by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Last year the Maple Grove Crimson won the Northwest Suburban Conference baseball championship with a 17-2 record. They lost in the Section 5AAA championship round to Totino Grace and finished 20-5 overall.
Many of the players on that team have graduated and Crimson coach Darby Carlson will have to plug in many positions with players new to the varsity level.
Maple Grove does return several solid veterans. Returning pitchers are all conference senior lefthander Tyler Field (7-0 with a 2.02 ERA and 49 strikeouts) and senior righthander Erick Kivi (4 – 0 with a 2.65 ERA).
Key returning position players are all conference senior centerfielder Joe Franta (.365 batting average and 24 runs scored) and freshman shortstop Isaac Collins, a solid defensive player.
Prospects Carlson are looking to contribute are senior outfielder Austin Bies, senior third baseman Ben Osborn, senior second baseman Alex Benson, senior pitcher/infielder Brady Meyerm, senior second baseman Corey Palyan, senior catcher Nate Gilman, junior pitcher/infielder Riley Byland, junior catcher Blake Whitecotton, junior outfielder Jack Kuebelbeck, junior first baseman Nathan Erickson, junior pitcher Mitchell Scott, junior second baseman Gavin Sanford, sophomore outfielder Adam Brant and freshman pitcher/infielder Brett Shulze.
The Crimson may be young but Carlson and his tradition-rich program should field a team that will be competitive, especially when the younger players gain experience.
“We are returning a squad with limited varsity experience with many questions to be answered in a short amount of time,” Carlson said. “Our starting pitching should be competitive with seniors Field and Kivi leading the way but our defense will need to be solid,” Carlson said.
Carlson looks for Champlin Park, Coon Rapids and Elk River to be the top teams in the conference.