Season Preview: Wingers baseball returns with talentThe Red Wing baseball team lost a Division I recruit but the Wingers aren’t worried, another player (of the same family no less) is ready to fill the void.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
The Red Wing baseball team lost a Division I recruit but the Wingers aren’t worried, another player (of the same family no less) is ready to fill the void.
Pat Kelly, named to the 2011 Class 3A all-state team and a finalist for Mr. Baseball in Minnesota, graduated from Red Wing High School last year and he leads the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in hitting through the first 30 games as a freshman. But it was his cousin, Ryan Boldt, who led the Wingers in batting average and slugging percentage a season ago as a sophomore.
Boldt had surgery in March 2011 to remove a plate in his left forearm, the hopeful end to a series of surgeries to correct an undiagnosed injury to his left elbow during the summer of 2004. The surgery was his fourth since 2005 and he missed the beginning of last season, but when healthy he was unstoppable.
“He hasn’t really had a full season,” Red Wing head coach Jim Bohmbach said of Boldt. “He came back and blew open the doors.”
He returned to hit .446 with eight doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI in 22 games and was named all-conference last year. He ended the season with an 11-game hitting streak and verbally committed to Nebraska in February.
“You still want to go out and perform at a high level,” Boldt said of committing to the Cornhuskers. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; don’t try to do too much. Just let the game come to you.”
That’s what the Wingers are planning to do after winning the Missota Conference for the first time since 1991 and getting to the section tournament Final Four for the first time since 1991. Red Wing lost five players to graduation with a batting average over .340, but the Wingers didn’t lose any confidence in their ability.
“I think our offense should be fine this year,” senior Zach Garner said. “We want to win our conference again and I think we’re capable.”
Garner isn’t the only one assured that the Wingers will be just fine.
“I know their expectations are high,” Bohmbach said. “Our goal of course is to win the conference. The main thing is to get to the Final Four and give ourselves a chance to get to state … one thing with this group; it’s all about team.”
The pitching staff also will need to replace last year’s top starter, Justin Cunningham, but Garner appears ready for the challenge. Garner went 7-1 with a 2.93 earned run average as the team’s No. 2 starter a season ago. He said he’s more of a control pitcher but led the pitching staff with two complete games and 32 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings of work.
“I’ll have to step my game up,” Garner, recovering from an injury to his right latissimus dorsi muscle, said. “I’m not up there trying to strike every player out.”
Seniors Joel Newman and Carsten Meyer and junior Trey Eckstrom will be expected to contribute in big ways as well. Newman pitched 34 innings last year, mostly in relief, and went 0-1 with a 3.29 ERA.
“I think we’ll have above average pitching,” Bohmbach said. “It’s very deep. All our pitchers have more than a fastball. They’ll be able to throw deep into the order. The main thing is to find that third pitcher.”
Bohmbach doesn’t see a weakness with this team but the way in which players react to their roles will be crucial, he said. The defense will be better, he said, but team chemistry and team speed will be Red Wing’s biggest assets. The Wingers will not name any captains because the team voted against it. Every player is expected to lead.
“Chemistry is No. 1, speed is No. 2,” Bohmbach said. “It will still come down to will people still be able to play their roles at this level. I think we learned a lot (last year). It’s not easy to keep that camaraderie. You need everybody on the same page. Everyone behind me whether I’m right or wrong. Make sure everybody believes what we’re doing.”
Red Wing has three players capable of running the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds and with new bat standards this season, small ball will be a higher priority, Bohmbach said.
“One thing I know with these guys; we put pressure on teams,” he said. “We’ll be running. That’ll be our focus.”
It won’t be easy, but the Wingers are poised to repeat as conference champions with a senior-laden team.
“We want to aim high, obviously,” Boldt said. “I think we got a solid core of guys who know their roles. It’d be a disappointment to not finish the way we did last year or exceed it.”
Red Wing starts its Missota Conference title defense Monday at home against Chaska. The game begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Red Wing Athletic Field.