St. Peter baseball team has some big shoes to fill from last season’s fourth-place Class AA state team.
But seniors Kaden Oeltjenbruns and Carson Kennedy think the Saints can reload and have a competitive team again.
Eight seniors graduated including seven starters: pitcher/shortstop Andy Regner, pitcher Dylan Graft, second baseman Joey Baron, first baseman/pitcher Issac Peterson, right fielder Hunter Wilmes, center fielder Nick Morgan and catcher Tyson Sowder.
The Saints’ returning starters are: Kennedy at pitcher, third and first, Oeltjenbruns at third, short and second, Wyatt Olson at first and pitcher and Ethan Volk in left field and pitcher.
Oeltjenbruns said the Saints still have a veteran team with years of experience.
“We’ve played baseball all our life,” Oeltjenbruns said. “We know the game. All the situations we’ve been in can help. We know what to do. I feel like our pitching is pretty well. We have a bunch of people coming back, and Theo [Giedd] stepped up last year pitching in the state tournament.”
Kennedy agreed: “We have a lot of leadership guys in our senior class (nine), so I think that will help out a lot with communication and everything. You can already see some junior leaders. Leadership will help us a lot.”
The Saints have a number of options for pitching including returners Kennedy, Volk, Olson and junior Jake Rimstad.
But the Saints lost their longtime ace pitcher, Andy Regner, an all-state player who has gone on to play for Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“He was the ace last year,” Kennedy said of Regner. “It will be tough without him, but with the juniors coming up and our experience in the senior class, we’ll be just fine.”
Oeltjenbruns said, “replacing the seniors is tough. They’re all good. They were the core of our team last year, but we should be able to build back with the juniors coming up this year.”
But the Saints have work to do.
“The junior class has always been committed to baseball, so I think chemistry is what we need to work on, because we’ve never played with them,” Oltjenbruns said. “Since we haven’t had much practice, clicking together with all the juniors and making sure we have every position filled and know what we’re all doing.
“It was nice to see that Shaun [Lehtinen] came out this year. He’s a catcher. He didn’t come out last year. He was out all the years before. Him and Brady Sowder, Tyson’s younger brother, are the catchers.”
Kennedy said he agreed that chemistry and communication need to be improved. “We haven’t really played much with the junior class. Getting to know them good and seeing what they like to do that will help us a lot. It will be tough to do but with our senior class and the junior class, we’ll be just fine.”
The Saints are shooting for a return trip to state, although it could be tougher because they’re moving up a class to AAA.
“I feel like we can make it to the section finals,” Oeltjenbruns said. “We’re going up a class, and it’s going to be tough, just like in basketball. We have enough guys who came back and know what to do.”
Kennedy said it’s always a dream to make state. “I definitely feel like we can do it. Even though we’re moving up a class, obviously competition will be tougher, but I feel like we have the guys to get it done.”
Individually, Oeltjenbruns said his strength is fielding. “I’ve always played the game since I was young, so I know what to do. I remember doing stuff with my dad when I was younger, and I started in T-ball in third grade.”
Oeltjenbruns mostly just played in the field during games last season, and a designated hitter batted for him.
“Hitting is not my strong suit, but I’m getting better,” he said. “I hit in the state tournament, but most of the time I was Dh’d for. My goal is to hit better than last year.”
The Saints’ returning pitcher and hitter, Kennedy said those are his strengths.
However, he said he needs to work on “communication, especially with the younger guys coming up. We haven’t really played with them that much. So I need to just be a leader and communicate with them and let them do their thing.”