College Baseball: Raiders ready to make some noise in 2023

The 2023 Central Lakes College Baseball Preview

Blaine Hardy with players
Central Lakes College players Gavin Gast, left, Erubiel Ozuma, Ben Dornseit, Adam Braun and Luis Diaz listen to new Central Lakes College baseball coach Blaine Hardy, center, demonstrate proper positioning of fingers on the ball Monday, March 6, 2023, at the college.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

One week into being the new head coach at Central Lakes College, Blaine Hardy is ready to see his team on the field.

Hardy will get his chance Saturday, March 11, when the Raiders open their season against Williston State College in Tucson, Arizona.

The game kicks off a 12-game Arizona trip, which Hardy, the former Major League pitcher, said he’ll use like spring training.

“I want to have a sure plan from the get-go, but I know my plans change so quickly that it’s not fair to players to say this is my plan until it completely fails,” Hardy said. “I would rather use this Arizona trip as an intense version of spring training to actually see where players are slotting themselves. That’s baseball as a whole.”

More from Conrad
Pequot Lakes vs. Plainview-Elign-Millville in the Class 2A State Consolation Semifinals Wednesday, March 23
Pequot Lakes vs Albany in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals Tuesday, March 21
Pequot Lakes plays No. 2 seed Albany in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals Tuesday, March 21
Brainerd vs. St. Paul Humboldt in the adapted state floor hockey quarterfinals Friday, March 17

Hardy inherits a team that won the Northern Division last year for the first time since 2000. The Raiders advanced to the second weekend of the Region 13 Tournament before being bounced on a walk-off home run against Ridgewater.


The Raiders return 11 sophomores to the squad, which Hardy said was key in how smooth the transition has been for him coming in as the head coach.

“Stepping into the void, there was a significant amount of time prior to me being the head coach since Brian (Voigt) left,” Hardy said. “A lot of teams would’ve slacked off or been hesitant to put the time in to get better individually and as a team. What I’ve noticed from the first week is this team stepped up and established quite a few leadership roles with players stepping up by themselves, so the team could be the best they could possibly be with or without a coach.

“Having a bunch of returners is always nice, especially at the JUCO level. The turnaround is so quick here and COVID changed things a little bit, but that will be gone soon. Having the returners is huge because they are familiar with the program which helps me out, but also I can use them as pieces to my puzzle to transform this team and program into my own.”

Noah Cekalla is one of the key returners from the pitching staff. The Pierz native led the CLC staff in innings pitched last year with 60.1. He also posted a 2.83 ERA to go along with a team-leading 63 strikeouts.

Blaine Hardy
Blaine Hardy
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Left-handed pitcher Mason Argir is another returner and he struck out 25 batters in 31.2 innings pitched.

Offensively, the Raiders return Rylee Rauch, Erubiel Ozuna and Adam Braun to the lineup.

Ozuna hit for a .423 average with 32 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 111 at-bats. Braun launched seven home runs last year which was second on the team. He hit .294 and drove in 37 RBIs in 109 at-bats. Rauch posted a .412 batting average in 102 at-bats which included eight doubles and 14 RBIs.

Cekalla also wrapped 30 hits in 87 at-bats and drove in 23 runs for the Raiders.


“What’s impressed me from the short time I’ve seen them pitch to the swings I’ve seen from the hitters to the team as a whole, I’ve realized that I can try to assess a player, but we’ve been inside a gym for so long that we need to let the boys go out and play,” Hardy said. “They will all show their worth to the team not only in the short term, but the long term. I don’t want to say these are my guys from the get-go. I’m excited to see how these guys are going to fit into the categories of the team I want.”

Of the 13 freshmen on the Raiders’ roster, 10 are from Minnesota including pitcher Adam Jensen who is a Brainerd High School graduate.

“There are plenty of guys on this team that have power and plenty of guys on this team that have speed,” Hardy said. “Until you get into game scenarios you can’t completely label a guy.”

Hardy gave last year’s head coach Brian Voigt a lot of credit in helping him navigate taking over the program.

“Brian has done a good job over the years he’s been coaching here and put together a really good team,” Hardy said. “It’ll be exciting to see how the team turns out when we get them on the field. (Brian) did a very good job of making this transition as easy as possible. I also pick his brain daily to grasp his outlook and what his plan was and adjust his viewpoints to transition into mine.”

Even with a new coach, expectations are still high for the Raiders in 2023.

“I want these boys to go out there and have fun,” Hardy said. “I want to win and as long as we put the work in, the wins will come. We have a team that is capable of winning it all and a lot of that credit goes to Brian and the team he put together prior to when I got here. I’m really excited to see what these boys are truly capable of and I have a feeling that they are going to shock and awe me.”


Sophomores: Mason Argir (P/OF), Adam Braun (P/OF), Ben Dornseif (P), Rylee Rauch (IF), Erik Bungum (IF), Erubiel Ozuna (OF), Alonso Bacame (IF/P), Noah Cekalla (P/C), Ivan Villa (P/OF), Austin Meister (P), Leo Villa (OF/C)
Freshmen: Devin Waldorf (IF), Justin Stalboerger (OF), Beau Lepel (IF), Alex Tittrington (IF), Luis Diaz (P), Devin Begay (P), Brett Letness (P/IF), Adam Jensen (P), Gavin Gast (P), Jack Thorn (P/IF), Josh Kivela (OF), Jaydon Dymanyk (OF), Turner Locken (IF)



March 11: vs. Williston State College in Tucson, Arizona, 10 a.m.
March 11: vs. Miles Community College in Tucson, Arizona, 1:30 p.m.
March 12: vs. Bismarck State College in Tucson, Arizona, 2 p.m.
March 12: vs. California Miramar in Tucson, Arizona, 11 p.m.
March 13: vs. Dakota College in Tucson, Arizona, noon
March 14: vs. Lake Region State College (2) in Tucson, Arizona, 2 p.m.
March 16: vs. Abbotsford Cardinals (2) in Tucson, Arizona 11 a.m.
March 17: vs. Augsburg JV in Tucson, Arizona, 11 a.m.
March 17: vs. Whalley Chiefs in Tucson, Arizona, 2 p.m.
March 18: vs. Coquitlam Reds in Tucson, Arizona, 11 a.m.
March 23: at Morningside JV in Sioux City, Iowa, 4:30 p.m.
March 24: vs. Williston State College at Briar Cliff, 10 a.m.
March 24: vs. Riverland at Briar Cliff, 12:30 p.m.
March 25: vs. Williston State College at Briar Cliff, 10 a.m.
March 25: vs. Riverland at Briar Cliff, 12:30 p.m.
April 1: hosts Rainy River, 11:30 a.m.
April 1: hosts Western Tech, 4:30 p.m.
April 2: hosts Western Tech, 2 p.m.
April 2: hosts Vermilion, 4:30 p.m.
April 5: hosts North Dakota State College of Science (2), 2 p.m.
April 7: at Fergus Falls (2), 1 p.m.
April 8: hosts Fergus Falls (2), 1 p.m.
April 12: hosts Itasca (2), 2 p.m.
April 15: hosts Alexandria (2), 1 p.m.
April 16: at Alexandria (2), 1 p.m.
April 19: at Dakota County Technical College (2), 2 p.m.
April 22: at Ridgewater (2), 1 p.m.
April 23: hosts Ridgewater (2), 1 p.m.
April 26: at North Dakota State College of Science (2), 2 p.m.
April 29: at St. Cloud Tech (2), 1 p.m.
April 30: hosts St. Cloud Tech (2), 1 p.m.
May 3: at Itasca (2), 2 p.m.
May 5: hosts Anoka-Ramsey (2), 1 p.m.
May 6: at Anoka-Ramsey (2), 1 p.m.

Raiders baseball
Head coach: Blaine Hardy, first year
2022 record: 28-15 overall, 13-3 Northern Division
Returning players: Mason Argir, Adam Braun, Ben Dornseif, Rylee Rauch, Erik Bungum, Erubiel Ozuna, Alonso Bacame, Noah Cekalla, Ivan Villa, Austin Meister, Leo Villa
Assistant coaches: Jim Russell, Ian Wilson, Tim Martin, Keith Peterson

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads