Rivals Minnetonka and Eden Prairie meet on Friday with several new faces on display and some questions to answer with each team looking to reclaim recent postseason success.
Minnetonka, which finished runner-up to Stillwater in the Class 4A state tournament last year, graduated 16 seniors, including catcher Cameron Smrekar (.508 BA, 3 home runs, 17 RBI in the regular season) and pitcher Aaron Wukmir (2.50 ERA, 31 strikeouts in 36 1/3 regular-season innings).
The Skippers (0-0) will miss Wukmir on the mound, but they return a handful of players who have proven they know how to handle a bat, including outfielder Nick Thimsen and shortstop Jake Zaetta. In the 2018 regular season, Thimsen hit .436 and showed flashes of power with a home run, a pair of triples and six doubles. Zaetta, meanwhile, hit .405 and tallied 17 RBI. Both are capable of powering the Skippers into the win column, should the team's pitching staff struggle early.
After winning the Class 4A hardware two years ago, Eden Prairie struggled to a 12-8 regular-season record last year, never making it out of the Section 2 tournament, where it was eliminated by Edina 6-0.
Despite having to do its own share of reloading after graduating 14 seniors, including star shortstop Zack Elliott (.368 BA, 11 walks, 24 runs scored in the 2018 regular season), the Eagles (0-0) seem poised to take flight once again.
Outfielder Jordan Amundson returns for his senior season and is someone Eden Prairie can rely on for production and veteran leadership out of the gate. The St. Thomas commit posted a .322 batting average, hit two home runs and walked 11 times in 59 regular-season at-bats a year ago.