Prep baseball: New-look Eagles off to good start

Prep baseball: New-look Eagles off to good start

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Prep baseball: New-look Eagles off to good start

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St. Cloud Apollo interim baseball coach Adam Savolainen is breathing some rarefied air these days.

His Eagles lead the area in victories with one and he has yet to lose a game as head coach.

Obviously, he’s not impressed about these achievements.

“We haven’t seen any conference games,” Savolainen said. “We haven’t even had a practice outside.”

If the weather cooperates, Apollo’s home opener would be against Rocori at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Dick Putz Field.

“I’m pretty excited about playing the conference favorite right away,” Savolainen said.

Apollo is the defending Central Lakes Conference champion.

The Eagles were 22-3 last season, led by a strong senior class that included Times’ player of the year Reese Gregory, who is the stopper in St. Cloud State’s bullpen this spring.

“It’ll be tough replacing those guys, especially Reese,” Apollo senior captain Brandon Bloch said. “All those guys were great athletes. But we have a lot of new kids eager to play.”

Apollo opened with a 5-2 win over Farmington on April 3 at the Metrodome.

It’s one of a handful of games played indoors as no one in the state has been able to play outside because of recent snowstorms.

“It was a good game,” said Bloch, who also was a captain on the football and hockey teams. “It was definitely different playing in the Metrodome.

“We hit the ball at times, strung together a couple of hits and did the little things right.”

Doing little things well is what the Eagles believe they’ll have to do in order to compete in 2013.

“We maybe don’t have a lot of big-name talent,” senior captain T.J. Frericks said. “But we should have a lot better chemistry this year.”

Late hire

Salvolainen became the coach just before the season because Nik Peterson was suspended by the school district right after the girls basketball season for reasons undisclosed because of the Data Practices Act.

He later resigned his coaching positions, including being an assistant in football.

It meant Savolainen, in his eighth year in the program, became the interim head coach.

“You don’t plan on something like this,” Savolainen said.

“When the situation comes up, because of the timing of it, the administration chose someone on the staff.

“It’s definitely something I wanted. I just didn’t know it was going to happen now.”

He said it has been an adjustment. Bloch and Frericks approve of how he is handling the team, saying indoor practices have been intense but upbeat.

“His practices are high intensity,” said Bloch, who is thinking about going to St. John’s for either football and/or baseball or to North Dakota State for engineering. “He’s been working us hard in the gym.”

Strong on mound

Frericks, a senior left-hander, emerged last season as a key pitcher. He’ll be the team’s ace. Senior right-handers D.J. Smith and Bloch also are expected to be key starters.

“As of right now, we don’t know our entire pitching rotation,” said Savolainen, a social studies teacher who also coaches football.

Around the horn, senior catcher Erik Jarosch returns. He’s excellent defensively and will be asked for more of a role on offense.

First base should be manned by senior Matt Danielson with Frericks and juniors Michael Ashwill and Zach Overboe in the mix.

Smith and senior Sam Leapaldt will play second.

Junior Cooper Lynch will play short. Bloch returns at third.

The outfield includes sophomore Ben Alvord in left, junior captain Ethan Carlson in center and senior Jordan Keller in right field.

Dallas Haugen figures to see playing time as well.

The team views the outfield, which is quick and athletic, as a strength. Alvord is the Eagles’ starting quarterback in football. Carlson is a returning starter and lightning fast. Keller is a three-sport athlete who played soccer and hockey.

With the schedule condensed because of the inclement weather, Apollo will play many doubleheaders and will have five- and six-game weeks.

“I think we should be pretty good this year,” Frericks said. “We’re going to be younger, but we have a lot of guys who have experienced winning in football and hockey (the Eagles qualified for the state tournament).”

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