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PREVIEW: SHS baseball team hopes to play entire schedule this season

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A year after playing only 13 of 23 scheduled games, the Superior High School baseball team is having trouble again getting on to a field, not only play games, but to practice.

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Without practicing on a field, the Spartans played a doubleheader last week at Menomonie and lost both games 3-1 and 8-3.

After having games at Northwestern and Hermantown postponed, Superior added a doubleheader for Thursday at Antigo, but those two games were canceled on Monday.

The Spartans are scheduled to play at Cloquet at 4:30 p.m. Monday and host Duluth East on April 22.

“We’re facing another tough spring,” SHS coach Don Dembroski said. “Before playing our games at Menomonie, we were only able to get outside one time, and that was on a wet parking lot.

“We’ve also had to cancel a couple of practices because of bad weather, but that being said, I have been very happy with the effort. We are working daily on fundamentals and have to be very flexible when doing so in a gym.”

The Spartans went 8-6 last season, including 5-2 in the Lake Superior Conference. Their season ended with a 5-1 regional semifinal loss to River Falls.

The 2014 version of the Spartans will be young with only three seniors. The only senior starter returning is Taavi Mattson, a starting pitcher and infielder. The other two seniors are Will Mullens (INF) and Erick Anderson (INF/OF/P).

Key players lost through graduation are Grant Rindal and Nik Mattson, both first-team all-conference last season; and Colton Yepma and Jordan Hughes, who were second team all-conference.

Rindal is currently playing at St. Scholastica and Mattson is at UW-Superior. Hughes is also at St. Scholastica, but on the basketball team.

“We’re young and lack varsity experience but this group has great attitudes and work ethic,” SHS coach Don Dembroski said. “After graduating eight seniors who saw significant playing time last year, we’ll look very different. We have a small senior class, so there are a lot of players who will get opportunities to earn varsity innings.

“We’ll likely experience some growing pains along the way, but that is part of the process, and we’ll keep moving forward. The expectation will be that regardless of experience, and game results, we will work hard and try to improve each week. We have a set of team goals that we try to achieve each game and we’ll design our practices to help improve our chances in those areas.”

The remaining varsity roster includes juniors Nate Kunkel, Peyton Flanders, Logan Griffith,  Sean O’Neill, Tyler Lehikoinen, Tyler Nystrom, Austin Arnovich, Morgen Moen and Brandon Moe; sophomores Matt Strum and Austin Sears; and freshman Justin Reinkall.

“Starting positions are not set in stone and will continue to be a work in progress during the early part of the season,” Dembroski said. “Unfortunately we don’t have a spring training schedule like the big leaguers and we weren’t able to schedule a scrimmage this year, so we have to treat the early part of the season as opportunities to see as many guys get a chance.

“At Menomonie in our DH we pitched eight different players, and all of the guys who didn’t start in game one started in game two. Yes, we’re competing and trying to win, but at this point of the season, giving real game experience is just as important.”

As for the LSC, Dembroski sees a wide-open race for the title.

“Cloquet and Hermantown are always at the top and I’m sure Proctor will be in the mix as well,” Dembroski said. “Marshall and Duluth Denfeld also seem to be programs on the rise and Ashland also has a rich baseball tradition.”

SPARTAN SPIN: Dembroski has an overall record of 151-136-1 in 15 seasons at SHS. … The Spartans’ last LSC title came in 2004, and Superior has a record of 4-6 in six state tournament appearances (1966, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1975). Superior Central High School also advanced to state twice, going 1-1 in 1954 and 1965. … Monday’s Hermantown game will now be played on May 5 in Hermantown. … Superior’s team managers are Alyssa Fredericks and Ellen Stromgren. … Dembroski’s assistant coaches are Ryan Hendry, Kyle Peterson and Jesse Samarziya.

Superior High School

Varsity Baseball Roster

1 Nate Kunkel C/P         Jr.

2 Peyton Flanders         OF/C      Jr.

5 Taavi Mattson             INF/P     Sr.

6 Will Mullens                INF         Sr.

7 Logan Griffith              INF/P     Jr.

8 Sean O’Neill INF/IF    Jr.

9 Tyler Lehikoinen        OF/P      Jr.

11 Tyler Nystrom          INF/P     Jr.

12 Matt Strum INF/C/P So.

13 Austin Sears              INF/P     So.

14 Austin Arnovich       INF/OF/P              Jr.

15 Morgen Moen            INF/P     Jr.

18 Erick Anderson        INF/OF/P              Sr.

22 Justin Reinkall         INF/P     Fr.

24 Brandon Moe            OF/P      Jr.

SHS JV Roster

Drew Magdzas, Matt Strum, Hunter Hockenbrock, Brett Austin, Josh Tomczak, Alex Kaske, Tate Schlichting, Evan Willoughby, Keith Montgomery, Gunner Johnson, Caden Tchop, Jeremy Flaherty, CJ Fortune, Aaron Hanson, Jared Danovsky.

Superior High School

2014 Baseball Schedule

Tue. April 8     at Menomonie (L, L)

Thur., April 10                at Northwestern, ppd

Mon., April 14 at Hermantown, ppd

Thur., April 17                at Antigo (2), 4 p.m.

Mon., April 21 at Cloquet, 4:30 p.m.

Tue., April 22  vs. Duluth East, 4:30 p.m.

Tue., April 29  vs. Denfeld, 4:30 p.m.

Thur., May 1    at Marshall, 4:30 p.m.

Sat., May 3       at New Richmond, noon

Mon., May 5     at Herm., 4;30 p.m.

Tue., May 6      at Proctor, 4:30 p.m.

Sat., May 10     at Chip. Falls (2), 11 a.m.

Tue., May 13   vs. Grand Rapids, 4 p.m.

Fri., May 16     at Hibbing Tournament

Sat., May 17     at Hibbing Tournament

Thur., May 22  at E.C. Mem. (2), noon

Tue., May 27   at Ashland (2), 3:30 p.m.

Tue., June 3     WIAA Regional

Thur., June 5   WIAA Regional Final

Tue., June 10   Sectional Final at ECM

June 17-19       State at Appleton

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Ken Olson
(715) 395-5023
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