After a trip to state a year ago, the Little Falls Flyer baseball team hopes it can repeat the feat in 2020.
“We lost some key components from last year, but are confident that the returning and new players could surpass last years team in several areas,” said head coach Chad Kaddatz. “We have a strong tradition here in Little Falls, and our kids definitely work hard to maintain a high standard of excellence.”
One of the key returners for the Flyers is senior Travis Wenzel.
Wenzel was the Record Player of the Year, and was also listed as one of 20 Minnesota players named one of the “Nation’s Elite High School Players” by Collegiate Baseball Magazine.
“He could compete with the top players in state during last year’s season,” Kaddatz said.
Another returner that Kaddatz expects a lot from is senior Alex Gwost, who started at second base and was a starter on the mound.
“He has grown physically in the past year and his athletic ability was obvious during the Flyer basketball season. Alex had some impressive showings at various showcase events this summer and fall, and I am very excited to see him on the mound this year,” Kaddatz said. “He and Travis will provide us with a one-two punch on the mound that I would put up against any other team in the state.”
Other returners for the Flyers include: Arik Schwanke and Brady Shelstad in the outfield.
Senior Ryan Buckallew is also expected to step into a first base role.
Kaddatz also said a group of juniors will be counted on to step up and play for the Flyers including Dane Couture, Gabe Hirsch and Gunnar Gustafson.
He also expects sophomore Zack Gwost to contribute, especially on the mound.
After advancing to the section title in five of the past seven years, including two championships, Kaddatz said the Flyers’ expectations are high.
“We set a majority of our goals as process related, and not outcome related, but we do anticipate that this team will be competing for a section championship and hopefully bringing Little Falls its 16th tournament appearance,” Kaddatz said.
Despite losing three pitchers from a year ago, Kaddatz expects pitching to be a strength, while he said that a weakness will hinge on whether the younger players will be able to adjust to varsity.
He also expects the schedule to be challenging.
“This might be the strongest schedule we have played here, and we will be tested each and every game,” Kaddatz said.
Foley enters with a team that won state VFW last summer. Cathedral went to state in legion with a young team, while Albany played in the past two Babe Ruth World Series’ and Pierz comes into the conference as an always strong team, according to Kaddatz.
Alexandria and Bemidji, along with additions Rocori and Sartell will make the section tough too.
“The competition for the 8AAA title will be among the strongest in the state,” Kaddatz said.
Little Falls is scheduled to start the season April 7 at home against Pierz, but with COVID-19 restrictions, that and many more could be postponed.