Spring baseball, what did we do without you last year? We’ve all missed you and are so happy you are back. Although these athletes have been practicing and perfecting their craft by training and playing in the summer, it’s been almost two years since we’ve seen the South Dakota High School Baseball Association in action. Teams have already logged a few games, so let’s dig into the batter’s box and go over some of this spring’s contenders.
1. Sioux Falls Roosevelt
The Riders have been a fixture at the state tournament for years. A great group of seniors and a loaded roster of potential give Roosevelt the best chance to have a great season. Head Coach Erik DeJong had 82 kids come out for baseball this year, so the competition started well before the season did for Roosevelt. “We are going to be led by a solid core of seniors; many of them with experience from our 2019 state tournament team,” said DeJong. “We will lean on guys like Dylan Ades, Billy Chatwell, Marcus Phillips and Ben Irsfeld who were key players in our 2019 run.”
The lineup has college talent locked and loaded with Marcus Phillips, Dylan Ades, Mitch Willis and Jamie Legg in the heart of the order. As good as the hitters are, the pitching and defense will determine the Riders’ success. Their staff is as deep as any in the state, starting with Marcus Phillips (Jr.) who features a powerful delivery that touches the 90s. Kyler Miritello, Camden Gadbois, Mitch Willis and Ben Irsfeld supply firepower in the rotation.
The Riders – like everyone else – have a lot to figure out between now and the playoffs. “We will be successful if our guys can accept their roles on the team and show up every day ready to work towards that common goal of being at the Birdcage on Memorial Day weekend,” said Coach DeJong.
The Knights left the field in 2019 as the state champions. A lot of that success was because of a stocked pitching rotation led by, at the time, sophomore Reece Arbogast. They have the crafty lefty back as a senior this year to lead the way again. Arbogast threw 44 innings with a 0.76 ERA in ’19. The future SDSU Jackrabbit is poised to provide quality innings again this spring. The offense features Sam Stukel to lead the way. Stukel hit over .400 as a sophomore in 2019. Andy Moen, Jacob Schwab, Andrew Barr, Teegan Schlimgen and Graham Sanders are a few of the others expected to step into the lineup and mash. Head Coach Dan Hughes thinks the team strength is pitching. “We have a lot of guys with experience on the mound from varsity high school and legion level,” said Hughes. “I think if we are able to consistently score three or more runs a game, we can have a successful high school season. Need to focus on having good at bats and finding ways on base.”
Look for O’Gorman to be at or near the top by season’s end.
3. Brandon Valley
The Lynx got out to a rough start on their first road trip of the season in Kansas. But don’t let that fool you, Brandon Valley will be in the mix at the end once again. Although the Lynx are younger, they’re stacked.
Head Coach Jeremy Van Heel knows it’ll take some time to develop. “With inexperience comes a learning curve. Competition and pace of play on the varsity level is our current focus. Once we get the guys up to the pace and the speed of the game, we will be very competitive. We have a lot of depth. Our junior class and sophomore class are full of guys itching to make the starting roster.”
The arms on this team don’t stop. Trey Sejnoha can throw high 80s. Last summer he threw 39 innings and sat down 51 batters with a 5-1 record. Nick Hokensted, Matt Brown, Joe Kolbeck, Noah Bertsch and Caleb Zerr are great options on the mound. Plus, the sophomores, Tayden Mitchell, Cole Frisbie, Ty Peyton, and Sam Sejnoha, are itching to step up.
The lineup is centered around the 2019 player of the year, Joe Kolbeck. The Iowa Western commit is a unique five-tool player. Matt Brown, Tyler Schelske, Peyton Carrol, Logan Kellin, Austin Reiter and Dawson Scorczewski all can hit over .300, which gives the Lynx as much power in their lineup as anyone.
4. Sioux Falls Washington
Washington can hit the ball well; they’ll hope to combine those bats with solid pitching and defense to keep piling up the wins. Tyler Boyum is one of their centerpieces at the plate and on the mound. Garren Heinert, Bryce Ronken, Jaden Feterl and Myles Rees are a few other big bats in the lineup.
The Tigers have some experience ready to make some noise in Class A. They have several returning position players who will have an expanded role on the mound this year. Head Coach Mark Abrahamson likes the team makeup but knows they’ll need to execute in the field. “Harrisburg needs to focus on being a fundamentally sound defensive team coming off a summer that resulted in 88 errors over 45 games. Cutting down on errors defensively will help pitchers seeing expanded roles in the spring after losing three senior pitchers from 2020.”
Will Simmons, a junior, continues to gain national attention for his pitching. He committed to pitch at the University of North Carolina recently. His upper 80s fastball mixed with pinpoint off-speed stuff – including a nasty 82 mph slider – keeps hitters guessing. He’ll lead a strong rotation that includes Sam Rabern and Chase Lucas, as well. The hitting is salty with Tyson Kogel, Tyman Long and Ben Loos anchoring the lineup.
Look for the Tigers to take that next step up as a contender this spring.
Best of the Rest
Lincoln – The Pats have gotten off to a great start this spring and hope to shake up Class A by the time the season is done. “I am excited for this team and this season,” said Head Coach Jordon Johnson. “We are very deep defensively and have great range all over the field. We also have great team speed. There are about four to five guys that can beat out bunts and steal bases. When these runners get on, we should be able to put pressure on opposing teams and defenses.”
The key for Lincoln will be finding an ace or two to throw. They’ll look to Nick Lounsbery, Chase Houselog and Ethan Behrend to find that consistency.
The lineup features Chase Houselog, a talented junior both offensively and defensively. Jackson Boe has showed great promise with the bat and on the field. Ryne Hammerstrom may be the fastest kid down the line in the state.
Brookings – The Bobcats have a lot of questions on their roster, but they’re not short on talent. Brookings might not have the top end talent on the mound, but it will be hard to find more depth than they have. Jackson Krogman, Kyle Bauer and Jake Amman lead this deep staff. Don’t look for Brookings to jump out of the gate as strong as they’ll finish. They have several players who are on the Brookings hockey team that’s playing in a national tournament in the middle of April. Look for seniors Jamison Honkomp, Jackson Krogman and Cole Mahlum to lead the way at the plate.
Pierre – The Govs are inexperienced at the varsity level, but don’t let that fool you. They are very athletic with several multi-sport athletes who can get it done. Andy Gordon, Maguire Raske and Lincoln Kienholz lead one of the top lineups in the state. If they can get good innings from their pitchers and top-flight defense, they’ll be a contender.
Mitchell – The Kernels bring a junior-heavy roster into battle this spring. Head Coach Luke Norden thinks the key to another state tourney run hinges on a few things. “Throwing strikes, getting quick outs to get off of the field quickly, and execution on offense with productive outs and scoring guys from third base when we have to opportunity,” said Norden. They have some solid arms in the rotation with Ethan Price, Jonah Schmidt, Jake Helleloid and Landon Waddell leading the way. Joe VanOverschelde is one of the few players on this team who contributed on their 2019 state tournament team. He’ll be a cog in the lineup along with Schmidt, Helleoid, Dylan Soulek and Nick Lord.
Yankton – The Bucks always have solid teams, and this year will be no different. Head Coach Drew Lawrence is looking forward to building a team from several new faces. “We do not have any returns from the previous high school baseball team, so inexperience will be our weakness.” Samuel Kampshoff, Landen Loecker, Tristan Redman and Conner Teichroew will lead them on the mound with Joe Gokie, Jayden Lightner and Austin Wagner leading at the plate.
Rapid City Central – Trevor Mills takes over as the head coach with a very young group. “We will be young and in a rebuilding year. We only have four upperclassmen and the rest are eighth to 10th graders. We lost nine seniors from last season that didn't happen. Main weakness will be experience along with batting power. Our main strength is speed and the aggressiveness we will have on the bases. Pitching will have depth but no true ace that will dominate a game, so good defense is going to be needed for us to compete.” Look for Trey Hullihen to be one of the leaders for the Cobblers.
TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH in CLASS A
Reece Arbogast, O’Gorman – The future SDSU Jackrabbit treats pitching as a craft. He has added more to his arsenal since he was the ace for his state championship team in 2019 as a sophomore.
Tyler Boyum, Washington – Another great player with the ability to be an ace on the mound, drive in big runs in the middle of the order or be one of the best defensive players in the state at catcher.
Lincoln Kienholz, Pierre – The sophomore excels at whatever sport he’s playing. He’s a great pitcher who can throw in the mid-80s consistently and is also a natural hitter.
Tyson Kogel, Harrisburg – He is one of the best in the state at finding his way on base and driving in runs. The lefty hit .390 as a sophomore and is primed for another big season before he goes to SDSU next year.
Joe Kolbeck, Brandon Valley – The Iowa Western commit was the best offensive player in Class A in 2019 as a sophomore. He won’t see a lot of good pitches to hit but will do damage to anything that comes across the plate.
Marcus Phillips, Roosevelt – The 6’5” junior has honed his skills on the field and is ready to show the class what he can do. He recently hit 91.6 mph on his fastball, and he’s also a big-time threat at the dish. He’s a line drive hitter who can spray it all over the field.
Will Simmons, Harrisburg – The junior hurler verballed to the University of North Carolina last October. He is a commanding right-handed pitcher with great velocity and a sharp slider. He has fantastic control and mixes speed with the best.
There are several teams in Class B that have the tools to win it all, but there are few teams as deep as Madison. The Bulldogs had 36 players out for spring baseball between eighth and 12th grade. While most teams have very little varsity experience because of last spring’s lost season, the Bulldogs used several sophomores and freshman back in 2019 who are ready to pick up where they left off. Zach Whitlock, Logan Albee, Braden Eimers and Aspen Dahl all played significant roles in 2019.
Head Coach Eric Hortness has done a great job with this squad and expects their success to come down to basics. “With high school using wood bats, it always comes down to defense and strikes. We don't have the number of strikeout pitchers we had two years ago, but we have more guys that can throw strikes. So, playing defense will be key to our success.”
Madison has scheduled several Class A teams to keep them at their best. They plan to face Brandon Valley, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Huron, O’Gorman and Washington this year.
2. Dell Rapids
The pitching staff at Dell Rapids will be among the best in the state, led by junior Austin Henry. They also have Brady Larsen who is very solid and some younger players like Treyse Eastman and Jack Henry to fill out their rotation. Head Coach Danny Miller expects those arms to fuel their season. “We might not be a team that can out-slug our opponent, but we will have good pitching and defense,” said Miller. “That being said, we do have some guys who can hit for power.” Austin Henry, Kaeden Eastman and Landon Ruesink are a few of those heavy hitters.
3. Dakota Valley
The Panthers have been one of the most consistent teams in Class B over the last several seasons. This year they might not be dominant, but they’ll be in every game. They have a host of pitchers who can get the ball across the plate. Paul Bruns already has a 10K performance under his belt this season, and with Ben Niemeyer, Jake Pruschniak, Ethen Anema, Ashton Pick and several others, they make a formidable pitching staff. Chayce Montagne is one of the top leadoff guys in the class, and they have some power with Paul Bruns, Isaac Bruns, Hunter Beving, Randy Rosenquist and others in the order.
4. Beresford Area
This is a team that is up and coming. They were the 16U teener champions last year and have a lot of potential to have a great spring. Blake Schroedermeier is one of the bright spots on this team full of talented players.
5. Bon Homme/Avon
Bon Homme always fields a good team under Head Coach Gary Kortan. This year they return three of their top pitchers in Riley Rothschadl, Carter Uecker and Trent Herrboldt. “We will rely heavily on our pitching this season as we will have many young players getting their first varsity at-bats, but yet we have just enough experience to be a threat come postseason play,” said Kortan. Look for Kaleb Kubal to anchor a dynamic batting order. The older players on this team have been part of a state high school championship in 2018, and last season this group won the 16U teener title. Look for Bon Homme/Avon to continue to improve and compete with the best teams in the state.
Best of the Rest
West Central – The Trojans are right there once again. Only Seth Gabbert and Ryan Healy have varsity baseball experience, but they have another deep pool of arm talent to help them.
Lennox – Head Coach Drew Sweeter has some returning talent to guide the O’s into contention. Peyton Eich, Brandon Fodness, Gavin Sanculi, Brandon Otte and Ty Spieler are a good core to build around. Lennox has enough arms and athletic talent to contend this year.
Vermillion – Connor Saunders, Willis Robertson, Jack Kratz, Jake Jensen, Nick Roob and Charlie Ward will be key returning players. Coach Tom Heisinger likes their arms. “Jake Jensen, Clayton Sorensen, Jack Kratz, Willis Robertson, Ben Burbach, Tim Dixon will be asked to handle most of the innings on the mound. We pride ourselves on being good defensively. Saunders, Kratz and Robertson have been starting for three years on the infield for us, so we feel that is a strength.”
Castlewood/Deuel – This is the first year of this co-op. Coach Dan Haug is ready to get this team going. “We have a lot of pitching as our strength, but using wood bats will be a different experience for us.” Kegan Tvedt, Garret Kerkvliet, Jeremiah Wiersma, Booker Schooley and Sam Kooima are a few of the players that will be relied on.
Baltic – The Bulldogs will be young with just one senior, but Coach Kelly Leroy Wilhelmsen has some big-time talent. Easton Nordbye and Hunter Larson anchor the lineup with Andrew Van Damm and Riley Schultz at the top of their pitching rotation.
Tea Area – Coach Tom Babb is ready to get the Titans into the season. “We will get some great development and experience out of our younger classes that will need to step in this season, as well as replacing those 13 seniors next year.” Dawson Portner and Cameron Jensen are each college commits and are ready to lead on the field. Jensen is coming off surgery, so his rehab will determine how much he’s able to help this spring.
Hamlin Area – This team will take the field for the first time in the league as Hamlin Area. Coach Wesley Grantham thinks they could make some noise this year. “We have a young group collectively with some extremely talented upperclassmen. I expect us to be competitive with all teams in our region and look to make a splash in the region playoffs.”
Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central – Coach Nathan Hainy thinks they should be competitive this season. “Offensively we will look to Cooper Hainy, Quinten Christensen and Dylan Schimke to lead us at the top of the order. We will need to develop the bottom half of the lineup to find that offensive consistency we need. Mason Schelske, Coen Harvey and Gerritt Brandenburg will provide quality starting pitching.”
Elk Point-Jefferson – The Huskies have good pitching depth and team speed but will need to improve on the defensive end to be a contender. They have some returning experience with Tyler Goehring, Skyler Swatek, Andrew Nearman, Noah Larson and Cade Fennel.
Hanson Area – The Ducks return four starters with a solid core of young players filling the roster. Coach Zach Harter likes his pitchers and baserunning but knows they have to work on the little things to elevate this year. “We are looking for our hitters to work counts and hit directionally. We also need more strength in our corner outfield positions.” The Ducks have gone from 13 on the roster in 2019 to 24 this season. This team is on the rise with some great young players like sophomore Daniel Laufman and eighth grader Brady Fox.
Sioux Falls Christian – The Chargers are looking solid so far this spring. Caden Reitz, Ben Wheendreyer, Noah Hart, Andrew Dykstra, Jacob Sanderson and Jacob Doctor should play key roles as SFC tries to get back into the mix.
Elkton – Like a lot of other Class B teams, Elkton doesn’t have a lot of varsity experience on the field. But in their second year of competition, Coach Shelby Bebensee hopes to see growth. “My first year as the coach in 2019, we didn't win a game. But we only lost two kids from that team. We were very young then with most kids being eighth and ninth graders.” They hope that two years of development and strength will show some team improvement. Logan Kuehl, Aiden Erickson, Ryan Krog and Charlie Harming will be key hitters in the lineup.
Scotland/Menno – This is the first year for the new co-op. Scotland had previously gone with Bon Homme, and Menno has never had high school baseball before. Coach Kory Foss is up to the challenge. “We have 23 kids on the roster and many of them are playing for the first time in a couple years, so we will be a little inexperienced to begin the year. We have a couple of older guys that are good ballplayers, and they will need to lead the way for us if we are to compete in a very tough region.” Jacob Schott, Treyton Sayler, Dawson Bietz, Kadeyn Ulmer and Jordan Gall will have to take leadership roles for the Trappers.
McCook – The Burros like their group of pitchers and have several juniors and seniors who are ready to take leadership roles. Bobby Koepsell, Avery Feterl, Braeden Kerkhove and Chase Merrill will be the core of their lineup. Coach Randy Sabers thinks they could be competitive. “We have several upper classmen who experienced success during the 2020 summer season. We look for senior leadership from those players. Plus, we have a nice nucleus of juniors who will assist on both sides of the ball, as well as eating up innings on the mound.”
TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH in CLASS B
Austin Henry, Dell Rapids – The junior flame-thrower continues to improve. He toes the rubber at 6’5” and can deliver at over 90 mph. He is already committed to Wichita State and continues to make scouts drool with his precision and smarts on the mound. He is also Dell Rapids’ biggest threat at the plate.
Riley Rothschadl, Bon Homme – Just a sophomore, Riley could be one of the top pitchers in the state already. He tops out in the mid-80s and is a huge threat at the plate, as well.
Cameron Thue, Hamlin – Last summer he mashed to the tune of .589 at the plate. He is one of the top average/power hitters in the state.
Jack Kratz, Vermillion – This multi-sport athlete is good at football and wrestling, as well. He’s been starting for three years in Vermillion’s infield. Last summer he hit .421 with 22 RBIs.
Parker Puetz, Sioux Valley – As a freshman in 2019, Puetz hit .400 and slugged .571. Now as a junior, he will once again be among the toughest outs in the state.
Aspen Dahl, Madison – The ace of a very good Madison staff throws an array of pitches for strikes. But he’s an all-around player who hits for average and power, and excels on defense and baserunning, as well. This junior is primed for a big year.
Paul Bruns, Dakota Valley – Paul is known for his game on the basketball court. He’s heading to Grand Forks, ND, to play division one ball next year. But you might not know he’s a great baseball player, as well. He delivers a devastating fastball and is the team’s best contact and power hitter.