The Lakeville South baseball team hasn’t had a winning season since the school was founded in 2005. That doesn’t mean the program isn’t gaining momentum and moving forward.
The Cougars are coming off an eight-victory season, tied for the second-most victories in school history for a single season. With it came their initial appearance in the Class 3A state tournament, and one of their victories.
“We are looking to improve on what we did last year, and continue from where we left off in the playoffs,” Cougars coach Allen Iversen said. “However, this is a totally different team. We lost 12 seniors from last year’s fourth-place state tournament team.”
Lakeville South’s current roster is comprised of five seniors, eight juniors and one sophomore. Only three of the 14 have varsity experience.
“Two of the three have a follow season under their belt and understand the difference between varsity baseball compared to the other levels,” Iversen said.
The trio with varsity experience are seniors Nick Ducaj and Jon Saign and junior John Price. Price was the only everyday starter in the group.
“We’re a young team with very coachable players,” Cougars senior Brady Wohlers said. The captain is an outfielder/pitcher who missed all of last season with a torn hip flexor. “We’ve all learned how to win,” he said.
Wohlers thinks the game that got the Cougars headed in the right direction was their final regular-season game of a year ago. The Cougars defeated Burnsville 4-1 to finish the regular season with a 2-17 mark. They then went 6-3 in section and state tournament play to finish 8-20.
“I think that was the game that helped propel the team,” Wohlers said. “I think it proved that we weren’t cursed.”
The Cougars opened this season by splitting their first two South Suburban Conference games. They lost to Apple Valley 12-4 before bouncing back to shutout Rosemount 2-0.
“Against Rosemount we got timely hitting, and great pitching from Nick,” Iversen said.
Junior catcher Kelby Johnson caught Ducaj’s masterpiece. He was called up to the varsity for the section and state tournament run a year ago.
“We had a terrible 2-17 season,” Johnson said. “Then to be a part of the section and state team was amazing. Our expectations now are to be a lot better team.”
Johnson has caught the Cougars’ first two games this year. He didn’t start working at that position until eighth grade.
“We told the players that the game of baseball is like putting a puzzle together and sometime finding the right pieces takes sometime” Iversen said. “We will look throughout the season to find those right pieces and have them all in place as we make our way through the season.”