Blue Devils ready for Florida
Published 9:34 pm Monday, March 7, 2011
To some college students, a trip to Florida in the middle of March means one thing — Spring Break.
For the Riverland baseball team, it has a little different meaning. Mostly it means the No. 4 ranked Blue Devils, who have been to the last two NJCAA Division III World Series in Tyler, Texas, will get to see if they are worthy of their ranking.
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“Last year I kind of went down to get away from the snow and have fun playing baseball, this year it’s definitely work,” RCC sophomore pitcher and catcher Kyal Williams said. “We’ve got the opportunity to show off what we’ve got. I definitely want to get back to that Texas feeling and it’s going to be a good year.”
RCC head coach Scott Koenigs said that RCC has its work cut out for itself as it will play five of the top 15 teams in the nation, a Division II team, and two Canadian All-Star teams. In all, RCC will play 14 games in eight days.
They start play this Saturday in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
“We’re solid and we feel good about what we have,” Koenigs said. “But we’ll probably lose some games early on in Florida because we’ll be throwing our bottom rotation guys against some of the top teams in the nation and they’ll have their top guys in.”
The Riverland baseball team completely covers the cost of the trip to Florida as players have raised money through selling raffle tickets and t-shirts, and working at Bruins hockey games.
The trip to Florida gives the team one of its few chances to play in nice weather as April is often a cold month in Minnesota.
“One of the perks of playing baseball is going down to Florida and getting away from the snow,” said sophomore pitcher Tyler Jones. “We’ll just play baseball and it’ll be against good competition, which makes it even better.”
Riverland will likely start six sophomores in the field this year, but it did graduate its top two pitchers from last year’s squad.
“We’ve got some holes to fill, but I think we have enough talent to fill those holes,” said sophomore pitcher Brad Winkelman. “We’ll find out how good we are (after the Florida trip).”
RCC does return one of its biggest bats in Kyle Young, a sophomore who bashed 12 homers last season. Young, along with some of the other Blue Devils, has spent some time in the weight room and is looking to be even better this year.
“I’ve got a lot more confidence walking up to the plate (this year),” he said. “I’m always excited to get in the cage.”
Young, who is taking on a leadership role this season, is also pleased with the amount of talent at each position. Where last year most starting spots were permanent, there has been some competition for spots in practice this season.
“We’re deep this year and we’ve got a good mix of guys that can play all over,” Young said. “People should be battling all year (for spots) and that’ll keep us working hard.”
The trip to Florida won’t make or break RCC’s season but Koenigs is hoping it shows his team what it needs to work on before the conference season opens up.
“It’ll give us a good measuring stick on where we’re going,” he said. “I think we’ll be successful this year, but I don’t think we’re the number four team in the country right now like we’re ranked. But by the end of the year I’d like to think we will be and the outlook is good for us.”
WHERE THEY’LL LINE UP
While the Riverland lineup isn’t set in stone yet, this is what it will probably look like when the Blue Devils are playing in their biggest games of the year.
Catcher — Kyal Williams, a sophomore from Adlaide, South Australia, hit .412 with 6 homeruns and 35 RBIs last season. Williams will be Riverland’s primary catcher except for days when he’s pitching.
“We have depth at every spot except for catching,” Koenigs said. “Aussie will have to do most of the catching and hopefully somebody else can step up when he’s on the mound.
First base — Reece Steckler, a sophomore from Rapid City, S.D., hit .357 with 5 homers and 29 RBIs last season. Adam Carroll, a freshman from Rapid City, and Andew Schunck of St. Clair, Mich. could also see time at first.
Second base — Aaron Fischer, a sophomore from LeMars, Iowa, hit .351 with 17 RBIs last season. Jamie Adams, a freshman from El Paso, Texas, could also chip in the infield.
“Jamie Adams has a great glove and can really play. He’s going to get some time and he can also play shortstop and third base,” Koenigs said.
Shortstop — Matt Boswell, a freshman from Austin, Texas, was an All-Star in high school.
Third base — Brad Winkelman, a sophomore from Rapid City, hit .333 with 6 homers and 24 RBIs. Chris Anderson, a transfer from St. Scholastica, will also see time.
Left field — Jordan Mondeel, a freshman from Albert Lea who was a Lions All-Star, will be asked to hold down the spot.
“He can run and he’s a pretty smart player. He does a lot of things,” Koenigs said.
Center field — Kyle Young, a sophomore from Forest Lake, Minn., was All-Conference and All-State last season for RCC. He hit .407 with 12 homers, 53 RBIs and he scored 57 runs.
Right field — Renne Araujo, a sophomore from Houston, Texas, hit .402 with 3 homeruns and 19 RBIs last year.
Pitchers — Williams was 8-1 with a 3.60 ERA last season; Winkelman was 6-2, with a 3.00 ERA last season and Tyler Jones, a sophomore from Rapid City, was 7-1, with a 5.40 ERA last year.
“We don’t have the power pitchers we had last year, but we’ve got a lot of guys who can throw,” Koenigs said.