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Baseball: Park Rapids looks to be in conversation with top teams in conference, section

The Panthers return seven letterwinners from last year's team that posted a 7-16 record.

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Being counted on to lead the Park Rapids baseball team during the 2022 season are seniors (from left) Domingo Castro, Isaiah Olson, Nick Michaelson, Jaxson Lund, foreign exchange student Antione Durand, Kobe Burton.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

PARK RAPIDS – With the top two pitchers and all four infielders returning, head coach Kevin Murphy is counting on the Park Rapids baseball team being a serious threat in the Mid-State Conference and Section 8AA ranks this spring.

A year ago, the Panthers had a 7-16 overall record, but were competitive in the majority of their games. Murphy expects his team to put another competitive team on the field and improve on last year’s record.

“Every season we expect to compete and this season is no different,” said Murphy. “Our expectation is to compete in every game and put ourselves in positions to win.”

Letterwinners back to claim starting sports for the Panthers this season are seniors Isaiah Olson (pitcher, shortstop), Jaxson Lund (second base), Kobe Burton (catcher) and Nick Michaelson (third base); junior Ethan Eischens (first base); and sophomores Noah Larson (pitcher) and Noah Morris (infielder).

Olson (.278 batting average, 23 runs scored, seven RBI, 3-4 record), Eischens (.322 average, 20 RBI, 18 runs scored) and Lund (.231 average, 14 RBI, six runs scored) earned all-conference honorable mention honors last season. Larson returns on the mound after going 3-2 last season while Lund (0-1), Michaelson (0-1) and Eischens (0-1) will also be counted on to pitch this season.

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The Panthers have to replace five spots, including the entire outfield that consisted of last year’s senior trio of Josh Crandall, Cole Ackerman and James Hartig. Brody Hagen, Park Rapids’ starting catcher who hit .373 with 18 runs scored and 14 RBI to earn all-conference honors, and Chaise Persons, who played shortstop, also graduated.

Looking to fill those sports will be senior Domingo Casto and foreign exchange student Antoine Durand; juniors Hunter Harrison, Cory Johnson, Michael White, Mason Ylineimi and Aidan Yliniemi Hensel; and sophomores Eil Burton, John Christensen, Quinn Hoscheid, Matthew Johanning, Reed Sharp, Anthony Tyge and Sawyer Torkelson.

“We have a lot of open spots that are going to provide opportunities for younger guys to play,” said Murphy. “It’s hard to say where anyone is going to play at this point, but we are excited to see who can step up and perform this season.”

Park Rapids, which averaged 5.4 runs a game while allowing 8.6 runs a game, went 3-7 in conference games to trail Detroit Lakes (10-0), Aitkin (7-3) and Pequot Lakes (5-4-1). Trailing the Panthers were Crosby-Ironton (2-7-1) and Staples-Motley (2-8).

For the Section 8AA tournament, the Panthers received the No. 6 seed in the North and opened the tournament by defeating Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 6-5 before seeing the season end with a 12-0 loss in five innings to No. 2 Roseau and a 12-9 loss to No. 4 Thief River Falls. Wadena-Deer Creek defeated Perham 5-0 and 3-2 in nine innings in the Section 8AA championship games.

If the Panthers can find more pitching and fill the other starting spots, Murphy feels his team can compete with the top teams in the conference and section.

“Last year we played a tough schedule. Wadena went to the state tournament, Perham was in the section championship game, Aitkin took third at the state tournament and New York Mills went to the Class A state championship game last year. There are a lot of great baseball programs in our section and conference. Playing good competition makes us better and I expect to see us take the next step this season and join that list of teams in contention for a conference and section title,” said Murphy. “We want to be in the conversation with the top teams in our conference and section. I believe that we can compete with anyone in our section and conference. We have a lot of talent on this team, and if we can put it all together, we will compete with everyone on our schedule. We have a lot of tough teams to play on our schedule, but we expect to make a run in the section tournament.”

SEASON SCHEDULE

April 19 – at Aitkin (2), 4 p.m. April 22 – at Hawley, 4:30 p.m. April 26 – at Detroit Lakes (2), 4 p.m. April 28 – vs. Staples-Motley (2), 4 p.m. April 29 – at Perham, 5 p.m.

May 2 – vs. Crosby-Ironton (2), 4 p.m. May 3 – at Pequot Lakes (2), 4 p.m. May 5 – at Thief River Falls,. May 9 – vs. Menahga, 4:30 p.m. May 12 – vs. East Grand Forks, 4:30 p.m. May 17 – vs. Frazee, 4:30 p.m. May 19 – vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 4:30 p.m. May 23 – vs. Crookston, 3 p.m. May 24 – at New York Mills, 4:30 p.m. May 26 – at Bagley, 4:30 p.m.

RELATED STORIES
After trailing by 19 points in the second half, the Panthers respond before falling 64-63 in a Mid-State Conference game.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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