.

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Players on the Parkers Prairie bench celebrate a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Cole Gesell, No. 1, scores off a Zach Mrnak double against BBE in the Section 6A playoffs on June 7, 2022. That run ended up being the lone run of the game for the Panthers as BBE won 4-1 to stay alive in the elimination bracket.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
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GLENWOOD — Parkers Prairie baseball coach Derek Denny spent a little extra time talking to his players in the final post-game huddle of the season on Tuesday afternoon once the Panthers’ season ended with a 4-1 loss to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the Section 6A playoffs.

That game went somewhat like the season as a whole for a young group — some good and a few missed opportunities. In the end, Parkers Prairie wrapped up the spring with a 10-13 overall record for a team that should return almost everyone for the 2023 season.

“I just talked about the improvement,” Denny said of the message to his guys after the loss. “Our goal this year was to get into this second week of the playoffs. Now we talked about building. These guys are going to play a full summer of ball. Next year, it’s getting deeper. We feel like it was a successful season. We had a lot of new guys to varsity. They improved a lot. We hit the ball well today and hit into some tough luck too. We’re happy with how we finished off.”

Cole Gesell
Parkers Prairie's Cole Gesell rounds third base on his way home for a Panthers' run in the first inning of a Section 6A elimination game against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on June 7, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Panthers led 1-0 after a first-inning double by sophomore Zach Mrnak scored Cole Gesell with two outs after Gesell had led off with a single. A strikeout stranded Mrnak at second.

Parkers Prairie then loaded the bases with one out but failed to score a run in the second. Nolan Steidl singled, Holden Truax walked, and Chase Thieschafer reached on a bunt single between the pitcher and first base.


BBE senior pitcher Will VanBeck got out of the jam by getting a fly out to second base and then a strikeout to keep it a 1-run game.

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“That was a bummer,” Denny said. “We gave ourselves a chance and we didn’t capitalize. I was going to be happy with runners on second and third and two outs and turning the lineup over. Instead, we get the line-drive bunt that gets down. Playing a good team like that, we need a base hit to drop and score a couple runs. That was a bummer. That’s the way it goes.”

The Jaguars (13-11) grabbed the lead with a three-run third inning. Gavin Kampsen singled in a run on a ground out to shortstop. With two outs, senior Ashton Dingmann hammered a 2-run home run over the right-center field fence for a 3-1 lead.

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Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa senior Ashton Dingmann celebrates his third-inning, two-run home run with teammates that gave his team a 3-1 lead in an eventual 4-1 win over Parkers Prairie in the Section 6A playoffs for BBE.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

VanBeck singled in a run to help his own cause in the bottom of the fourth inning. VanBeck scattered seven hits but walked just one and struck out eight in the complete-game win.

Sophomore Dylan Debilzen countered on the mound for Parkers Prairie. He allowed the four runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out eight himself.

“He threw really well. He mixed speeds, kept them off balance,” Denny said of Debilzen. “They hit the home run, but he threw great. Whenever Dylan is on the mound, we have a chance to win. The guys know it. They play well behind him.”

Parkers Prairie ended the regular season with a couple of losses to state-power New York Mills by 10-2 and 10-0 scores on May 25. The Panthers got wins over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and Brandon-Evansville during the postseason, and played New York Mills a lot closer in a 5-3 loss on June 2.

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Parkers Prairie sophomore Dylan Debilzen pitches against BBE in a Section 6A playoff game on June 7, 2022. Debilzen gave the Panthers a chance to win through a complete-game, six-inning performance, but the Jaguars stayed alive in the playoffs with a 4-1 win over Parkers Prairie.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Panthers committed just one error against BBE, and defensively is where Denny saw the team make some strides as the season went on. Defense is always a point of emphasis for the program, but Denny would like to see the Panthers grow offensively heading into next spring.


“A lot of it will start at the plate,” he said of where the jump in play needs to happen. “That was one of our struggles, and we kind of knew it would be, was our hitting. We want to be able to see guys at the plate, especially in favorable hitters’ counts, not missing fastballs. Fouling off fastballs is one thing, but when you’re in a 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 count and you get that fastball, we want to see solid contact hitting it hard somewhere. That’s the next step for our hitters.”

Gesell, Carter Thoennes and Jake Wagner are the three seniors on this year’s roster for Parkers Prairie. They will have to be replaced, but Denny likes the work ethic of a big group of players he has coming back as the program tries to take a step forward.

“They work hard in practice. You’re just going to get better when that happens,” Denny said. “I love them. I look forward to working with them every day. We’ve got good kids, good ball players. I like how they play. I think they’re going to have a good summer, and I’m looking forward already to next spring.”

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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