Blue Devil baseball team hopes to compete for conference title

Published 7:12 pm Monday, March 23, 2009

Fresh off a successful trip to Florida for opening week, the Blue Devil baseball team is feeling good about the possibilities this Spring.

Riverland went 10-3 in Cocoa, Florida last week and it had some wins against some of the better teams in the nation.

“We feel we’re at the level of the top teams in the nation and we really want to win our conference,” RCC head coach Scott Koneigs said. “We’ve just got to get to the state tournament first and I think we’ve got a good chance to do that.”

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Koenigs confidence comes from having a pitching staff that is loaded with talent from the top to the bottom of the rotation.

The top five hurlers will be sophomores Brandon Huhn, who was 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA last season and Brady Banse, who had seven wins and an ERA of 1.84 last season, and three freshman from Rapid City, SD: Mitch Jaeger of Zach Villestra, and Ryan Palmer.

“We’ve got a tremendous top five and pitching will be a huge strength,” Koenigs said. “Our next five after them aren’t to bad either.”

While the top five will pitch the conference games, Koenigs will use his other starters against non-conference opponents to keep everyone fresh. Among that group will be Southland grads Brian Voigt and Kody Retterath.

“It’s huge to have that kind of depth,” Koenigs said. “We play 30 games in April and I’ll be able to have my rotations set way ahead of time.”

Another pair of Rapid City products will have a big impact on the Blue Devils’ offense. Outfielder Kyle Starkey, who hit .402 last year, and second baseman Chris Lindemann, who hit .385 with 14 steals last season, will give the team some good hitting at the top of the order.

“Starkey’s just a great hitter and he’s not gonna see too many slumps,” Koenigs said.

Huhn will provide some power for the Blue Devils and Derek Hahn, a freshman from Lakeville North, Voigt, Derek Emanuel, and Shawn Pape of Winona should also step up as hitters.

“Brian’s still refining his swing for us,” Koenigs said. “Pape’s an absolute speedster and he’ll probably get a few extra base hits for us this year.”

Within the MCAC South, Koenigs expects tough competetion from Dakota County and Rochester.

RCC’s home opener is scheduled for Saturday April 4, with an 2 p.m. game against Anoka-Ramsey and a 4 p.m. game against Central Lakes.