The Northwestern High School baseball team came close to winning its first Heart O’ North Conference championship since 2006 with a second-place finish last season.
The Tigers, under first-year head coach Jovin Kroll, went 11-3 in the league play, losing twice to eventual champion Hayward and once to Cumberland.
Northwestern also went 17-6 overall with its remaining losses coming at the hands of Superior, Rice Lake and Webster, last year’s Division 3 state champs.
The Tigers opened the WIAA D2 playoffs by defeating Spooner 11-4 and Ashland 1-0, but then lost to Hayward for a third time, 6-2, in a regional final.
Hayward finished 13-1 in the HON (17-6 overall) and lost to Ellsworth 6-1 in the sectional semifinals.
If the Tigers want to take that next step, they will need to replace Gabe Beeksma (HON honorable mention pitcher), Anthony Lupa, Andrew Hanson and Timmy Hissa.
Lupa was an all-conference pitcher in 2016, but missed last season with an injury.
The Tigers have a wealth of talent returning, including seniors, and the 2018 Superior Telegram Player of the Year, Justin Sedin (first-team all-conference and WBCA All-Region). Also back are senior Carson Holsclaw (first-team all-conference); junior Jake Brill (first-team all-conference), and sophomore Dylan Ronchi (second-team all-conference).
Other key players returning include senior Gervase Thompson; juniors Dayne Evanson, Bryson Mazur, Dave Wakefield, Andrew Klobucher, Isaiah Huray and Tristian Nolan; sophomore Brennan Werner; and freshmen Kole Paulsen and Nolan Gustafson.
As for starters, Kroll said most of the positions are still up for grabs and will be decided during non-conference games leading up to their first HON game at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser on Tuesday, April 16.
“We are much deeper than other typical years, so besides a couple spots, a lot of positions are still up for grabs,” Kroll said. “We have plenty of experience, hitting and pitching depth, so this year’s team has the skills to win the HON.”
Kroll believes the Tigers will be in the mix for the HON crown along with Hayward and Cumberland.
After having its opener with Cameron postponed, Northwestern lost 5-1 at Superior on Monday, April 8, but quickly rebonded with a 13-9 win over Ashland on Tuesday, April. 9.
The Tigers outhit the Spartans 6-4. Gustafson had two of the hits, Holsclaw doubled and Sedin, Mazur and Klobucher singled.
Sedin and Brill pitched for the Tigers, allowing three earned runs with eight strikeouts and three walks.
Sedin led the Tigers at the plate against Ashland with two hits and five RBIs.
Holsclaw also had a big day with four hits and an RBI; Gustafson was 3-for-4 with an RBI; Brill doubled, singled and knocked in a run; Werner and Thompson both had two-run hits; and Mazur and Ronchi singled.
Brill and Mazur pitched for the Tigers, allowing seven hits with 10 strikeouts and eight walks.
Zach and Alec Lindenberg and Dylan Tutor doubled for Ashland.
Other key dates on the Tigers’ schedule are a May 3 doubleheader at Hayward; May 6 at Webster; and a home doubleheader with Cumberland on May 16.
All three seniors on the NHS roster will play collegiately next season. Holsclaw has signed to play baseball at Mesabi Range Junior College in Virginia, Minn.; Sedin will play football at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D.; and Gervase Thompson IV will play football at UW-Stout.
TIGER TALES: The Tigers, who won HON titles in 1987 and 2006, haven’t won a regional title since 1985 and advanced to state once with a 0-1 record in 1962. … Kroll’s assistant coach is Josh Anttila. … The team managers are Emma Moore (scorebook), Teegan Bartelt (pitch count), Kayley Nelson (equipment), and Aryn Nelson and Brianna Linderholm (JV).
Northwestern High School
2019 Baseball Roster
1 Bryson Mazur P/OF Jr.
2 Jake Brill IN/P Jr.
3 Isaiah Huray 3B/DH Jr.
4 Jack Ogren n/a Jr.
5 Cameron Kimmes OF n/a
7 Dayne Evanson C/OF Jr.
8 Adam Thompson OF So.
10 Carson Holsclaw OF/P Sr.
11 Logan Pulju IF/P Fr.
14 Kole Paulsen C/3B Fr.
15 Wyatt Van Camp OF Jr.
16 Sean Moroney 2B Fr.
17 Dylan Ronchi 2B So.
20 David Horst U So.
21 Tristan Nolan OF Jr.
22 Andrew Klobucher P/OF Jr.
24 Logan Trautt U Fr.
25 Clayton Remington OF Fr.
26 Mason Dupree U Fr.
31 Jacob Downey OF Fr.
32 Gervase Thompson OF/P Sr.
33 Nolan Gustafson P/OF Jr.
42 Brennen Werner 3B So.
43 Justin Sedin P/IF Sr.
44 David Wakefield 1B Jr.
57 Trent Orlowski 1B So.
Northwestern High School
2019 Baseball Schedule
Fri., April 5 at Cameron (ppd)
Mon., April 8 at Superior (L 5-1)
Tue., April 9 vs. Ashland (W 13-9)
Thur., April 11 at Rice Lake (ppd)
Sat., April 13 vs. Osceola (2), 11 a.m.
Tue., April 16 at ChetekWeyer., 5 p.m.
Mon., April 22 vs. Spooner, 5 p.m.
Tue., April 23 at Bloomer, 5 p.m.
Fri., April 26 vs. Baron (2), 3 p.m.
Tue., April 30 vs. Bloomer, 5 p.m.
Fri., May 3 at Hayward (2), 4 p.m.
Mon., May 6 at Webster, 5 p.m.
Tue., May 7 vs. Chetek-Weyer., 5 p.m.
Sat., May 11 at Ladysmith (2), 11 a.m.
Tue., May 14 at Spooner, 5 p.m.
Thur., May 16 vs. Cumberland (2), 3 p.m.
Tue., May 21 at Grantsburg, 5 p.m.