By PATRICK SLACK
When Josh Wenzel suffered a season-ending injury before the first pitch last spring, few could have predicted Little Falls would embark on one of the most successful seasons in school history.
The Flyers rattled off 20 wins, swept through the inaugural season of the Granite Ridge Conference (GRC) and spent the majority of the season atop the state rankings.
With the senior standout back in the lineup, Little Falls has its sights set on duplicating last year’s regular season success while also making a deeper postseason run after getting knocked out in extra innings in last year’s sub-section semifinals.
Looking to team with Wenzel to form a powerful middle of the order are seniors Collin Eckman (shortstop), Matt Stumpf (second base) and Spencer Fenske (third base/pitcher).
All three had at least seven extra-base hits last spring, with Eckman earning a spot on the Record All-Area team with a .511 batting average.
Senior Gabe Ploof and Fenske look to lead a deep pitching staff after going a combined 11-0 on the mound in 2012 and senior Nathan Masog looks to again hold down a starting spot in the outfield after turning in 22 errorless games in place of Wenzel last spring in center.
Also looking to compete for playing time are senior Nate Backowski (outfield/first base) and juniors Kyle Boser (outfield/pitcher), Alec Zack (catcher), Nick Anderson (pitcher), Michael Fregin (infield) and Lucas Cofell (infield).
“We expect to be in the run for the conference and section, but both will be improved,” Little Falls head coach Chad Kaddatz said. “We will also play strong programs Perham, Hutchinson, Melrose and Sauk Rapids-Rice in non-conference games, so our schedule will test us and prepare us for the postseason.”
The Section 6AA champ has reached the state finals the past three seasons.
Graduating from last year’s team were two-time Record Player of the Year Joey Hanowski and All-Area pitcher Luke Thoma and outfielder Mitch Gregory, along with Ian Stewart, Michael Holthaus, Tony Arnold, Matt Valentine and Michael Anderson.
Kaddatz enters his first spring as head coach of the Flyers in place of John Hanowski.
“Along with replacing our eight seniors from last season, we will also have to try to fill the void left by the retirement of Hall of Famer John Hanowski, who in the past eight years has built the program back up to the strong position it is in today,” Kaddatz said. “The weather this spring is not helping out, but we are all very excited to see where this season takes us.”