Zach Loven, along with teammate Cole Albers, was one of the two juniors starting on the Champlin Park baseball team during its run to the Class 4A state title game in 2016.
Just one season after finishing as the Class 4A state tournament’s runner-up, Champlin Park wasn’t expected to be able to advance to the state tournament this season. After losing 14 seniors, just Loven and Albers remained from the 2016 state runner-up squad. Loven and Albers, after being two of the team’s youngest players a year prior, were suddenly thrust into a leadership role, something the pair believed they were prepared for.
“Last year [the Class of 2016 seniors] taught me a lot of the little things about the game and really worked on fundamentals,” Loven said. “They taught me to keep a routine and to play the game the right way.”
For Loven, one of the players he was able to mentor was his younger brother, junior Max Loven. After being on separate teams growing up, Zach was happy to end his Champlin Park career playing alongside his brother.
“It’s fun, it’s nice that we can drive together and our parents can go to the same games,” Zach Loven said. “It’s really fun to play together, especially because it’s my last year.
“This really made this a special last year.”
The year was also special for Max, as he was not only able to play alongside his brother, but he was also able to get his first crack at playing at the state’s highest level.
“We’ve [played together] when we were little, but it was fun to play on the varsity team,” Max Loven said. “It has been the most fun this year because we played against the top talent around.”
When the season first began, Zach was entrenched as the Rebels’ starting centerfielder, while Max was a relative unknown. At the end of the season, Zach was the Rebels’ leading hitter after ending the season with a .305 batting average, while Max paired with Albers and fellow junior Michael Ulland to give Champlin Park a solid top three pitchers. Max ended the season with a 0.91 earned run average and struck out 34 batters in 30 and two-thirds innings.
“[Learning from Zach] helped me a lot, because I just got to sit back and watch him and see how they did stuff,” Max Loven said. “Once the time came this year I was ready because of the experiences [Cole Albers and Zach] had already gone through.
“My success has to do with everybody. The defense, the run support from the offense giving me a chance to win, the coaches believing in me from the start even though I was a new guy, it had to do with everybody’s support.”
Zach was happy to see his younger brother achieve success at the varsity level.
“It was nice to see because people didn’t really know Max, really,” Zach Loven said. “They all called him Loven’s brother at the beginning and now people know he is good and can play pretty well at this level.”
Growing up together, the two Lovens said life was fairly simple, as they didn’t fight much and bonded over baseball.
“[Growing up with Zach] was fun, we did everything together my whole life,” Max Loven said. “We would always play baseball together, we would play catch and we just did everything together.”
While the two rarely fought, Zach and Max said they constantly competed against one another growing up.
“We’re super competitive, we compete all the time,” Zach Loven said. “Pretty much everything we try to win, no matter how dumb the game is we’re trying to win because we think we’re better than each other, obviously.”
With Zach having graduated following the 2016-17 season, Max knows it is his responsibility to fill his brother’s shoes and lead the Rebels next season. Taking a leadership role on the baseball team will be just one of the many changes for Max next year, as Zach will be moving on to college.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” Max Loven said. “It’s going to be a completely different thing for me because our entire lives we have lived in the same house, gone to the same school, but next year with him not being there I don’t know what to expect.
“It will be new and I guess I will try to make it fun.”
Follow Sun Post sports editor Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris and on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.