The Central Lakes College Raiders , in their third year under head coach Brian Voigt, head south to Tucson, Ariz. for a season-opening, 10-games road trip at the Kino Sports Complex.
Voigt's team finished 8-24 in a weather-reduced schedule. The Raiders improved in conference play to 3-5 and Voigt expects to see more improvement.
"The most exciting part is the depth," Voigt said. "This group has put in a lot of time on their own in order to get better and it has shown during practices. We can spend short amounts of time on certain things with high quality reps. They are extremely focused on helping the program build and get to where we envision the program being. We have some pitchers that give us a lot of options for rotation and bullpen so that is exciting to see."
Voigt concluded his duties as the head Raider women's basketball coach. During that time he leaned on his veterans to help prepare the team for the upcoming road trip.
"The returners are guys that I always look to for leadership within the team," Voigt said. "They have been through the college season before and can show the freshman the way. It is really tough to just name a couple because it is a group that pushes the team to get better.
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- Head coach: Brian Voigt, third season
- 2018 record: 3-5 Division, 8-24 overall
- Assistant coaches: Kevin Peterson
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"Alex Guggisberg is one that has stepped up as a leader and made sure we stay on track. Some teammates even call him an assistant coach. Josh Fussy is one that is always going to have the cage down for guys to come in and hit and pushes everyone to get in extra work."
Eight sophomores return from last year's team, but only two are starting pitchers. Pitchers returning include Alan Pietila of Menahga, Guggisberg of New Ulm, Eric Hinnenkamp of Long Prairie and Casey Welsh of Pequot Lakes.
Fussy will man the outfield. Max Onyx of Colorado Springs and Chad Savard are slated at first base. Parker Sorenson will play outfield and third base and Tyler Comwell is marked down as a second baseman.
"There is a lot of spots that are open for guys to fill in," Voigt said. "I feel we are two deep at most positions and have good quality pitchers. For positions, we have a lot of innings on the mound that will be filled by new guys as well as catcher will be the key position that we did not return anyone. There will be times where our infield is all freshman and we will learn on the fly."
Area freshmen on the Raiders roster include Pillager's Bo Kruchten, Jake Kapphahn of Little Falls, who will see time on the mound and at shortstop, Brainerd's duo of Alex Haapajoki at first and Hunter Wicklund on the mound and the outfield and Pierz's Preston Rocheleau, who will be a key pitcher in the Raiders' rotation after helping Pierz to the Class 2A state championship game two years ago.
Paul Jacobson of Annandale and Phillip Zynda of Austin are penciled in as CLC's two catchers.
The Raiders will get there first opportunity to play under real conditions in Arizona. In Voigt's first year, the team didn't win a game on the annual trip. CLC improved that to 4-6 last year.
"For us, the record on the trip is one of our stepping stones in the season," Voigt said. "It is always nice to improve in each part of the season. For baseball, we have the spring trip, (weather permitting) 2-3 weeks of non-conference games. Then conference play, and lastly is post-season. This year on the trip to Arizona, we are playing 10 games and all 10 games are versus scholarship schools. It will be a very good test for us right away. There is some good matchups and should be some good baseball. It will show us how our team will respond."
The Raiders have made steps upward in their first two seasons under Voigt. The Raiders play in a competitive five-team Central Division along with St. Cloud Technical College, Minnesota State Fergus Falls, Northland and Ridgewater.
"The big key for us to get into the tournament will be the improved pitching and the defense," Voigt said. "Last year, offensively we had good enough numbers, but our defense slowed us down. I think we addressed that for this upcoming season and that will allow us to improve."
Sophomores: Alan Pietila (Menahga, P-OF-SS), Josh Fussy (Buffalo, OF), Alex Guggisberg (New Ulm, 3B-P), Max Onyx (Colorado Springs, Colo., 1B), Eric Hinnenkamp (Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, P), Parker Sorensen (Bagley, OF-3B), Chad Savard (Roseville, 1B), Casey Welsch (Pequot Lakes, 3B-P), Tyler Cromwell (Mankato-Loyola, 2B)
Freshmen: Deonte Manuel (Flint, Mich. P-SS), Bo Kruchten (Pillager, OF), TJ Sweere (New Ulm, 2B-P), Brandon Bostrom (Annandale, OF), Stuart Farand (Aberdeen, S.D., P-3B), Jake Kapphahn (Little Falls, SS-P), Jack Herman (Park Rapids, P-1B-OF), Alex Haapajoki (Brainerd, 1B), Hunter Wicklund (Brainerd, OF-P), Cecil Hall (Las Vegas, Nev., OF), Matthew Roberts (Queensland, Australia, P-1B), Phillip Zynda (Austin, C-utility), Preston Rocheleau (Pierz, P-SS), Will Pickar (Park Rapids, P-OF), Paul Jacobson (Annandale, C-OF), Tyler Reid (Annandale, P-1B-OF), Bret Mathews (Dexter, P-3B), Devyn Ulibarri (Jordan, 1B-OF)
Sunday, March 10, vs. Miles Community College (2) at Tucson, Ariz. 5 p.m.
Monday, March 11, vs. Lake Region State College, N.D., (2) at Tucson, Ariz (2) 2 p.m.
Tuesday, March 12, vs. Mayville State (2) at Tucson, Ariz 2 p.m.
Thursday, March 14, vs. Bismarck State College (2) at Tucson, Ariz. 11 a.m.
Friday, March 15, vs. Douglas College at Tucson, Ariz 11 a.m.
Friday, March 15, vs. Arizona Western College at Tucson, Ariz 2 p.m.
March 23, at Riverland (2) 2 p.m.
March 24, at Riverland (2) 2 p.m.
March 29, at University of Minnesota, Morris (2) 3 p.m.
April 3, at Iowa Lakes (2) 3 p.m.
April 6, vs. Minnesota State Community and Technical College
April 6, vs. Vermilion
April 7, vs. Vermilion
Aril 7, vs. Riverland
April 13, vs. St. Cloud (2) 1 p.m.
April 14, vs. St. Cloud (2) 1 p.m.
April 17, at Mesabi Range (2) 2 p.m.
April 19, at Ridgewater (2) 2 p.m.
April 20, Ridgewater (2) 1 p.m.
April 24, vs. Itasca (2) 2 p.m.
April 27, vs. Northland (2) 2 p.m.
April 28, at Northland (2) 2 p.m.
May 1, at Itasca (2) 2 p.m.
May 4, vs. Minnesota State (2) 1 p.m.
May 5, at Minnesota State (2) 1 p.m.
May 8, vs. Rainy River (2) 3 p.m.
May 10, vs. Hibbing (2) 2 p.m.
May 11, at Hibbing (2) 2 p.m.