Eleva-Strum, area teams looking for more in 2023

Tri-County Prep Baseball Preview

For Eleva-Strum last season was great but unsatisfying as well.

The Cardinals were 15-7 overall, on of their best records in years and were in contention for the Dairyland Conference title down to the final week.

But Central fell short of that and also were ousted in the regional semifinals as well by Cochrane-Fountain City.

The bulk of last season's team is back to help fulfill those goals in the 2023 season.

"We graduated four guys only one of them was a starter (Diego Gutierrez)," Cardinal head coach C.J. Christianson said. "We basically bring back everyone plus have a great incoming freshman class."

So far this winter-marred spring with all its cancellations the Cards are 3-1 in the Dairyland Conference and overall. Last week E-S rallied from a 3-0 first inning deficit to beat defending league champ Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran 13-3 in their home opener at Spangberg Field in Strum. But the following day, showing how fortunes and momentum can sometimes be fickle when it comes prep diamond sports, the Cards lost 1-0 at home to Whitehall.

Returning seniors on the E-S ballclub include Alex Anderson, All-Dairyland player Hank Munson and Marcus Steffenson. The Cardinals are actually junior dominated led by top returnees and All-DC players Carter Gunderson and Tyler Webb to Brady Nichols, Jake Bjerke and Jake Olson.

"Our strength is our pitching for sure," Christianson said. "We bring back 100 percent of inning pitched and have four new comers that can throw varsity innings. We have to improve in hitting which I think will happen by growing up and getting after it in the weight room. To reach our goals we need to stay healthy and hit the ball early in the game."

Augusta is 2-2 in the DC (2-4 overall), righting themselves after a slow start. In fact, rallying from slow starts was the Beavers did last season to finish 10-12 overall (7-11 in the league). AHS returns much of this team, graduating all-league player Zander Harris but returning all-league player Sam Harris. AHS was one of the few area prep teams to get on any diamond of field at all due to the week-beginning snowstorm which dumped nearly two feet on the area and covered just about everything. The Beavers lost at Bloomer 11-4 (they've also lost to WCC team Thorp) but hold steady in the DC at 2-2. Last week Augusta played back-to-back extra inning games, winning at Melrose-Mindoro 8-7 on Thursday led by Harris' double and triple and Joe Shong's double as both combined for four RBIs, four runs and five of the Beavers' 10 hits. Harris also picked up the win going the last four innings. The very next day Augusta lost 11-10 to Alma/Pepin in Alma. The Beavers lost despite a strong performance on the mound by senior Brennan King with eight strikeouts and just one walk. Harris and Shong again combined for five hits and four RBIs with Harris scoring three times. Shong hit another double.

Osseo-Fairchild is also off to a 3-1 start to its 2023 season. O-F won over Thorp last week Thursday, April 13 in what was a low-scoring basketball game of a final score of 25-12. Drake Swett won his first varsity game on the mound with teammate Ashton Oliver nailing a three-run homer in the top of the seventh to start a massive O-F rally. Blake Thompson smashed a two-RBI hit with two outs and scored the tying run on a wild pitch. Earlier in the week, O-F blanked Marshfield Columbus in their home opener 10-0 at Jon Soiney Field. Tryggve Korger pitched a complete game on the mound for the win with Ethan Friedel getting two hits and a double, Spencer Osmonson two hits and Swett with two hits and a double. Brody Seefeldt hit a triple.

These are the mix of players who can turn around the Thunder's fortunes from last season's 9-11 squad (4-8 in the Western Cloverbelt) which fell in the regional semifinals to Whitehall 4-3.

Fall Creek is again co-oping with Black River Falls for the 2023 season.


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