By Jason Groth
Just like many teams across the state of Minnesota, the Greenway Raider baseball team has been stuck inside due to the powerful winter that has blasted the state with extreme cold and snow.
“It’s going to be a fun year. Just waiting for the snow to disappear here,” Greenway head coach Dan Persons said. “We got a couple of good weeks in the arena to get things squared away fundamentally. It’s been a good start so far.”
Weather really played a roll on the Raider season last year and momentum was against the Raiders as they struggled during the high school season. However, they were led by a talented senior class that left its mark on the baseball program.
“Those seniors from last year were with the program for four years, most of them. They were great kids, good athletes and it’s too bad that we had that stretch where we had 17 games in 20 days,” Persons said. “It was a tough season as we got the ball rolling the wrong way a little bit. Things didn’t turn out exactly like we wanted but those guys got to finish off with a good legion season.”
It appears that pitching will be another key to the 2014 season with the way the weather is playing out. The Raiders are led by three seniors on the hill that come back with valuable experience from last year. Persons says they are also expecting some younger players to see some time on the mound as well.
“We have three seniors on the mound which will be nice. We have Justin Guyer, Tyler Peterson and Jaden Erkilla. Erkilla is coming off a nice year of wrestling and a fourth place at the state tournament,” Persons said. “He is a confident kid and hopefully we can keep that rolling into the baseball season. Those three seniors should be able to eat up some innings for us. We are looking for some younger guys as well like Pat Shea, Kole Kalisch and Kadin Kalisch. Who knows how many pitchers you need. We like to see six or seven guys that we can have confidence putting them out in the mound especially if we get into a situation where we are playing every day.”
The Raiders expect to be strong defensively especially up the middle where they will be led by Pat Shea at short stop and Kole Kalisch in center field. Both of those players played big roles on the Greenway VFW baseball team and the Taconite American Legion team during the 2013 season.
“I think we will be pretty solid up the middle. Justin Guyer will be behind the plate. He doesn’t have a lot of experience back there but he was able to get some games back there when Bazil Zuehlke was injured,” Persons said. “I think we are pretty solid there. We have a ninth grader, Taylor Lantz, who looks pretty good at second base. We have some spots to fill out there. Hopefully, we have some older guys that can fill those spots, if not, we have a great group of younger athletes in ninth and 10th grade that will be able to fill in once that time comes.”
The Raider baseball program has seen a resurgence in numbers this year. This is the first season of the four since Persons has taken over as head coach that the program has had to cut players.
“It’s not a fun process for us as coaches but it lets us know that we are going in the right direction. We had about 46-47 kids in grades nine through 12,” Persons said. “That was a positive thing for us. Everybody came out and pushed each other those first few weeks so that was very nice as well. Sometimes, when we are in the arena kids can get lackadaisical in there because there is no sign of any hope of green grass outside but when you have them pushing each other like that, it really ups the intensity of a practice.”
The Raiders hope to head south for their opening weekend as they hope to get a couple of games in against South St. Paul and Northfield over the weekend.