Rocori's D-I trio is ready for big baseball season

Rocori's D-I trio is ready for big baseball season

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Rocori's D-I trio is ready for big baseball season

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COLD SPRING

Like the rest of his teammates, Reed Pfannenstein is itching to get out of the gym.

Baseball teams aren’t meant to practice indoors.

“I just want to get outside,” Pfannenstein said.

He’s excited about the season. Everybody on the Rocori baseball team is. The Spartans, ranked 19th in the Class 3A preseason poll, should be good.

They’re definitely talented. Even for as baseball-crazed a town as this is, it’s rare what Rocori has going for it this season.

One would need to go back more than 20 years to find the last time Rocori had three Division I college recruits lacing up the spikes for the Spartans.

In Austin Athmann, Reed Pfannenstein and Jeron Terres, Rocori has three top-level college prospects for the first time since the Spartans won their first state title in 1992.

“I think it says a lot about our community,” said Rocori head coach Jeff Illies, whose father Roger Illies coached the ’92 team that included three future Minnesota Gophers in Todd Stein, Steve Huls and Ben Griffin.

Stein and Griffin were ’92 graduates. Huls graduated in ’93 and spent four seasons in the Minnesota Twins’ minor league system.

All three from the class of 2013 signed in the fall. Athmann is a catcher who is headed to Minnesota and already has received a lot of attention.

“I think he’s handling it fine,” Illies said. “He’s a very humble kid.

“It’s kind of nice for him now because he doesn’t have to impress anybody.”

Pfannenstein is a right-handed pitcher. Terres plays shortstop. Both are headed to North Dakota State, where Terres’ older brother Sean is a freshman on the baseball team. He plans to redshirt and will pitch for the Bison.

“I’m pretty excited to there (North Dakota State) and play an upper level of baseball,” Pfannenstein said. “It’ll be a different team. I’m pretty excited.”

Promising year

All agree it’s nice to have their college choices wrapped up.

“We don’t have anything else to worry about, just high school baseball,” Austin Athmann said.

“We talk about it every once in a while,” Terres said. “Mostly, we’re talking about this high school season.

“We want to win the conference, win the section and keep going back to Target Field.”

The Spartans were second in the Central Lakes last season, going 11-3. They were 16-8 overall and scheduled to open with defending CLC champion St. Cloud Apollo at 7 p.m. Thursday at Dick Putz Field, weather permitting.

“I think we’re going to be good as a team,” Pfannenstein said. “We’ve got a big senior class. We’ve got some really good players. Hopefully, we can make a run for it.”

Loaded

There is indeed more talent than just Athmann, Pfannenstein and Terres. Derek Schlangen is a right-handed pitcher headed to Division II Southwest Minnesota State.

The coaching staff is also very high on right-hander Jake Hennen, who also plans to play college ball.

There’s also left-hander Dylan Jude, one of 14 seniors on the roster. Junior Justin Kunkel also pitches.

That’s the making of a potentially outstanding rotation.

“Look at them,” Rocori pitching coach Russ Huls said. “They’re men in high school uniforms already. That’s an advantage. They’ve all played a ton. It’s a good combination. They all work hard and they’re gifted.”

Outfielders Adam Dingmann and Mac Mueller have accepted football scholarships. Dingmann, a linebacker, is headed to Minnesota-Duluth.

Mueller, a quarterback, is going to Bemidji State.

Illies sees Pfannenstein and Hennen playing first, with Connor Nelson, Marshal Wirtzfeld and Nate Hinkemeyer at second, Terres and Kunkel at short and Schlangen and Derek Kuechle at third.

Blake Holbrook plays the outfield. Chris Skluzacek is also a very good catcher, Illies said.

Athmann will handle most of the catching chores, of course. He has a great arm and is outstanding defensively. He also is an outstanding hitter who said he is looking forward to attending Minnesota.

Athmann said he has attended “four or five” Gopher games already, having checked out the revamped Siebert Field, which re-opened this season.

Athmann has a quick answer for what it will take for the Spartans to have a good season.

“Everybody playing together and playing to your potential,” Athmann said. “Don’t get down on yourself when things go wrong. Just have fun.”

“Definitely have fun,” Terres said.

“Try to stay off the roller-coaster,” Pfannenstein said.

Now if they can just get outside …

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