By PATRICK SLACK
The first round of section play told the story of the 2011 Pierz baseball season.
Going up against a strong Long Prairie-Grey Eagle team, the Pioneers took the game to the wire, but fell by one run, 3-2.
It was the final of four games lost by one a year ago, in addition to other games in which Pierz held the lead.
“We need to win more close games this year,” Pierz head coach Danny Saehr said. “We need to take that next step if we want to make a run in both our conference and section play.”
Looking to help lead Pierz in closing the gap and putting together a winning season are the team’s three seniors, Logan Meyer, Brad Trapp and Trent Davis.
Meyer hit .322 and drove in 14 runs last season and Trapp hit .303.
Other returning starters include juniors Cody Weiss (pitcher/infield), Brad Meyer (pitcher/infield), Ben Boser (infield) and Nick Lochner (catcher).
Also vying for playing time are senior Trent Davis (outfield/infield) and juniors Brady Dorn (first base/infield), Cody Nordmann (outfield) and Jon Fuhrman (infield).
“We expect to really improve on last year’s record with a lot of guys coming back with varsity experience,” Saehr said. “A lot of these players played a lot of ball last summer.”
“We expect to contend for a conference title and make a run come playoff time,” he said. “We believe our schedule helps prepare us for our tough section.”
Two-time defending Class A state champion Eden Valley-Watkins is the Central Minnesota Conference favorite until proven otherwise, Saehr said, while Kimball also returns a strong line-up.
Graduating from last year’s team were Dylan Kummet, Andy Leidenfrost, Ben Froelich, Jason Roscoe, Brandon Kurowski, Clint Poster, Mitch Boser and Charlie Corbett.
Pierz will get tested early, facing off against defending state champion St. Cloud Cathedral, Tuesday, and section runner-up Little Falls, Thursday.
Both games are at home.