College Baseball: Raiders ready to rumble on the diamond

Central Lakes College Raider pitcher Sam Jensen practices Monday, March 2, in the college parking lot. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

With a program that has made steady strides over the last three years, Central Lakes head baseball coach Brian Voigt and his team are hungry for more as they prepare for Tucson, Ariz., and the beginning of the baseball season Sunday, March 8.

The Raiders finished with a 24-23 overall record and 8-8 in conference play. CLC qualified for the Region 13 tournament where they played three games, losing to Riverland 8-7 and defeating Itasca 5-2 before ending the season with a 4-3 loss to Rochester.

The team also ranked in the top 20 nationally in four categories; walks, sacrifice flies, on-base percentage and in at-bats and put together 10- and 4-game winning streaks.

Preston Rocheleau, Jake Kapphahn, Alex Haapajoki, Hunter Wicklund, Paul Jacobson, Phillip Zynda and Stuart Farrand all return having experienced the high of making the region tournament, the thrill of three tight games in the tournament, and also the want for more after the tournament ending loss to Rochester.

“Last year was a great year that saw a lot of improvement and with the majority of the line-up returning it definitely fuels them for this year,” Voigt said. “They have been focused on the year and we have been able to build off of that within our practice setting this year. We had a great fall that has carried into our winter workouts and we keep getting better each day. They are ready for the games to begin.”


CLC starts the season with pitching depth with Rocheleau and Kapphahn. Rocheleau finished the 2019 season with a 5-4 record in 52.2 innings and he pitched to an ERA of 3.93. Kapphahn was 3-1 in 31.1 innings with a 2.87 ERA. Pitching is the key area that Voigt will need production from his first-year players along with speed on the bases.

“The first-year guys are bringing some good talent that is all over the board,” Voigt said. “The biggest holes to be filled is pitching, along with the loss of the speed we had last year. I believe the freshman class can fill those roles well this year.

“We have some of the deepest pitching depth yet in my time here. Now it will be about staying healthy. It’s hard to say we have more team speed this year, but I think we do. The question will be can we translate that into the aggressive base running that we want.”

In 2019, the Raiders stole 89 bases. Of the returning players, Wicklund leads the team in that category with 14.

Kapphahn, Rocheleau helped to lead an offensive attack that scored 349 runs with a team batting average of .316.

Kapphahn batted .376 with 47 hits and 46 RBIs. Rocheleau finished at .328 with 38 hits, 12 doubles and 29 RBIs. Haapajoki batted .310 with 27 RBIs. Wicklund finished at .311 with 23 hits and Jacobson was at .302. Farrand contributed six hits and eight RBIs in 25 at-bats and Zynda tallied 38 RBIs.

When Voigt is coach the Raiders women’s basketball team, the returning players have a large role in the off-season program

“We have not named captains,” Voight said. “I like to make sure all sophomores lead in somewhere and all have at some point. During the off-season, we split our sophomores into the different groups that are in the weight room and that gives them a time to lead by working hard and showing the new guys how we want the work to be done.”


The schedule is daunting for the Raiders as they prepare for 10 games in Arizona. CLC will get a familiar opponent in Rainy River to start the week.

Last year the Raiders won two games during the Arizona stretch.

“The teams that are down in Arizona are always really good,” Voigt said. “Plus, it is the first time outside and that always makes it a challenge on the trip. This year, of the 10 games, only one game is against an NJCAA DIII team and two games are vs NJCAA DI and five vs NJCAA DII with the last two games being against a four-year club team that is mostly juniors and seniors in college.

“It always makes for a week where we as coaches can evaluate our team and see where we stand and what we need to improve on for the games that are just before our conference season. The goal is to get our team to compete for the whole week like it is just one game at a time. We can learn from the games and not dwell on the record, good or bad.”

Once they return to Minnesota, the Raiders will be part of the more traditional Northern and Southern Division setup with eight teams in the Northern Division. At the end of the season, there will be a three-game MCAC tournament followed by the regional tournament in St. Cloud.

“This year we had Century College join the MCAC to make the conference 16 teams so we are back to the Northern and Southern divisions,” Voigt said. “It will be a fun new alignment where we have our weekend division opponents and then there are mid-week divisional games now as well. With the new alignment, the postseason becomes the top four teams within each division this year.”

Raider roster


Sophomore: Preston Rocheleau (Pierz), Jake Kapphahn (Little Falls), Alex Haapajoki (Brainerd), Hunter Wicklund (Brainerd), Paul Jacobson (Annandale) and Stuart Farrand (Aberdeen), Phillip Zynda (Austin)

Freshmen: Jack Allen (Alexandria), Eric Martin (Brainerd), Jack Suska (Buckman), Thomas Kossan (Staples-Motley), Reese Kapsner (Pierz), Luke Girtz (Pierz), Carson Wenger (Two Harbors), Sam Jensen (Brainerd), Jonathan Lerma (Tucson, AZ), Nick Proshek (St. Cloud), Austin Dickmann (Pierz), Justin Houge (Sartell), Max Estrem (Minnetonka).

Raider schedule

March 8: vs. Rainy River in Tucson, Ariz., 5 p.m.

March 8: vs. Triton College in Tucson, Ariz. 9 p.m.

March 9: vs. Miles Community College in Tucson, Ariz noon (2)

March 10: vs. Williston State College, in Tucson, Ariz noon (2)


Mach 12: vs. Eastern Arizona College, in Tucson, Ariz 2 pm.

March 12: vs. Bryant and Stratton College, in Tucson, Ariz 5 p.m.

Mach 13: vs. California Miramar University in Tucson, Ariz noon (2)

March 26: at Iowa Lakes Community College 2 p.m. (2)

March 28: vs. TBA at Riverland TBA

March 28: vs. Bay College at Riverland 2 p.m.

March 29: vs. TBA at Riverland TBA

March 29: at Riverland noon


March 29: vs. Bay College at Riverland 2 p.m.

April 1: hosts St. Cloud Technical 2 p.m. (2)

April 4: hosts Vermilion 2 p.m.

April 4: hosts Riverland 4 p.m.

April 5: hosts Itasca 11 a.m.

April 5: hosts Ridgewater 3 p.m.

April 8: at St. Cloud Technical 2 p.m. (2)

April 10: hosts Vermilion 2 p.m. (2)


April 11: at Mesabi Range 1 p.m. (2)

April 13: hosts Rainy River 1 p.m. (2)

April 15: hosts Mesabi Range 2 p.m. (2)

April 18: at Minnesota State 1 p.m. (2)

April 19: hosts Minnesota State 1 p.m. (2)

April 22: at Rainy River 2 p.m. (2)

April 25: hosts Itasca 1 p.m. (2)

April 26: at Itasca 1 p.m. (2)

April 29: at Hibbing 2 p.m. (2)

May 2: hosts Northland 2 p.m. (2)

May 3: at Northland 2 p.m. (2)

May 8: MCAC tournament begins

Raiders baseball

Head coach: Brain Voigt, 4th season

2019 record: Southern Division 8-8, overall 24-23

Returning players: Preston Rocheleau, Jake Kapphahn, Alex Haapajoki, Hunter Wicklund, Paul Jacobson, Phillip Zynda and Stuart Farrand

Assistant coach: Joel Martin, Alex Jorgensen

Brian Voigt

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