BY DAVE PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
If Rockford has as short of a baseball season like it had last season, the team will be prepared this time with most of the top players returning.
Rockford started last season very late on April 29 because of the cold wet weather conditions and concluded less than a month later on May 24. Last year the team practiced indoors for six weeks and the played 14 league games in three weeks.
Having so many veteran players back in the fold has the Rockets and coach Randy Griffith better prepared to face the challenge if the season is again compacted.
“We will give every single team in every single inning a run for their money,” said Griffith. “We have some of the top pitchers and hitters in the conference. You win with pitching and defense and we are top heavy in those areas.”
Rockford should be able to handle playing double headers a couple days apart because the top four pitchers return. The pitching staff posted the lowest earned run average (ERA) in the past 12 years at Rockford.
Senior George Faue was among the Metro area leaders in both strikeouts and ERA and twice was named conference player of the week. He pitched back to back one-hitters. Faue posted a 0.80 earned run average with 32 strikeouts and just six walks.
The No. 2 starter back is senior Brock Deering, who had a 1.35 earned run average. Junior Drew VanDehey and Nick Tully also return as starters. All are also leaders in the field when not on the mound.
Deering finished the season ranked No. 10 in the metro with a batting of .568. Senior outfielder Brendon Schumacher batted .550, VanDehey hit .421 and Tully batted .364.
Back with varsity experience are seniors Aaron Pietsch and Joe Agre, juniors Tom Reinking and Brady Boeddeker, plus sophomore Tom Traen. Newcomers are sophomores Nick Schultz, Alex Byers and Kyle Bode.
“It is nice to have athletes who I can move around to fill position needs,” adds Griffith. “We have athletes who can hit and field and we have not always been able to say that. We also have guys who want to play ball and are chomping at the bit to get going.”
Rockford’s first game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 7 at Mound-Westonka. The first home game is set for 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 11. Improvements have been made to the baseball field as part of the facilities upgrade.
Last season Rockford earned the No. 6 sub-section seed and lost 2-0 to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted in the first round of the Section 5AA tournament.
Rockford’s George Faue is ranked as one of the top pitchers in the Central Minnesota Conference. (File photo by Bill Nord)