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Calvin Bateman capped off his senior season by earning Mid-State Conference honors and the Panthers' Most Valuable Player award.

Panthers cap off season on high note

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     Mike Baumgartner’s main goal for the Park Rapids boys tennis team in his first season as head coach was to see his players peak at the end of the season.

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     The Panthers accomplished that goal by closing out the season by playing their best tennis.

     After going 0-8 in dual meets during the regular season, the Panthers earned the No. 5 seed for the Section 8A tournament. Park Rapids ended the year by battling No. 4 East Grand Forks in a 4-3 loss in a section quarterfinal match.

     Park Rapids opened the season with a 7-0 loss to Bemidji, a 6-1 loss to Grand Rapids, a 6-1 loss to East Grand Forks and 7-0 losses to Detroit Lakes and Thief River Falls.

     At the Mid-State Conference tournament, the Panthers finished third with 4 points. Detroit Lakes won the conference title with 12 points while Long Prairie-Grey Eagle was second with 5 points. There were only three teams in the conference this season since Perham/Wadena-Deer Creek dropped boys tennis.

     The Panthers ended the regular season with a 7-0 loss to Crookston and 6-1 losses to Fergus Falls and Bemidji.

     In the section tournament, the Panthers swept the three doubles matches, but East Grand Forks prevailed by sweeping the four singles matches. Thief River Falls, the No. 1 seed, edged No. 2 Fergus Falls 4-3 to win the section title for the 11th year in a row. Thief River Falls finished fourth at the state Class A tournament. Thief River Falls was rated as high as No. 6 while Fergus Falls was rated as high as No. 10 in the state Class A poll during the season.

     For the season, the Panthers were competitive in doubles by going 4-7 at No. 1 doubles, 3-8 at No. 2 doubles and 3-8 at No. 3 doubles. In singles, the Panthers went 0-11 at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles and 1-10 at No. 4 singles.

     “We had a tough section and we played some tough competition,” said Baumgartner. “We played well at the end of the season.”

     Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Calvin Bateman and Iain Wallace; juniors Alex Boyd, Jeff Dickinson, Tristan Hendrickson, Jackson Kimball and Jaden Olson; sophomores Bobby Bruce, Nick Lopez and Marcus McKeever; and freshman Nick Porozinski. Also seeing some varsity time were junior Andrew Zinke, sophomore Jacob Bridgman, freshman Nolan Booge, and eighth graders Evan Booge and Kyle Piepkorn.

     Bateman and Dickinson earned Mid-State Conference honors after winning the conference title at No. 1 doubles. That duo went 4-4 at that position and received the No. 8 seed in doubles for the section tournament. Bateman and Dickinson won their first section match before being eliminated in the quarterfinals. Bateman also went 0-3 at No. 1 singles and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player while Dickinson went 0-1 at No. 3 singles.

     Lopez was an all-conference honorable mention player. Lopez placed third at No. 1 singles at the conference tournament and was the No. 10 seed in singles for the section tournament. Lopez also won his first section match before being eliminated in the quarterfinals. For the season, Lopez went 0-4 at No. 1 singles, 0-2 at No. 2 singles and 2-2 at No. 2 doubles. Lopez was named the team’s Most Promising Player.

     Kimball and Olson finished second at No. 2 doubles at the conference tournament and were the No. 7 seed in doubles for the section meet, losing their first match. That duo went 0-2 at No. 1 doubles, 1-2 at No. 2 doubles and 2-1 at No. 3 doubles during the season.

     Wallace and Porozinski placed second at No. 3 doubles at the conference tournament. Wallace played six different positions, going 0-1 at No. 1 singles, 0-1 at No. 3 singles, 0-4 at No. 4 singles, 0-1 at No. 1 doubles, 0-1 at No. 2 doubles and 1-2 at No. 3 doubles. Porozinski went 0-3 at No. 1 singles, 0-1 at No. 3 singles, 0-2 at No. 2 doubles and 1-2 at No. 3 doubles.

     Bruce played the No. 2 singles spot most of the season, going 0-6 at that position and placing third at the conference tournament. Bruce was the No. 8 seed in singles for the section tournament and lost his first match. Bruce also went 0-1 at No. 3 singles, 1-0 at No. 4 singles and 2-1 at No. 2 doubles.

     McKeever finished third at No. 3 singles at the conference tournament and compiled an 0-3 record at No. 2 singles, an 0-3 record at No. 3 singles, an 0-1 record at No. 4 singles, an 0-2 record at No. 2 doubles and an 0-2 record at No. 3 doubles.

     Hendrickson placed third at the conference tournament at No. 4 singles and went 0-4 at No. 3 singles and 0-3 at No. 4 singles during the season.

     Boyd went 0-1 at No. 2 doubles and 0-3 at No. 3 doubles.

     Also contributing on the varsity were Zinke (0-1 at No. 4 singles and 0-1 at No. 3 doubles), Bridgman (0-2 at No. 3 doubles), Nolan Booge (0-1 at No. 2 doubles and 0-1 at No. 3 doubles), Evan Booge (0-1 at No. 4 singles) and Piepkorn (0-1 at No. 3 doubles). Evan Booge was named the Panthers’ Most Improved Player.

     Looking ahead to next season, the Panthers have two key spots to replace with the graduation of Bateman and Wallace. However, with 14 players who saw varsity action returning, Baumgartner is counting on more improvement from the Panthers next spring.

     “Calvin and Iain did a good job leading the team. We have to replace them, but I see a lot of promise,” said Baumgartner. “The only way to make big strides is to play in the summer. If the kids put the time in, we could be an OK team next year.”

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