When Al Iversen took over the Prior Lake baseball team in 2019, he had a talented group of juniors and seniors.
All those players are gone now, many to Division I and Division II programs. The juniors on that squad didn’t get to play their senior season last year due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior captains Connor Wietgrefe and Dustan Green got some varsity time in 2019 as sophomores and they are back to lead the Lakers this spring, along with fellow senior captains Lance Goeschel and Beau Rabey.
So what’s the outlook for Prior Lake this spring? Like many programs across the state, sophomores who were on the junior varsity two years ago have now been thrust into varsity spots.
That means success for the Lakers, and likely other South Suburban Conference teams, could depend on how fast the first-time varsity players adjust to the higher level.
Prior Lake opened the spring winning just two of its first seven league games. The Lakers earned a 6-4 victory versus Apple Valley April 15 and beat Burnsville 1-0 April 21 behind a three-hit shutout from Wietgrefe, who struck out five.
Goeschel scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning for the Lakers. He singled to open the frame and later came around to score on a wild pitch with two outs.
Prior Lake’s first five losses to open the season were to Rosemount (7-3), Shakopee (4-3), Farmington (6-2), Eagan (8-6) and Lakeville South (5-1).
Meanwhile, in the win over Apple Valley, Rabey doubled and drove in two runs for Prior Lake. Junior Michael Gabbard also doubled and scored a run, while juniors Harry Fleek and Wyatt Larson, seniors Hayden Fraasch and Wietgrefe each had RBIs.
Junior Lance Behrens went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs (two earned) while fanning three, but got a no-decision. Senior Carter Schuurmans got the win in relief, working 1 1/3 scoreless frames.
Prior Lake’s regular season is scheduled to end May 20 at home versus Eastview. The Lakers will play 20 games before the Section 2AAA playoffs start, including 18 in the SSC.
The goal for Prior Lake in the regular season is to gain steam heading into the Section 2AAAA playoffs. The field is strong with the likes of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Chaska, Chanhassen, Edina, Shakopee and Bloomington Jefferson in the mix.
Minnetonka is the only team ranked in the field after the first two weeks of play, sitting in the No. 3 spot behind top-ranked Mounds View and No. 2 Stillwater.
To get out of Section 2AAAA and to the state tournament takes some solid baseball. In Iversen’s first season in 2019, the Lakers went 2-2 in section play, finishing the season with a 12-12 overall record (9-9 in the SSC).
This year’s Class 4A state championship game is slated for June 18 at Target Field in Minneapolis. The dates and venue for the quarterfinals and semifinals are still to be determined.
Section 2AAAA play will start the week of May 24.