MN high school baseball adopts pitch count

The pitch count is making its first official appearance in the Minnesota high school baseball season this spring. New rules have officially gone into effect that will limit the number of pitches high schoolers can throw during a given time period.

Of course, the goal is to protect the health of young arms. The total amount of pitches thrown in what is now a tiered system will dictate how much subsequent time they aren’t allowed to take the mound again. The new system also means a whole lot more paperwork for head coaches and a system of punishments if the new system is not followed.

Pitch count

Spring Grove baseball coach Chris Strinmoen, pictured here, is one of many high school baseball coaches that have to contend with all-new pitch count rules in effect this season, designed to help pitchers keep their arms healthier. (Photo from Bluff Country News Group)

“It started as a nationwide push to create pitch count policies,” said Spring Grove baseball coach Chris Strinmoen, “to protect the arms of all the youth. The Minnesota State High School League has adopted a policy that’s similar to other states.”

He said it’s a tiered system. The daily maximum a pitcher can throw is 105 pitches (which would then mean three days’ rest). For 30 pitches or less, kids are eligible to pitch again the next day. However, they can’t pitch more than two days in a row, so if a pitcher throws two days in a row, they sit the next day. Any time a pitcher gets above that 30-pitch total, then he’ll be looking at mandatory days off.

The next tier is 31-50 pitches, which require one day of rest. 51-75 pitches mean two days of rest from pitching. 76-105 pitches require three days off from pitching. If a pitcher does hit that 105-pitch count and they’re in the middle of pitching to a batter, they can finish pitching to that hitter. There’s a similar list in place for JV baseball but the pitch count limits are smaller in number.

“The days off are measured in calendar days,” he said, “and not the next 24 hours after a start. It’s not a new concept for coaches to keep track of pitch counts. Any good coach will be doing that to avoid injuries to his staff. The new system requires that someone be in the dugout with the sole task of keeping track of their pitchers as well as the other teams, just to make sure the other squad isn’t bending the rules.”

Coaches are required to enter pitch counts into the high school league website within 24 hours after the end of each game.

 

Yellowjackets baseball wants more consistency

It’s been more of an up-and-down season than Rochester Community and Technical College Yellowjackets baseball coach Steve Hucke would like. The team is 12-12 on the season, including a trip down south to play against some very good competition.

The early season strength of the Yellowjackets has been pitching. The batting order is still looking for a little more consistency, but Hucke said they’ve got the talent to hit the ball well. They’ve also been bitten by the injury bug.

Yellowjackets baseball

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke says he’s looking for more consistency from the Yellowjackets, who are 12-12 on the season going into their next action on Thursday, April 13, with a home doubleheader at 2 and 4:00. (article from wn.news.com)

“Our record says we’re .500 and that’s kind of how we’ve been playing,” Hucke said. “We’ll come out one day and play really tough and look really good. For some reason, we’ll come back and I don’t know if we’re satisfied with that or what. I’m happy with the wins but I’m not satisfied with being .500 because I think we’re a better team than that.”

The Yellowjackets baseball team had a  big question mark coming into the season, which was pitching. The team had to replace some good arms from last season but they’ve had some good kids step up and fill some of those roles. He says the unfortunate thing is the batters can’t seem to generate consistent run support.

 

 

“Our relief pitchers have come in and they understand their role that they’re supposed to fill when they enter the game,” Hucke said. “It’s been fun to see them come in and hold leads or get saves, and to pitch well enough for us to have a chance to come back and get a win.”

The first bullpen breakdown of the season didn’t happen until last Sunday when a normally reliable reliever came in, left a pitch up, and gave up three runs to Dakota County Technical College in the seventh inning. However, the Jackets did come back and win the game 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning on a walk-off base hit.

As he looks up and down the batting lineup, Hucke feels the team has a lot of potential to do some damage at the plate. The biggest challenge right now is the Yellowjackets baseball team is struggling with injuries.

 

 

“We’ve got the sticks to do it,” Hucke said, “we just need our approach at the plate to be a little more consistent and in tune with what we’re trying to do. We’re getting there.”

The team is getting much better defensively after what Hucke called a very rocky start to the season. He said the team likely has more errors to start a season than they’ve had in the last few years. A lot of it may have to do with spending most of their time inside the bubble over the football field working out to suddenly finding themselves outside in the middle of competition, switching from AstroTurf to natural grass.

“You get used to attacking the ball a little bit differently now that you’re on grass versus staying back and waiting for it to get to you on turf,” Hucke said. “We’re making some great plays in the outfield. Our outfielders have been phenomenal and we’re getting there around the infield so I think we’ll be okay.”

The team is coming off a Sunday afternoon split against Dakota County Technical College, dropping the first game 4-0 before coming back in dramatic fashion in the second game, winning 4-3. Hucke said the conference schedule is going to be as competitive as ever this spring.

“Our conference is pretty competitive and very talented,” he said. “We’ve also played one of our toughest non-conference schedules in recent years. We played a lot of tough teams on our spring trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, including a lot of Division 1 and Division 2 teams (scholarship programs). We came out of there at .500 against good teams so I can’t complain too much about that.”

Hucke said the trips down south give the team a chance to get to know each other. It’s important to find out who gets along with who and the team gets to find out about each other.

“Now, they’re forced to be together every day on a bus, in the condominiums where we stay, and out on the diamond,” Hucke said. “They’ll find out what the team is made of after a trip like that.”

The Yellowjackets baseball team is back in action on Thursday, April 13, with a home doubleheader against the St. Mary’s JV squad at 2 and 4:00. They’ll hit the road for a Friday conference doubleheader at St. Cloud Tech with games scheduled for 1 and 3:00.

 

Vikings GM looks to future at NFL Combine

The annual meat market that is the NFL combine is underway in Indianapolis. The next generation of NFL stars will be poked, prodded, tested, and questioned as teams try to figure out who is draft worthy and who isn’t. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman held a press conference on Wednesday in Indy and covered a wide range of topics. As you may imagine, Adrian Peterson was a hot topic, but Spielman also covered Sam Bradford, the recovering Teddy Bridgewater, and the NFL Draft.

You have to admire Spielman being forthright and dealing with the team’s free-fall from a 5-0 “we’re Super Bowl contenders” start to an 8-8 finish. Spielman and the rest of the Vikings brain trust got to work when the offseason began looking at where the Purple will go from here.

“I and especially Coach (Mike) Zimmer are never going to look for excuses on what happened,” Spielman said in opening remarks to the media. We ended up 8-8 and, from our standards, that’s not good enough for our organization.”

NFL Combine Vikings

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman spoke to reporters at the NFL Combine this week in Indianapolis, covering a wide range of topics as he looked to next season and the future of the Vikings. (photo from Pioneer Press YouTube page)

They’ve spent the past three to four weeks meeting with scouts and coaches analyzing everything they do. They’ve gotten together as a group regarding their team, potential free agents, and on the draft.

“We have a pretty good sense of what we need to do to try to improve our ball club from where we were last year,” Spielman said, “and we’re looking forward to getting started.”

At that point, he opened it up to questions from the media in attendance. The first question was on Sam Bradford’s performance in his first year as Vikings quarterback. Spielman admitted at that point he lost a $1 bet that the first question would involve the team’s decision to decline the $18 million option on running back Adrian Peterson.

Here are some of the highlights from the presser this week in Indy.

Yellowjackets fall by one in basketball opener

RCTC Yellowjackets basketballThe Rochester Community and Technical College Yellowjackets opened the men’s basketball season at home on Wednesday night against Dakota County Technical College out of Rosemount. The Jackets played their first regular season game after making a run into the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament last year, finishing as the national runner-up. In case you didn’t know, that wasn’t their first deep foray into the postseason.

Head coach Brian LaPlante has built a very good program in his two decades at the college. Including Wednesday night, his overall record at the school 396-174. Over the course of his career as Yellowjackets coach, he’s taken his team to six national tournaments. The Yellowjackets have some things to clean up (it’s early, who doesn’t) they were very entertaining to watch. I’d encourage more members of the community to spend some time at the Regional Sports Center and take in some basketball this winter.

The Jackets led by a point at the half, 35-34, but Dakota Tech outscored RCTC 38-36 in the second half to pull out the win. Late in the second half, Malik Jones (Chicago, IL) made a three-point play on a lay-in and free throw to give the Yellowjackets a one-point lead. However, the Blue Knights would answer with points of their own. RCTC had one last chance with 1.2 seconds on the clock. Jones wound up with the ball at half court and let it fly from there, with the ball clanking off the front of the rim before falling to the floor while the buzzer sounded.

Dakota County won the turnover battle with the Yellowjackets, 14-20. Those 20 RCTC turnovers would lead to 25 points for the Knights and that likely was a deciding factor in the game. Neither team shot the ball from the free throw line. Dakota would shoot 60 percent (20 for 33) while Rochester went for 56 percent (9-16). You’d think since the Knights doubled the number of Jacket free throws, Dakota was more aggressive taking the ball to the basket, and you’d be right.

RCTC seemed content to take shots from the perimeter for most of the night. They would finish the night shooting 46 percent (28 for 60) from the field.  Rochester was six for 17 from beyond the three-point line while the Blue Knights were four of ten.

The Yellowjackets had four of their starting five in double figures on the night. Malik Jones scored 13 while Stillwater product Nick Ogren also had 13 (two for three beyond the arc). Jones was also the top rebounder with 11.

The Yellowjackets are home on Friday night to play Milwaukee Area Technical College in the second game of a doubleheader at 8:00. The women’s game will start at 6.

Highlights from Wednesday night’s game:

Spring Grove football season comes to an end

Spring Grove football

The Spring Grove Lions football team lost to Grand Meadow 47-21 in the State 9-man, Section 1 title game at the RCTC football stadium in Rochester. (photo by Chad Smith)

The Spring Grove Lions came to play in the 9-Man, Section 1 football championship game on Friday night, November 4th, against Grand Meadow, but it took the offense too long to get going. The Superlarks led 20-0 in the first quarter before the teams began trading touchdowns for the rest of the game, which Grand Meadow won 47-21.

Grand Meadow was the number one ranked team in the Minnesota State 9-man poll at the end of the regular season, as well as the number one seed in the section tournament. They hit the ground running (literally) with Christopher Brain racing untouched 65 yards on the first play of the game. While the Superlarks were scoring on the first three drives of the game, number two section seed and number five state-ranked Spring Grove was only managing only a first down on each of its first three possessions.

Offense was hard to come by for the Lions. They did manage 312 yards of total offense against the Superlarks, but Grand Meadow gained 445 yards. Alex Folz had 100 yards rushing (102 yards, one TD) and passing (153 yards, two TDs). Christopher Bain and Zach Myhre were a solid one-two punch out of the GM backfield. Bain ran for 197 yards (20 carries) and Myhre ran for 126 (14 carries).

Spring Grove standout wide receiver Chase Grinde faced double teams from Grand Meadow defenders all night long. The cornerback would be within five yards of the line of scrimmage and a deep safety would be ten yards directly behind him. Despite the constant double teams, Grinde still caught six passes for 86 yards.

Grinde was also very busy defensively. He led the Lions with a career-high 24 tackles. The problem is, when your deep safety is making all the tackles, the offense is doing a very good job of moving the ball. Grinde had the Lions’ only tackle-for-loss.

Spring Grove was shorthanded in the backfield even before the opening kickoff. The Lions’ leading rusher Cullen Patterson (911 yards) was out with an injury. Brock Schuttemeier moved from his tight end spot to running back and found some tough sledding (13 carries, 43 yards).

Despite falling behind early, the Lions never stopped playing hard. The momentum of the game appeared to turn once and for all in Grand Meadow’s favor when the Lions were driving and turned the ball over on downs at the Superlark 11-yard line.

Here are a few highlights from the ballgame:

The Superlarks upped their winning streak to 47 straight games, and the three-time defending state champs will face Edgerton/Ellsworth in the state quarterfinals on Friday, November 11. Kickoff will be at 7:00 at the RCTC campus in Rochester.

Mabel-Canton volleyball ends in sub-section

Mabel-Canton volleyball

The Mabel-Canton Cougars played Caledonia in the East Sub-Section 1A title game last Thursday night, November 3, and came up short 3-0, ending the Cougars’ season with a 32-4 record. (Photo by Chad Smith)

Sports competition can present the most interesting dilemma. A team can walk onto the playing field or court and know way deep down that they could play the game of their lives and still lose the game. That was the situation facing the Mabel-Canton volleyball team as they played Caledonia on Thursday night, November 3rd, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, for the East Sub-Section 1A championship.

The Cougars threw themselves at their opponent with everything they had but came up short at the end. Caledonia won by a 3-0 score (18-25, 19-25, 17-25). Fans of both squads knew it would be a good game and the state rankings agreed. Caledonia finished the regular season ranked at number five in the Class A top ten poll, and Mabel-Canton was in the eighth spot in the same poll.

Height would be a deciding factor in the match. Caledonia has six-foot players on the bench that don’t see the court in varsity action, and the six-foot front-liners who do see time had several inches on the smaller Cougar players on the other side of the net. Not only are the Warriors tall along the front line, they’re very athletic as well.

“We knew that we could play a great game against Caledonia and still get beat,” said Cougars long time coach Lonnie Morken. “Caledonia is that good. You don’t see a lot of size like that on high school volleyball teams. They have multiple six-footers on the bench that aren’t playing and we’re lucky to get a kid that’s five-foot-eight or five-nine.”

Mabel-Canton Volleyball

Mabel-Canton volleyball coach Lonnie Morken (standing right side, blue shirt) watches his team place Caledonia in the East Sub-Section 1A title game last Thursday night in the Mayo Civic Center. Caledonia would win the match 3-0. (Photo by Chad Smith

To counteract some of that size, the Cougars needed to be precise with their ball control. Morken said the team also needed to hit their spots from the service line and, for the most part, he said the Cougars did that.

“We did a decent job serving,” Morken said, “but still didn’t quite hit every spot we needed to. Certainly, tonight was all about how Caledonia played. It wasn’t about us playing badly, or them getting lucky because we played badly. They played well and they’re going to be a handful, as the winner of the next match (Hayfield) is going to have everything they can to beat them.”

The team went 54 of 56 from the service line for 96 percent efficiency. Payton Danielson went 12 for 13 at the line and Savannah Slafter was perfect at 11 for 11.

Morken said duplicating that kind of size is very difficult in practice. The coaches talk to the kids and try to prepare them as much as possible. The back row players will talk to the front row players during the match to call out potential open areas.

“For things to have gone well for us tonight,” Morken said, “we would have had to pass and set better. We also needed to terminate balls and we didn’t do that effectively, but that was more about what Caledonia was doing than what we weren’t doing.”

The attack starts in the back row, where the Cougars finished the match with 43 digs on the night. Kenidi McCabe had 11 digs and Coranda Vickerman added ten.

The Warrior bigs along the front line were also very quick and athletic. That made  the matchup even tougher for the Cougars. Morken said the Warriors put in a lot of work on quickness and agility, along with lifting weights. That extra work is something Caledonia is known for.

That height really made it difficult for the Cougars to attack the net. Mabel-Canton wound up with 29 kills (101 attempts) and an uncharacteristic 16 errors. Slafter led the team with eight kills, with Dakota Delaney and Vickerman adding six each. McCabe assisted on 12 kills and Vickerman helped out on ten.

Morken and the team were both hoping to get farther into the playoffs. He said both Courtney Graves (four kills, three digs, three assists) and Coranda Vickerman (six kills, ten digs, ten assists) played well as seniors in their last game for the Cougars. It’s always tough to say goodbye to seniors at this time of year and Morken said it’s no different this season.

“They’ve been with us for a long time,” Morken said. “Coranda was a five-year varsity player and Courtney was a four-year varsity player. Before Senior Night (earlier in the regular season), I added up their win-loss totals over the last five years and it’s insane. It stinks right for them (Vickerman and Graves), but I’m hoping when they look back they’ll be able to say ‘gosh, we had a lot of success playing volleyball at Mabel-Canton,’ and remember more of the successes than tonight’s loss.”

He thought the team improved in a lot of areas over the course of the season. One of the biggest steps forward this team took was learning the mental toughness to overcome an 0-2 deficit in the previous match against Fillmore Central in the sub-section semifinals.

“I don’t know if we would have been tough enough last year to overcome an 0-2 deficit,” Morken said, “so we certainly showed the most growth there. Last year, we were all underclassmen.  This year, we had two seniors, but we’re still really young. It can be tough to get eighth and ninth graders to believe and stay focused, so I think we improved the most with our mental toughness this year.”

Here are some video highlights from a busy night of volleyball in the Mayo Civic Center:

 

 

 

Med City Freeze prepare for season two

“Season two (for the Med City Freeze) is going to be a lot of fun.”

Those are the first words Tim Nela chose to say as he thought about the two rounds of tryouts the Med City Freeze held in recent months.  The Freeze held the tryouts to fill out their 2017 roster for the Southern Plains Football League season next year. That’s not the only reason they’re holding tryouts. They also need to put their team together to take part in the 2016 Winter Pigskin Classic coming up on December 17th at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“We definitely established a coaching staff,” said Nela, one of the four founders of the Freeze, “that was the main focus the first year (in 2016). Now we have players coming over from other teams that are coming over and we’ve got people who’ve played at all different levels of football.”

Med City Freeze football

The Med City Freeze football team hosted tryouts for the 2017 roster at the Rochester Community and Technical College campus in Rochester, Minnesota, on Friday, October 21. The Freeze will play in the Winter Pigskin Classic on December 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. (Photo by Chad Smith)

Storm Soto is another one of the team founders, and he said the difference between year one and year two is incredible. The number of people trying out for the team last year was considerably lower than the number that turned out at the recent tryouts.

“Now that year one is done and everyone saw the success,” Soto said, “and year two is booming. It’s one of those unfortunate things that some really talented players won’t make the Freeze roster this year because of so much talent to choose from.”

He said people might be more attracted to the team because the Freeze were 7-1 in their inaugural season. Soto said players were able to see the kind of quality organization they put together and the good competition they play on a weekly basis during the season.

This year was a clean slate as far as filling the roster. Everyone that was on the roster last year was required to try out again, even Soto, Nela, and Jeff Sipple, the third team founder (Joseph Hockert is the fourth). Soto said some of the guys who made the team last year likely won’t make the roster this season.

“We aren’t just looking for the best athletes,” Soto said, “we’re looking for the best people too. The Freeze want people who are going to fit in with what we do. We want tenacious attitudes on the field but we don’t want attitude off the field.”

Nela described the drills at both tryout sessions as “pro style.” They didn’t necessarily do a bench press and run a 40-yard dash like players do at the NFL combine, but they did do a lot of conditioning drills.

“Jeff (Sipple) had the best times for all the agility drills,” Nela said, “but he worked harder than anybody in the offseason. Being the quarterback and one of the (team) founders, he understands that if you want to be on the field, you have to be willing to work for it.”

Soto said most of the players showed up in good condition. He called a couple of the players they’re adding to the roster next year, “studs.” Nela liked what he saw from the prospective Freeze players.

“They were guys out there that brought a different type of energy that we didn’t have in season one,” Nela said. “Some of these guys are going to make plays on the field, but off the field with the things we do outside of football, even on things like bus rides, they’ll be very good for the team.”

Soto said the Freeze have a big chunk of the roster already filled out and they hope to have everything done and players called in the next several days. There’s even more urgency than normal because the Freeze will be taking part in the Winter Pigskin Classic on December 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“The (SPFL) league has put this on in the past at the Metrodome,” Soto said. “I think it shows a lot about the credibility of the SPFL to do something like this. I give a lot to league commissioner Jay Doyscher, who has busted his tail to legitimize this league, and I commend him for making this a possibility for amateur football players.”

The league will have games running all day at U.S. Bank Stadium, and Nela said it’s a great opportunity to see the stadium for those folks who haven’t been able to make it to a Vikings game.

“It’s $15, you could spend all day out there and watch some good football,” Nela said. “We’re playing the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats, an undefeated team last year that featured the best offense in the league.”

The team will have half a dozen practices to install the offense and defense, getting everyone in their right positions. The Freeze game kicks off at 6p.m., but the gates open for the all-day event at 9 that morning.

The Freeze will be hosting a couple of fans buses for those who don’t want to drive to the Cities and pay for parking. Pre-sale tickets are $15 dollars, with the door price at $20. For more information, check out the Med City Freeze Facebook page or email medcityfreeze@gmail.com.

Building a football team on October 21st at the RCTC campus.

Northwoods League baseball, the Honkers, and high-def

As the weather in southeast Minnesota warms up, the Rochester Honkers get busier preparing for the 2016 Northwoods League baseball season, set to start on May 31 at Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Rochester Honkers, Northwoods League baseball, HD cameras

The Rochester Honkers open their Northwoods League baseball season on May 31 at the Eau Claire, Wisconsin Express (photo from northwoodsleague.com)

The Honkers front office staff has all but wrapped up signing players for the upcoming season. Honkers General Manager and Co-Owner Dan Litzinger said the action in the front office has been ramping up in recent weeks.

“It’s been very busy,” Litzinger said. “We have a small front office staff of two or three people, so it’s a lot of work.

On a tour of the park as preparations continued recently, the first thing people might notice are new cameras being installed around the field. The Northwoods League is upgrading the Honkers video system at the ballpark to a full 1080p HD, and Litzinger said that’s unprecedented.

Rochester Honkers, Northwoods League baseball, Summer, HD cameras

The view from center at Mayo Field in Rochester is about to get an upgrade to HD in order to improve the quality of watching Northwoods League baseball online. (photo from digitalballparks.com)

“We’re installing a new camera in centerfield that’s up 25 feet just left of center,” Litzinger said. “It will give it a really pro look with the picture coming in over the right shoulder of the pitcher. There will be three more HD cameras by first base, third base, and behind home plate, so watching the games online will be a whole new experience.”

The new cameras are going to enhance video production all across the Northwoods League, and will include replay capability. You can get access to the games on the Northwoods League website or on the Honkers website as well. Click on the “Watch Now” button on either site and follow the prompts.

It’s a pay-per-view access, but pay by the game, the month, or the season, and its give you access to the entire Northwoods League and not just the Honkers

The team roster for 2016 is set with a 30-man roster, three coaches, and ten temporary players mean everything is full. Now they just wait for possible readjustments to happen.

“Things like grades, injuries, girlfriends, a grandmother dies, and other things like that will flip our roster starting soon,” Litzinger said. “So there’s a backup list of players and you hope in the first two weeks that your record is 7-7 and not 0-14, otherwise there’s no chance of making the first half championship in our division.”

The Honkers look far and wide to pull in players. This year’s roster actually has a strong California flavor to it because two of the team’s coaches have great connections in that particular state.

“Trevor Hairgove and Demetre Kokoris are both coming back,” Litzinger said. “They’re California guys (Hairgrove at UC Riverside and Kokoris at Santa Barbara City College) with connections through their colleges. So, we have a lot of kids from California colleges, but overall, the kids come from both coasts, from Florida to California up north to Washington and Oregon.”

Rochester Honkers, Northwoods League baseball, HD cameras

Dan Litzinger is co-owner and General Manager of the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods Baseball League. He’s been the GM since 1997. (photo from northwoodsleague.com)

He added, “We have players from New York and even a couple coming all the way from Taiwan.”

Team Co-Owner Kim Archer actually has a son that lives in Taiwan and met an agent that wanted to send players overseas to play baseball. One of the players coming in is a high school senior that’s left-handed and throws hard. The other coming in is also a pitcher and a high school junior.

“It was a challenge to find a host family that spoke Mandarin Chinese,” Litzinger said. “We found one that was a current host but not scheduled to host anyone this summer. Thank God they stepped up and said ‘we’ve had foreign exchange students and we’ll take both these kids.’ Hopefully, this brings us some international exposure too.”

From year to year, most of the roster typically turns over from one summer to the next. Typically, Northwoods League teams try to get four to six players back from one year to the next. It’s important for several reasons.

“One is the fan base,” Litzinger said. “They’ll have an automatic connection with guys who may have played the year before. There are always kids you want back and kids you don’t, plus, some kids can’t come back for whatever reasons.

One big reason players may not want to come back is they want to get out and see the world. Litzinger said it’s hard to tell them no when they want to travel and play in other places.

“How do you tell someone who got an offer to play in Alaska not to go there,” said Litzinger, who’s been the GM since 1997. “There are kids who may have a goal of playing in the Cape Cod League out east, and even though I think we’re a better league, they want to go and try it.

“We tell them to go and give it a try, and most come back saying playing in Rochester was a much better experience,” Litzinger said. “Those players actually become pretty good recruiting tools for the Northwoods League.”

The Honkers have four kids on the roster that return from last season.

One of the more recent additions to the roster was Jackson Douglas of Iowa Western Community College. He played his high school ball at Rochester Mayo.

The Honkers open the season on May 31 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to take on the Express. They return home to Rochester the next night for the home opener, also against the Express.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Med City Freeze debut on Saturday night

The Med City Freeze is set to make its Southern Plains Football League debut on Saturday night against the North Iowa Bucks. Kickoff is at 7:00 at the Rochester Community and Technical College Regional Stadium.

The last several weeks have involved practicing and getting the offensive and defensive systems in place, as well as getting a new team used to playing together. It’s been a lot of hard work for the Freeze to get to this point.

Practice a grind

“From the football aspect of things, it’s been a grind,” said Storm Soto, Med City Freeze co-founder, Team President, and tight end. “We extended some of our recent practices from two hours to three to get some good work in.

Med City Freeze make their debut.

The Med City Freeze, pictured at a recent practice, is getting set for their debut game on Saturday in Rochester against the North Iowa Bucks. Kickoff is at 7 at the RCTC football field.

“From the organizational side of things, we’re still working on things like getting sponsorships,” Soto said. “We’ve also been making commercials and things like that, and this final week before the game will involve getting things all set up.”

Dalton Haas is the offensive coordinator who runs the play calling. He’s a two-year league veteran as a player and was a Rochester John Marshall standout. He said practices really took off once the players really got the playbook down pat.

“Everyone is getting comfortable,” said Haas, “they don’t have to think about the plays called, they’re just going out and making plays. The transition from the first practice to the seventh was amazing with the number of big plays in practice.”

Players in good condition

There wasn’t a lot of extra conditioning work necessary as most players came into practice in good shape. That allowed the Freeze to really get to work on learning the plays.

“A majority came in good shape,” Soto said.   “You could tell a lot of guys put in extra work in on their own from the first week of practice up until now. I think we’re going to be one of the best conditioned teams in the league.”

Balance on offense

As the team has picked up the offensive playbook, it looks like the key word to describe their playing style is balance. Freeze fans should see a good mix of running and passing the football.

“You’ll see a good dose of the running game,” Soto said, “and our passing game will feature plays out of all of our formations and sets. Our passing style will be aggressive, and we’ve got the right players to do so.”

Fans will see all kinds of well-known football sets they see in other football leagues.

Med city Freeze make their debut.

It’s offense versus defense pictured here at a recent Med City Freeze practice. Physical and gritty is how they describe their style of play as they open the season Saturday in Rochester. Kickoff at RCTC field is 7:00.

“You’ll see a little bit of everything,” Haas said. “You’ll see Pro-I, shotgun, passing, running, with nothing to complicated, just being solid on the basics.”

Learning curve for new team

Getting a brand new team to learn to play together was a challenge. However, there might have been some benefits to being a brand new club.

“In a way, I think it was a good thing,” Haas said, “because everyone started at square one. Everyone was learning together, so the learning curve was equal for the whole team. It was a good bonding experience, because we had players who were catching on helping those who were a little behind.”

The Freeze is a brand new team this year, but they do have some Southern Plains Football League veterans to build around, including a couple players who helped to found the team.

“Storm Soto has played five years,” Haas said, “our quarterback, Jeff Sipple, has played four years, so we have some experience. We have a lot of people who’ve played at all levels, from high school all the way up to D1-AA, so we’ve got a lot of football experience overall.”

Physical style up front

The best way to describe this year’s team is physical and gritty, and its starts with the big boys up front.

“We’ve got guys up front that don’t mind getting after it and putting people on their butts,” Soto said. “Our defense will be physical, and in the secondary we have great length and speed. Linebackers are physical and they get to the football quickly.”

As mentioned, Dalton Haas is the OC. He and Brandon Luhmann handle the offense. Jordan Pogalz is the defensive coordinator and Jason Born is a defensive assistant.

First game keys

The goal against the North Iowa Bucks is obviously to win the game, but to get there, it’s going to be very important for a brand new club to make as few mistakes as possible.

Med City Freeze make their debut.

The RCTC football field in Rochester is the home field of the Yellowjackets, and will be the home field Saturday for the Med City Freeze in their Southern Plains Football League debut on Saturday at 7pm.

“Just the basics of not fumbling the football,” Haas said, “and each player just doing his assignments on not getting carried away. It’s all about fundamentals, and when that happens, everything else will fall into place. I think the biggest thing is we’re just anxious to get out and play someone else.”

With roster turnover from year to year, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from North Iowa on Saturday.

“They have a lot of good talent over there,” Soto said, “but year in and year out it’s hard to tell because teams are always recruiting someone different, so it’s hard to get a scouting report. That first week is where you get your scouting reports, and then you trade notes with other organizations.

“The biggest key will be to put four good quarters together,” Soto said, “and fly around the field from start to finish.”

Admission is only $6 per person, and 13 and under gets in for free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RCTC baseball road trip successful

The Rochester Community and Technical College baseball team is already 11 games into the season after a spring trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Yellowjackets won four of the games down south and played well in others.

As they get set to start the northern portion of their schedule, Jackets head coach Steve Hucke said they played some good baseball in South Carolina. The trip featured games against upper division junior college teams.

RCTC baseball

Rochester Community and Technical College baseball coach Steve Hucke (photo from rctc.edu)

“We beat some good teams,” Hucke said. “We played primarily against junior college Division Two and Division One scholarship teams while we were down there. We beat a very good Cumberland team that usually battles for a shot to get to the national tournament every year.”

The Jackets would have liked to pick up a few more wins on the trip, but Hucke said the benefits of playing against top teams down south would carry through the rest of the season.

“The way we look at it is we want to play a tough schedule to get us prepared for the season up here,” Hucke said. “You learn a lot about your kids and the team, and the players even learn something about themselves too. It’s a win-win no matter what your record is down south.”

Some of the things he picked up down south include the potential for success at the plate. It also includes a team mentality that he’s happy to see.

“We have some good hitters,” said Hucke, “and we also have some depth. We do have to work on some relief pitching, but that’s going to come.

“The thing I learned the most is that this group is very competitive,” Hucke added. “They’re going to battle, and they don’t give up. There were games that we were behind in, but we rallied to pick up wins. I saw some good leadership from our group of sophomores.”

As Hucke filled out his batting order, he saw good production from top to bottom. The lineup is led by a returning All-American.

“We saw good production up and down the lineup,” Hucke said. “Dustin Nelson (C/OF from Mondovi, Wisconsin), a returning All-American from last year, had a good week down south. Damon Nuss (IF/P from Sumner, Iowa) hit the ball well, and so did Austin Baab (IF/P from Wabasha, MN.). Up and down the lineup, we were pretty consistent. If someone wasn’t hitting, someone else stepped up.”

As a two-year junior college program, sophomore leadership is important. He said nowhere is that leadership more apparent than on the pitcher’s mound.

“We’re strong in starting pitching,” Hucke said. “Depth isn’t the problem in our relief staff as we’ve got numbers. The challenge on the trip was having the confidence to go in there and shut somebody down to maintain what we have going.”

RCTC baseball

The RCTC baseball team opens the northern part of it’s spring schedule this week at Iowa Lakes Community College (Photo from rctcbaseball.org)

Defensively, the Yellowjackets made some errors early in the trip down south that may have cost them a game or two. By the end of the week, he said things had cleared up to the point that he’s not worried about their defense.

There are several players from southeast Minnesota who will get playing time this spring. They include:

 

Zachary Bakko of Northfield is a sophomore outfielder.

 

Arron Hohensee of Lewiston is a freshman outfielder.

 

Michael Sigrist of Byron is a freshman outfielder and pitcher. (Hucke said he’s not sure how much playing time Sigrist will receive as he’s battling a shoulder injury.)