Dylan Dresel wasn't pleased with his 2012 baseball season. The lifelong shortstop wasn't hitting as well as he knew he could. He made some mistakes in the field he knew he shouldn't have made.

But the hardest part was Forest Lake failed to make it to the state tournament, ending a three-year string of appearances. Pride in the program made that rough junior season even tougher to swallow.

"At Forest Lake, we expect to get to that state tournament," Dresel said. "When you don't get there, it's a big disappointment. We were all motivated to get back."

No player was motivated more than Dresel, who put in tireless work throughout the summer and offseason to shore up all areas of his game. He played with the Minnesota Blizzard and worked with coach Adam Barta over the summer. A few changes were made to his swing.

It all paid off for the senior co-captain.

Dresel hit .479 with 14 doubles with one home run and 14 RBI while scoring 23 runs and swiping four bases. Head coach Tal Gravelle couldn't have been happier with his leadoff hitter. Dresel consistently put together quality at-bats. Not only did he find a way on base, but he demonstrated serious gap power to advance runners on the basepaths.

He was a spark plug at the top of the order all season.

"He did an amazing job of igniting our offense," Gravelle said. "He was our guy. He was our catalyst."

In the field, he was an anchor. A slick-moving, smooth-handed, target-throwing anchor as the leader of the infield. Dresel locked in a .919 fielding percentage while making nine double-plays, none of which were sweeter than a gem against Cretin-Derham Hall.

Down 9-0 on the road against a conference rival, the Rangers had battled back to take the lead in the top of the seventh inning. With the game on the line and the Raiders batting in the bottom half of the inning, Dresel made a diving stop up the middle and turned a double play. Forest Lake preserved the victory and earned a share of the Suburban East Conference title.

"He had a lot of big defensive plays for us this year," Gravelle said. "This year he was just so consistent."

Due to the condensed spring schedule, Dresel was even asked to pitch for the Rangers early in the year. It was the first time he took the mound since he was in ninth grade. He earned a victory to boot.

Most importantly, the Rangers returned to the Class 3A state tournament with a 4-3 victory over Grand Rapids. They were eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual state champion Mounds View in a thrilling 2-1 game, with the Mustangs scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

College baseball is in Dresel's future. He visited Minnesota State Mankato last Monday and considers it one of his top options, along with the Des Moines Area Community College and Angelo State University.

The disappointing 2012 campaign pushed Dresel to become the player he is today. It also helped put the Rangers' accomplishments in perspective.

"It makes you realize how special it is to get to a state tournament," Dresel said. "It's not easy to get there. We were glad to be back."