Preview: HHS baseball coach is optimistic for the seasonNo small task awaits the Hastings baseball team this season. The Raiders finished 9-12 overall last season, and the team lost 12 seniors to graduation.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
No small task awaits the Hastings baseball team this season. The Raiders finished 9-12 overall last season, and the team lost 12 seniors to graduation.
That said, Hastings coach Paul Hartmann is optimistic about his team’s chances this season. The seniors on the team had a good Legion season last year, and the juniors had a strong VFW team, he said.
“We have a very sound group of seniors that don’t have a lot of varsity experience, but they’ll continue to get better,” Hartmann said. “We have a lot of kids who can play. We’ll just have to figure out where to plug in the pieces. It might be a situation where we have 10 or 12 different lineups in a 20-game season.
“It’s a testament to our depth and a testament to these kids and their love for the game. We’ve had some outstanding practices in the first two weeks of the season.”
Hastings will be led by a strong group of seniors this season. That group will be led by starting pitcher Aaron Stoneberg, who was a key member of last year’s team. When Stoneberg isn’t pitching, he will play shortstop.
He is the team’s lone returning starting pitcher.
Infielder Eric McCarthy won’t be with the team at the start of the season because of an injury, but he will be back by the end of April. He has a good bat and is good defensively, Hartmann said.
Anders Hillstrom is a utility player.
“He’s worked really hard in the offseason to become a better athlete,” Hartmann said. “We expect Anders to have a big year for us. He can play any position we ask of him.”
Nate Flynn is a senior first baseman.
“He had a good summer for us on the Legion team,” Hartmann said. “We expect him to be in the middle of our lineup, and maybe play some in the outfield. He’s a very good athlete.”
Trey Pottinger is a senior catcher.
“If you look at a prototypical catcher, that would be Trey,” Hartmann said. “He has worked hard to improve his defensive game. He’s worked hard at blocking balls and receiving pitches, and he hit the ball well for us last summer.”
Xavier Kopp is a senior pitcher.
“He came on and showed a lot of strength last summer,” Hartmann said. “He was one of our leading hitters on the Legion team.”
Mike Rodridguez is a senior outfielder.
“He’s an energy kid,” Hartmann said. “We hope to get him on the bases and run with him. He’s the type of kid who could provide a lot of excitement on the bases, and he can really go get the ball in the outfield.”
John Barber saw considerable time on the mound last year, and he will be looked to again this year.
“He came on strong for us last year, and he surprised a lot of people,” Hartmann said. “He’s got great stuff.”
Josh Monjeau will play third base.
“I’d put him up against any third baseman in our league defensively,” Hartmann said. “He looks aggressive out there, and he really wants that spot at third base.”
Joe Stark will have a couple different roles. He could see time at first base and third base, as well as some time on the mound.
“He worked hard in the offseason to become a better athlete,” Hartmann said. “He’s a lot quicker and a lot stronger than he was just a year ago.”
A number of juniors will have key roles, too.
Matt Koch will likely be the team’s starting centerfielder, and he will bat near the top of the lineup.
“He really understands how to compete, and how to go get the ball in the outfield,” Hartmann said. “We expect him to get on base and lead us offensively.”
Jared Powell plays infield and will likely see time at shortstop when Stoneberg is on the mound.
David McConnell is a utility player who can play the corner spots in the infield and the outfield.
Joe Shingledecker is a catcher.
“He’s really quick behind the plate,” Hartmann said. “He’s a very good student, not only in the classroom, but in the game, too. He’s going to push for some time back there.”
Cody McNary plays first base and pitches.
“He’s put a lot of time into the game,” Hartmann said. “He’s shown improvement at the game, and has improved as a pitcher, too.”
Andrew Bussey plays outfield and is a good all-around athlete.
Bill Biskupski and Jack Anderson will also figure in the plans for the Raiders.
Hartmann said the goal for this year’s team is the same goal his teams always have: “Our No. 1 goal every year is to make the final four in Red Wing and see what happens after that,” he said. “We know we play in one of the toughest conferences in the state. We’ll have four teams in the top 10 or 15 teams in the state this year.
“We think we’ll compete in every game. We think we have the pitching staff to do that. We want to get better and make a deep run in the section tournament at the end of May.”
Weather has been great this spring, giving the team a chance to get outside and log some quality practice minutes.
“We’ve been able to take a look at these different kids,” Hartmann said.
Hartmann expects Forest Lake, Cretin-Derham Hall and Stillwater to be the top three teams in the league. East Ridge will also be good.