Townball team’s run of success to be tested by move to Class B
The 2012 season is tough to predict for the Forest Lake Brewers. The local townball team will once again enjoy significant roster stability, but it will be challenged by a move up from Class C to Class B of the Minnesota Baseball Association.
“This will be an interesting year,” said eighth-year manager Adam Gallatin. “I feel that our team is improved from last year, but this is by far the most difficult schedule we have ever played.”
Last summer, the Brewers made it nine straight winning seasons before falling by one run in the Region 1C tournament championship. Following reclassification, this year promises to be more difficult, even in league play. The Metro Minny League dropped Class C teams Rum River and Ham Lake and added Hamel and Isanti, the reigning Class C state champion. Both of the newcomers were among 11 teams get bumped up a class.
“We will have few, if any, easy league games,” Gallatin said. “The Metro Minny over the past few years has been like an arms race, which is one of the reasons we were all bumped up to Class B. This league now has the most talent that I have ever seen. It will make for some close games this summer.”
Of course the change also means that Forest Lake would face stiffer competition should it reach state for the first time since 2009. Fortunately, enough talent is in place to make a run. Every player from last year has committed to return to some degree.
The offense, which hit .284 last summer, will again be deep. Veteran first baseman John Mollner, longtime shortstop Alex Johnson and designated hitter AJ Nielsen led the team with 31 hits apiece last season. The Cremisino brothers, Drew and Ty, hit .357 and .356, respectively, and will take the field at third and second base.
Forest Lake is again deep at catcher. Mike Schultz and Travis Evgen should see plenty of time, and be spelled by Paul Miron.
Outfielder Trip Schultz led the team in hitting in 2011, but his return is unknown after wrist surgery. Luke Schultz, who hit .308, and veteran Mark Miron return and will see time alongside a host of newcomers. Augsburg College ball player Brent Kolbow returns to the Brewers after two seasons away and brings speed to the lead-off position. Alec Johnson was Kolbow’s teammate at Augsburg and is also a Forest Lake High School graduate. Andrew Miron joins brothers Mark and Paul on the roster. Kyle Johnson also returns after some time away.
Nick Carroll will continue his role as an ultra-utility player, while Justin Roeder will provide infield depth.
Dave Gauerke and Mike Swenson will again form a solid one-two punch atop the rotation. Both pitched in at least 10 games while posting an ERA under 3.00 last season.
Veteran closer Matt Zidar struck out 33 batters in 36.2 innings in 2010. He will be set up by relievers Nick Charest, Joe Collier and Andrew Miron.
The familiar lineup and bullpen allowed Forest Lake to start the season earlier than usual.
“We are at a point where our roster is big enough and we have enough guys out of college to field competitive teams this early,” Gallatin said. “Instead of early-season practices, we mixed in a few extra games.”
The complete schedule can be seen at www.flbrewers.com.
Forest Lake fell to 1-2 on the season with a pair of recent home losses.
First, the Class A American Pie Patriots left town last Tuesday with a 7-5, 10-inning victory. Four errors hurt the home team’s cause, as the Patriots scored two unearned runs off Zidar in the 10th. Kolbow and Alex Johnson each had three hits. Gauerke got the start and allowed one run over four innings.
Forest Lake fell 5-1 to St. Paul Blue Package Delivery on Sunday. Gauerke scattered six hits over six innings and allowed one run. Mike Schultz hit a pair of doubles.
The Brewers hosted the North St. Paul Roosters this Wednesday and play at Hamel next Tuesday.