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Luke Benge Credit Kelsey Photography

 

Lakeville South High School’s baseball season didn’t go exactly as planned. The American Legion team also hoped to win a few more games than it has this summer.

“It wasn’t ideal, but a lot of good things happened during the season,” pitcher Erick Cervenka said of the high school team. “We competed. We weren’t getting blown out. I don’t consider it a failed season at all. It just didn’t end how we wanted it to.”

Lakeville South finished 3-13 and at the bottom of the South Suburban Conference, while intercity rival Lakeville North captured the conference championship with a 14-3 mark. Some teams handled the shortened, winter weather-laden spring season better than others.

It was a blur and sometimes a struggle for the Cougars.

“The pressure really set in when we found out we had four weeks to finish a baseball season. Holy smokes,” captain and pitcher Luke Benge said. “It was game after game after game after game — and it was tough. That put a lot of pressure on all of our players, and mostly our starters.”

That doesn’t mean the Lakeville South teams are short on talent. Cervenka and Benge, two recent Cougars graduates and members of the legion team, will be moving on to play baseball at NCAA Division II schools next season. Cervenka is heading to Northern State and Benge to Bemidji State. Both were key pitchers for the Cougars.

Cervenka was looking at Northern State before he even thought about playing college baseball. It turns out the school in Aberdeen, S.D., would be a good fit for both academics and athletics.

When he decided he wanted baseball to be a part of his college experience, the coaching staff made sure it happened.

“Erick will be competing for innings on the mound right away,” Northern State coach Dean Berry said in a news release. “He is a big-frame guy that has a ton of natural ability. Erick has the potential to develop into a pretty special player for us.”

“Big-frame guy” is no lie. Cervenka is a 6-3 thrower. In early May with Cervenka on the mound, Lakeville South defeated state powerhouse and then No. 2-ranked Burnsville 4-1.

“He has a crazy fastball,” Benge said. “It has weird movement to it. I think he’ll have a good run at Northern and show them what’s up.”

Benge, in an even larger frame at 6-4, is hoping to make a similar impact. The righthander visited Bemidji State with his dad and developed a good rapport with the coaching staff. He also found something intriguing about the Beavers’ roster this year.

“They’re losing somewhere near 10 seniors,” Benge said. “Right then, I realized I have a shot to show them what I can do and hopefully earn some playing time. That drew me in quite a bit.”

Benge, who also was a cornerback for the Cougars football team, is a “go-to fastball kind of guy.” His pitches have been clocked at 86 miles per hour. He’ll also rely on a slider to induce swings and misses.

“He hits his spots a little better than me,” Cervenka said.

Both are looking forward to hitting their spots at the next level.

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