New Prague baseball coach Tom Wetschka and his players walked off Joe Schleper Field after a doubleheader loss to Shakopee to conclude the 2013 Missota Conference season. A winless regular season was now in the books for the Trojans.
“Walking off that field with no wins on the season was frustrating for all of us,” Wetschka said. “It was a difficult time for everybody. It was a numb feeling.”
Four days later, the group returned to the same stadium for opening round play in the Class 3A, Section 2 tournament. The Trojans upset Hutchinson 3-1 for their only victory in a 1-20 year.
“The kids knew they could win because we had lost so many close games,” Wetschka said. “It was satisfying to see the kids finally be able to take a deep breath. They didn’t cash it in for the season.”
Little did they know how that victory would serve as a building block for the 2014 season.
“We pulled the juniors who were in our lineup aside at the end of the season, and they didn’t want to go through that again,” Wetschka said. “They learned from last year.”
The Trojans went from worst to first, winning the Missota crown in the final year of the eight-team league, which is disbanding at the end of the school year. They went 12-2 in conference play and finished the regular season with an overall mark of 17-2.
“The difference from last year to this year has been amazing,” Trojans senior shortstop Auggie Isaacson said. He leads the team with 16 runs scored. “We’ve played some really good ball.”
The season opener had an all-too-familiar look to it. New Prague lost 1-0 to Shakopee as Sheldon Miks outdueled Trojans ace Daniel Feneis.
“We had trouble scoring last year, and then we lose the opener 1-0,” Feneis said. “We brought the New Prague baseball program down a bit last year, and didn’t want to go through that again.”
What ensued is the difference between the two seasons. The Trojans went on a 13-game winning streak, averaging more than six runs per game. Feneis finished the regular season with a 6-1 record, three saves and a 1.17 ERA while striking out 67 and walking only six in 48 innings pitched.
“We started getting more respect from teams in our conference and section,” said Feneis, whose team got the No. 1 seed for the section tournament. “Our team chemistry is a lot better this year.”
The Trojans roster includes 16 players, a dozen of whom are seniors.
“All 16 guys have contributed and been leaders this year,” Isaacson said. “We all get along, and are on the same page. We are a family.”
One that is playing with confidence and would like nothing better than to live up to its section seeding. The Trojans’ only state tournament appearance was in 1980.
“We are determined to get to the state tournament,” Feneis said. “The game of baseball works in mysterious ways.”