The 2011 Gustavus baseball team will have a lot of new faces battling for playing time due to five field starters and four starting pitchers lost to graduation, however Coach Mike Carroll thinks his young team has good potential and he has been pleased with the dedication and effort the team has put in during the pre-season.
“Even though we are very young, I think this group has the potential to grow into a very competitive squad,” stated Carroll. “We are going to use our spring trip to get everyone’s roles defined and get ready for the challenging conference schedule when we return.”
Pitching is a question mark as senior Cody Sukalski (Blue Earth, Minn./Blue Earth Area) is the only returning starter. Sukalski compiled a record of 4-6 in 11 appearances last year with an ERA of 3.93 in 55 innings of work. Sophomore Tim Miller (Eden Prairie, Minn.) is also a key returner on the pitching staff, however Coach Carroll is not sure yet whether Miller will be a starter or serve as the closer in the bullpen (a decision that will likely be made on the Spring Trip in Arizona). Miller was 3-2 in nine appearances last season with an ERA of 6.11 in 28 innings of work. Sukalski will play second base and Miller will play centerfield when they are not pitching. Others expected to battle for a spot in the starting rotation include juniors Bryce Bintzler (Woodbury, Minn.) and Tom Jaede (Eagan, Minn./Holy Angels), sophomore Connor Norris (Omaha, Nebr./Creighton Prep) and freshman Kellan Euerle (St. Cloud, Minn./Tech).
The team has good depth in the infield giving Carroll lots of options. Sophomore Drew Block (Rochester, Minn./Mayo) returns as the starting first baseman where hit .337 and had a .986 fielding percentage in 33 games last season. At second base, Sukalski will be joined by a pair of freshman Scott Benjamin (Northfield, Minn.) and Mike Holbrook (St. Cloud, Minn./ROCORI). Freshman Derek Lieser (Cold Spring, Minn./ROCORI) and sophomore Max Laureano (Plymouth, Minn./Breck) will vie for the starting role at shortstop, while senior Kyle Rains (Farmington, Minn.), junior Taylor Fish (Brandon, S.D.), and freshman Matt Lilledahl (Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) are battling for playing time at third base. Rains hit .452 last season with 33 hits in 73 at-bats and Fish hit .297 with 19 hits in 64 plate appearances. Behind the plate, junior Mitch Johnson (Hastings, Minn.) and freshman Dave Tranvik (Robbinsdale, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret) will combine to handle the young pitching staff.
In the outfield, Carroll will look to Miller in centerfield where he started 36 games last season and hit .313 with five doubles, two triples, and three home runs, while driving in 28. Juniors Erik Sveen (Shorewood, Minn./Minnetonka) and Kevin Roth (Richfield, Minn.) will share time in left field with Roth also serving as the designated hitter and freshman Kellan Euerle and Matt Lilledahl will share duties in right field with Euerle also pitching and Lilledahl playing some third base.