ELK MOUND — With virtually their whole starting lineup back and three pitchers who combined for 17 wins last season, things are looking pretty good for the Elk Mound baseball team this year. Although they finished as the runner up in the Large Dunn St. Croix Conference last year behind Boyceville with a 10-3 record, the Mounders won two conference championships before that and are hoping to return to the top and move on in tournament play.
Austin DeLong, a four year starter for the team is the only player lost through graduation on a team that finished 17-6 overall. Two of those losses came against Boyceville but after beating Spring Valley in the first round of regional play, the Mounders defeated Boyceville and their ace pitcher Ryan Bloom in the second round before falling to Prescott 6-0 in the regional championship.
11 seniors return this year including Garett Phillips, a three time All Conference player. Phillips leads the pitching staff, coming off a 9-2 season with 103 strikeouts and a 1.72 earned run average. He is also one of the teams leading hitters with a .362 batting average, scoring 24 times, knocking in 16 runs and stealing 16 bases.When he is not on the mound, he usually anchors the third base spot.
Senior Hunter Dicus earned first team All Conference as a sophomore, and pitched in nine games as a junior, ending with a 4-3 record and a 2.96 ERA. He also batted .310 and scored 17 runs while picking up 11 RBI.
Senior infielder Dan Bachman was a first team All Conference selection last year and carried a .364 batting average and tied for the team lead in RBI with Nick Heit with 19. Fellow senior Heit, batted .355 and led the team in hits with 27 and in doubles with 11. Nate Spehle picked up four wins on the mound with three losses and used his bat to bring in seven RBI while earning second team All Conference, and Hunter Hermes crossed the plate 16 times and brought in 13 runs. Seth Kruger, Chris Hayden and Nick Woodley all saw some varsity action last year and David Henningfeld and Zach Baxter round out the senior group.
Juniors hoping to contribute are Hunter Kohls, Marcus Klug and Derrick Redwine along with sophomores Jon Storing and Zach Mohr and freshman Cole Tyman.
Coach Paul Andrea begins his 14th year leading the team and is assisted by Randy Simpson and Jon Chisolm. Andrea isn’t sure what to expect this year since the team hadn’t been on the field yet. With all three games this week canceled or postponed, he expects to be playing a lot of games in a short period of time. The team plays a strong non-conference schedule which includes a game with Prescott, but since Prescott moves up to Division II this year, the Mounders won’t have to face them at tournament time. Andrea believes the tough competition they face helps them when it gets to that time of the season. He looks for Colfax to be much improved this year and thinks the whole conference should be competitive.