College Baseball: Reflection on Central Lakes baseball season
Back in May, Central Lakes College baseball head coach Brian Voigt addressed his team after a season-ending loss to Rochester in the NJCAA Division III Region XIII tournament. It’s a conversation that coaches don’t look forward to having as the season and junior college experience for the sophomores has ended.
“Within the team it was a shock after the loss to Rochester,” Voigt said about the mood of his team after the loss to Rochester. “We felt we had both games that we ended up losing in the regional.”
The Raiders opened the tournament with an 8-7 loss to Riverland in 13 innings, then came back with a 5-2 win over Itasca. In an elimination game against the Yellowjackets, the Raiders led 3-0 after seven innings before Rochester came back late in the game to get the win and eliminate CLC from the tournament.
“After the couple days we met as a team and the spirits were up and the sophomores were happy with what they helped get started during their time here and excited for their next adventures,” Voigt said. “The freshman are very eager to get going for the next year. They feel they want to keep the movement going of improvement each year and having made the playoffs this year leaves them the taste of building to make it further next year. That means next year’s goals are going to be set higher and they are determined to meet those goals.”
Voigt just completed his third season as head coach. The Raiders finished 24-23, up from an 8-23 finish in an abbreviated 2018 season, along with a birth in the NJCAA Region XIII Tournament.
Each year the team goes south to Arizona on a spring trip. The Raiders got off to a 2-8 start. But once they got back to play in the upper Midwest, the team won 12 of their next 14 games.
“I think the fact that we faced some adversity this year is the big reason that there is some motivation for the program moving further,” Voigt said. “The players have taken ownership of the program and they are on the same page as myself and coaching staff for what players we are looking for to join the program and the players are the best recruiters. When they believe in what we are doing and how we achieve the goals the word spreads and we keep getting players that fit into our system to make us keep getting better.”
Voigt pointed to sophomores Alex Guggisberg who started 10 games and pitched four complete games and Josh Fussy who played center field to a fielding percentage of .984 while hitting .327 with 56 hits and 16 stolen bases.
Freshman Alex Haapajoki batted .310 with 27 RBIs. Preston Rocheleau played shortstop with a fielding percentage of .941, batted .328 and finished with five wins on the mound in 12 appearances. Phillip Zynda smashed two homers and collected 38 RBIs while splitting time between catcher and third base with a fielding percentage of .992.
“Our leadership was a lot of guys that were the silent type of leaders. The ones that put the work in and then during the year we started to get some guys that would become the full leader that a college teams need that provide the backbone of our team,” Voigt said. “We lose of couple of the leaders in Guggisberg and Fussy that will be tough to replace but we have a couple that return as well that have us going in the right direction with the likes of Haapajoki, Rocheleau and Zynda. The three returning players not only keep all the returners on the right path, but are a huge help with the few guys that will be coming in with meeting them during their visits.”
Haapajoki, who comes from Brainerd, and Rocheleau, who is from Pierz, are part of a strong core of local talent that Voigt has gone after since arriving and that number will increase next season.
The following players have signed to play with CLC next season: Nick Proshek (St. Cloud Tech), Thomas Kossan (Staples-Motley), Carsen Wenger (Two Harbors), Jack Suska, Luke Girtz, Reese Kapsner, Austin Dickmann (Pierz), Taylor Jendro, Jack Allen (Alexandria).
“Recruiting is very heavy right now in the midst of the state tournament and now is when some guys are signing the letters of intent and not only for the 2019 but the showcases pick up for the 2020 class,” Voigt said. “We have a very good start to our 2019 class with a lot of the local talent coming to play for next year.”
2019 Team Awards
Pitching Award - Eric Hinnenkamp
Hitting Award - Alan Pietila
MVP - Alan Pietila
Raider Award (Best Teammate) - Josh Fussy
All-Region - Alan Pietila
All-State 1st Team - Alan Pietila
All-Central Division - Alan Pietila, Jake Kapphahn, HM - Eric Hinnenkamp, Josh Fussy
MCAC Elite (award plus over 3.0 GPA) - Alan Pietila, Josh Fussy, Eric Hinnenkamp
MCAC Academic Team - Josh Fussy, Alex Haapajoki, Eric Hinnenkamp, Bo Kruchten, Bret Mathews, Max Onyx, William Pickar, Alan Pietila, Tyler Reid, Preston Rocheleau, Chad Savard, Parker Sorensen
NJCAA Academic All-Americans
Bret Mathews - 2nd Team
Alex Haapajoki - 1st Team
Eric Hinnekamp - 3rd Team