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1. National elite
Minnesota’s production of premiere high school athletes will continue this spring. Speedy outfielder Ryan Boldt of Red Wing and hard-throwing pitcher Logan Shore of Coon Rapids were invitees to the final stages of USA Baseball’s 18U national team tryouts. Both have Division I scholarships at high-profile baseball programs — Boldt to Nebraska and Shore to Florida. Both are expected to be picked in the early stages of the MLB draft. Boldt could be Minnesota’s most coveted selection since Joe Mauer. Last summer he won a gold medal with Team USA and was the MVP of the Perfect Game High School All-American Classic.
2. Enough for another run
Eastview is happy to enter the season ranked No. 1, but knows such placement might be an exaggeration. The defending Class 3A champion graduated many players who made the 2012 championship run possible. “We have a totally new team this year,” coach Tom Strey said. “We hope to gain some experience early in the year, and be competitive by the end of the year.” The Lightning has eight upperclassmen to fill leadership roles, led by first baseman AJ Stockwell. Center fielder Joe Schlosser also helped the Eastview boys’ soccer team win a state title.
3. Even shorter season
Minnesota spring sports teams are used to condensed seasons, but Mother Nature has made things even tighter this season. Fields are still wet and have frost deep in the soil, keeping teams from practicing much outside. Canceled games could mean playing four or more games a week, including on Saturdays, once warmer weather finally arrives. The stacked schedule should offer a big advantage to teams with the most pitching depth.
4. BBCOR Year 2
Coaches and players still are trying to figure out the difference made by the change to less-powerful metal bats last season. The Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) bats were supposed to make the game safer. Teams aren’t aware of any serious injuries, but at first glance their hitting stats and bats were seriously hurt. Champlin Park coach Jeff Stoll said he saw fewer home runs and more broken bats. He also said he still saw a lot of power from the bats’ “sweet spot.” The National Federation of High Schools said it likely would take more than one season to get a real sense of the effects.
5. On the fringes
Last year’s state tournament provided a glimpse at the growing baseball talent throughout the state. Bemidji junior pitcher Ryan Hirt nearly led his team to a Class 3A championship. The crafty lefthander, who pitched in front of Twins General Manager Terry Ryan at Target Field, could be Bemidji’s ticket back to the Twin Cities. Rocori senior catcher Austin Athmann got the Gophers’ attention and has committed to the U. Rochester Lourdes outfielder Jason Samuelson is committed to Iowa. A handful of outstate standouts are headed to North Dakota State.