Cougar baseball anxious to play outside

Coach likes what he sees at indoor practices

Lakeville South’s Nick Pecho turns a out during 2012. He leads the Cougars on the field again this season. (Photo by Rick Orndorf)
Lakeville South’s Nick Pecho turns a out during 2012. He leads the Cougars on the field again this season. (Photo by Rick Orndorf)

Although the Minnesota Twins managed to play indoors for years, baseball is meant to be an outdoor sport.

Unfortunately, winter has overstayed its welcome, forcing varsity baseball teams such as Lakeville South to practice in their gymnasiums.

Cougar head coach Al Iversen said he feels pretty good about what he’s seen so far in practice, but they’ve all been indoors.

“When it comes to going outside it is a different thing,” Iversen said. “We are behind, as most teams from our conference travel outside of the state to warmer weather” during spring break.

Having a healthy, productive stable of pitchers will be key for the Cougars.

Lakeville South has three pitchers with varsity experience – Mitch Maurer, Joe Sabal and Tyler Schumacher. Newcomers who also could be in the pitching rotation are Erick Cervenka, Cody Metz, Luke Benge, Cory Reiter and Matt Stelzar.

The infield will be a strength with returners Nick Pecho at second base and JP Haack at third. Newcomer Harry Ballantyne will be at first base, with Metz and Cory Reiter in competition for shortstop. Patrick Daly and Austin Schultz are in the running for catcher and outfield spots.

Shane Marker is moving from right field to center field this season.

It’s a young group overall. Several of the returning players are juniors, but they’re seasoned.

“Our main goal is to win every day with the little things and as the season moves forward the little things will add up, which in turn will make us better,” Iversen said.

The Cougars near beat several of the state’s best teams in 2012, and the players hope they can win a few this time around.

Last year the Cougars lost one-run games to highly-ranked programs from Eagan and Lakeville North, but perhaps their biggest highlight of the season was beating defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Burnsville 9-8 in late April.

South went on to defeat Apple Valley 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs but lost to the eventual state champions from Eastview in the next round.

The Cougars managed back-to-back wins once during the 2012 season. They hope to find out soon if they can get some consistency this year. Friday’s home opener against Burnsville was already rescheduled for April 12. The season opener now is Monday at Eagan.