Baseball: Riverland duo is leading the way

Published 7:08 pm Thursday, March 17, 2016

From left: Riverland Community College baseball players Mitch Kelly and Zach Schwieters are returning All-Americans for the Blue Devils. Rocky Hulne/

From left: Riverland Community College baseball players Mitch Kelly and Zach Schwieters are returning All-Americans for the Blue Devils. Rocky Hulne/

The Riverland Community College baseball team started its season off with a strong push as it won eight out of its 10 games to start the season in Arizona and it’s received a big boost from its two returning NJCAA All Americans.

The Blue Devils have (8-2 overall) have looked to Mitch Kelly, a sophomore pitcher from Lake Crystal, Minn., and Zach Schwieters, a sophomore and Rochester John Marshall grad, to lead them on the field early on.

Kelly has started this season 2-0 to extend his career RCC record to 10-1 and Schwieters is hitting .441 with two doubles, four triples, one homer and 11 RBIs early in the season.

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Kelly has struck out 20 in innings of work and he has an ERA of 2.25 this year.

“He’s a mature kid and he doesn’t get too fazed,” Koenigs said of Kelly. “He can throw a lot of pitches for strikes and he knows how to work inside and outside. He’s pitched in some really big games and he’s grown up a lot.”

Schwieters gives the Blue Devils production with his bat and his defense as he already threw a runner out at home in Arizona.

“He’s a five tool guy,” Koenigs said of Schwieters. “He can run, he can hit for power, he can hit for average and he’s got a big arm. He really has it all and he’s put in a lot of time in the offseason. We look for him to have a huge year.”

Schwieters has battled a few injuries in his baseball career and he spent last summer resting and recovering. It was tough for him to avoid baseball when the weather is the best to be playing the sport, but he’s now even more motivated to have a good year with the Blue Devils.

“We’re hungrier to go farther than we did in last year, especially when we should’ve gone a lot farther,” Schwieters said. “It makes us get after it a little bit harder and it makes us a lot more focused on the main goal of trying to get to nationals.”

Kelly played some baseball for the Mankato Moondogs in the Northwoods League last summer and he also pitched in the amateur state baseball tournament for the New Ulm Brewers. Kelly, who plans to play Division II baseball next year, said he was able to improve over that stretch.

“I thought it was more fun over the summer. I was playing against DI and DII players. It was more competitive and it made me want to throw more strikes and work on my off speed pitching,” Kelly said. “I’ll just keep doing the best that I can and I’ll keep throwing strikes. We’re trying to make it to the world series.”

In all, the Blue Devils return six position players from last year and Alex Roosen is a returning All-Stater. Koenigs said the team has the talent to compete, but it needs some leaders to emerge.

“We’re still looking for leaders on this time. We’ve got guys that can play and we a have a lot of talent,” Koenigs said. “It’s just the leadership that scares me a little bit and we’re still working on that. It’s early in the year.”

RCC will play Southeastern Community College in three games in Lincoln, Neb. this weekend.