A tall, hard-throwing, D-I caliber pitcher is a pretty good place to start when trying to put together a high school baseball roster. Most teams, however, aren’t so lucky.
The Magic baseball team will have a lot of new faces on the varsity this year, but there is nothing new about their most key cog, Nick Zwack, who is committed to continuing his baseball career at Xavier University next season.
The talented left-hander had a dominant junior season and is expected to lead Monti’s quest for bigger and better things in 2017.
Coach Cole Deibele said at the top of Monti’s wish list this year is a better postseason performance. Monti has been eliminated early in three consecutive postseasons, and Deibele is hoping this is the year they change that.
To do so, they’ll be counting on a number of guys to fill holes left by last year’s strong senior class.
“We’re pretty young,” said Deibele. “We have a lot of new guys playing.”
The only two returners with multi-year varsity experience are Zwack and Tommy Blackstone, set to become a three-year starter as just a sophomore. Beyond that, the Magic won’t have a ton of experience, but Deibele believes they have a lot of ability.
“I’m sure it will take a little while to mesh, but the talent is definitely there,” he said.
Blackstone has a lot of that talent. The sophomore will move to the shortstop position this season after manning the outfield the past two seasons. He’s looking to build off a freshman campaign where he earned All-Conference honors.
“I can only imagine that every year he’s going to continue to progress,” said Deibele. “He acts like a senior, and plays like it as well.”
That maturity doesn’t go unnoticed. Blackstone was voted a team captain for this season.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Deibele. “The guys and coaches have a ton of faith in him.”
Beyond the two top dogs, the coach feels like it should be a balanced group.
“I think we’re going to get really good quality baseball out of a lot of other guys,” said Deibele.
Seniors Mitch Bjellos and Dylan Zetah, junior Brady Boeckers, and sophomores Alex Otto, Ethan Bosacker and Isaac Frandsen are all expected to have key roles. Three different players are currently vying for the catcher job, with Tanner Mros, Dominic Severson and Tyler Klatt jockeying for the position.
Monti should have good depth on the pitching mound, which will be more important than ever with the Minnesota State High School League implementing new rules this season in regards to pitch count and rest for pitchers.
“We do have a lot of pitching, we’re excited about that,” said Deibele. “We have a lot of guys that put in a ton of time in the offseason.”
The fourth-year head coach said Otto has the looks of a No. 2 guy behind Zwack. After that, Monti has a bevy of kids in the running to get innings, including Hunter Kisner, Blackstone, Bosacker, Frandsen, and Tristan Hageman.
It’s a staff that should give Monti a chance to find success on a daily basis, led by an ace who gives the Magic a chance against any team in the state.
“All the kids are really excited when [Zwack] gets on the mound, knowing we’re going to be in every game he pitches,” said Deibele.
The coach said every opposing team is well aware of Zwack by now too, but that the weight of expectations seems to have no bearing on the three-sport star.
“Fortunately, Nick handles pressure really well,” he said. “He’s just going to go out there and be the same old Zwack.”
Deibele is hopeful the same old Zwack, the same old Blackstone, and a lot of new talent are enough to push Monti to a strong regular season and set up a chance for some overdue postseason success.
“You gotta take it one game at a time,” he said. “But our goal is to get another good seed. We want to be in the top-four so we can host.”
Monti starts the season Tuesday by hosting St. Michael-Albertville at 4:30 p.m. One game to circle on the Magic schedule this year is against Rogers on April 15th. The Magic and Royals will square off at 1 p.m. at the University of Minnesota’s Dick Siebert Field.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com