By James Howell
After another year of playoff disappointment, the Dassel-Cokato Saints went into the winter looking for answers. With the addition of four new players, the Saints believe they finally solved the postseason problem.
“There’s a different smell in the air at Saints Field,” declares manager Mark Forsman. If such a smell exists, Forsman is likely breathing in the aroma of having added a Division II ace. Former St. Cloud State pitcher Chris Kubitz joined the Saints in the off-season and figures to slot in to the top of the rotation. As a senior in 2014, Kubitz struck out 56 batters in 51 innings of work, posting a miniscule 1.59 ERA. “He’s a left-handed pitcher that throws around 90 (MPH). He’s also an outfielder and 1st baseman and can hit,” explains Forsman. After posting a team ERA of 4.55 in 2014, Forsman expects Kubitz to be a big contributor in getting the Saints back to their usual ways of having a dominant pitching staff.
Going into last year, offense was a big question, but those questions were laid to rest after the Saints improved their team average over 30 points from their 2013 mark. As a team, the Saints hit .294, coming in fourth in team hitting in the North Star League.
With the additions of Andy Haataja, Cody Benson and Russ Fellbaum, Forsman expects a similar output from the offense this year.
Haataja looks to see time at shortstop and in the outfield as well. In his time with the Charger baseball program, he led the team in on-base percentage.
Cody Benson comes over from the Cokato Kings where he had a big postseason, helping the Kings advance to the region playoffs. Benson also pitches for Bemidji State, logging 18 innings on the hill for the Beavers this spring.
Russ Fellbaum will see some time in the outfield and previously played for the Flensburg Falcons in the Victory League.
In addition to the new players, many returning Saints look to build off their breakout years. Lucas Larson hit .402 and also handled the pitching staff behind the plate. Kyle Johnson quietly had the third best on-base percentage on the team at .440 while also playing good defense at second base.
John Hohenstein continued his rise into the discussion as the Saints MVP as led the team in average, on-base percentage, stolen bases, total bases, and triples. He can also cover a lot of ground in center field.
With a big year last year, Lucas Larson led all North Star League catchers with a .403 average. Larson also led the Saints in hitting.
On the pitching side, Jordan Flick hopes to bounce back after an up and down year where he had a 4.54 ERA in 75 innings. Flick became somewhat homer prone, allowing five dingers, three more than the next Saint.
Tyler Zweibohmer had another solid year last year with a 3.91 ERA in just under 70 innings of work. He and Kubitz should form one of the best lefty 1-2 punches in the area.
Closer Jordan Danielson remained a steady force out of the bullpen with a 2.54 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.
Also likely to see innings is Karsen Forsman. Pitching out of the bullpen for St. Cloud State, Forsman has changed his delivery as he now pitches with a three-quarter arm slot. This should allow for even more movement on his already good slider. Forsman is also valuable at first base where he had another solid year a season ago.
With an already established core and several key additions, the Saints are serious threats to make noise come playoff time. Fans can look forward to an interesting summer of baseball in Dassel.