Irish baseball team starts 2-1

Maldonado, Lanoue lead deep pitching staff

The new standards governing pitcher use should not cause any disruption for Rosemount, Irish coach Chris Swansson said.

There’s now some extra busy work involved, such as registering pitch counts to the Minnesota State High School League website (with penalties involved if pitchers go over their limits), but on the baseball field there should be few changes.

The pitch count limits, including a regular-season maximum of 105 for a pitcher working on at least three days’ rest, are “basically the same as we were using on our own,” Swansson said. “We’re very conscious of protecting kids’ arms. I don’t anticipate the rule affecting us at all this year because we have a lot of guys who can throw.”

Rosemount went 2-1 in its first three games of the 2017 season, defeating Hastings 3-0 last Friday before losing to Eastview 6-2 in its South Suburban Conference opener Tuesday. The Irish defeated Eagan 7-1 on Wednesday.

Junior Aidan Maldonado, a University of Illinois commit, started against Hastings and pitched the first six innings. On Tuesday, Eastview ace (and University of Minnesota recruit) Danny Kapala struck out eight Rosemount hitters in six innings. The Lightning, one of three teams that shared the 2016 SSC championship, scored three runs in the seventh inning to pull away.

Maldonado and senior Griffin Lanoue are expected to be the Irish’s top two pitchers. Lanoue, who signed a National Letter of Intent this week to play baseball at Xavier University, will be at shortstop most of the days he doesn’t pitch.

Most of the Irish’s other pitching candidates saw time on junior varsity last season. That groups includes seniors Blake Tamminen and Logan Holper, and juniors Cole Kraemer, Cole Schnichels, Collin Chalmers, Keenan Wenzel and Jacob Brown.

“Pitching depth is going to be a big deal for us,” Swansson said. “Especially if you have some postponements and you have games backing up, you’ll need to have a lot of pitchers.”

They’ll throw to senior catcher Ethan Engdahl, who’s in his fourth year as a starter.

Outfielders Nick Magnusson and Alec Schimmel came through at the plate against Hastings with two hits each. Magnusson, a sophomore who can pitch, catch and play third base, also drove in two runs.

Senior Nathan Ebeling is the lone outfield returnee. Kraemer and Maldonado also could see playing time in the outfield.

As for the infield, first baseman Dan Johnson is a returning starter. Wenzel could be in the picture at one of the infield spots, particularly on the days when Lanoue vacates shortstop to take the mound.

During spring break in late March, the Irish went to St. Petersburg, Florida, to practice. They also had scrimmages against teams from Wisconsin, New York, Ohio and Illinois. “We hit the ball hard, made some good plays in the field and were able to give our pitchers a lot of work,” Swansson said.

Rosemount started 5-1 last season but struggled coming home, winning only three of its last 16 games. Offense was an issue; the Irish were held to one run or none eight times. Runs could be at a premium in the South Suburban this year as almost every team in the league returns quality pitching.

Swansson said he’s told his players not to get too wrapped up in the conference standings and the way they will fluctuate. “Our kids need to understand it’s a process,” the coach said. “We think we’re better than we were last year, but there are still a lot of good teams in our conference. If we lose a game, it might not mean we played poorly; it might mean we faced a good pitcher who was on his game. But playing in our conference is a good way to get ready for the playoffs.”

The Irish will play host to Lakeville North at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Rosemount goes to Alimagnet Park to face Burnsville at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 17.