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Team summaries

Minnesota Duluth Coach: Bob Rients, third season 2007 record: 15-34, 5-12 North Central Conference Current record: 12-7 (through Sunday) Conference opener: Monday at St. Cloud State Key returners (with statistics through Sunday): David Olson (Jr....

Minnesota Duluth

Coach: Bob Rients, third season

2007 record: 15-34, 5-12 North Central Conference

Current record: 12-7 (through Sunday)

Conference opener: Monday at St. Cloud State

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Key returners (with statistics through Sunday): David Olson (Jr., 3B, .388 BA, 13 R, 9 2B, 2 HR, 15 RBIs), Kyle Zweber (Sr., SS/P, 3-0, 1.54 ERA), Cole Hytjan (Jr., P, 3-0, 2.31 ERA), Tony Doherty (Sr., OF, .318 BA, 18 R, 4 HR, 10 RBIs), Bryan Denisen (So., P/OF, .379 BA, 9 R) and Gary Wilfahrt Jr. (So., P, SV, 1.64 ERA).

Outlook: The Bulldogs appear to be much more competitive going into the last season of North Central Conference baseball. The team's stars, Olson and Zweber, have once again been stellar, while the Bulldogs have gotten pleasant surprises by the likes of Hytjan and Denisen, who had only three at-bats in 2007. That, along with the addition of freshmen such as Josh Threlkeld and Ben Heggestad, has given UMD a boost. Threlkeld, of Burnsville, Minn., is batting .313 with 10 RBIs and also pitches. Heggestad, a 6-foot-7 pitcher from Duluth East, is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA. "Last year, to be honest, I asked too much of them," Rients said. "This season everyone is a year older and knows what to expect, and our freshmen have come in and given us a nice shot in the arm. That has allowed me to put guys in a better position to succeed."

St. Scholastica

Coach: John Baggs, 17th season

2007 record: 36-8, 18-1 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference

Current record: 12-3

Conference opener: 3 p.m. Friday at Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D.

Key returners: Blake Eller (Sr., OF, .484 BA, 15 R, 4 2B), Steve Kraushaar (Sr., OF, .400 BA, 10 R, 6 2B, 3 HR, 18 RBIs), Sean Claugherty (So., 1B, .396, 16 R, 4 2B, 9 RBIs), Darrin Carlson (Sr., IF, .373 BA, 13 R, 8 2B, 3 3B), Mike Lewis (Sr., C, .333 BA, 5 2B) and Adian Kummet (Jr., P, 2-2, 2.96 ERA).

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Outlook: The Saints are the winningest program in NCAA Division III this decade and are an overwhelming favorite to win their 12th straight UMAC title. Eller was a D3Baseball.com preseason first-team All-American but was slowed earlier this season by a hamstring injury, which caused him to miss the better part of seven games. Kummet, who has received Major League Baseball interest, still is adjusting to a starting role after being a dominant closer for the Saints the past two years. The pitching staff received a huge boost with the addition of junior lefthander Peter Burg, a transfer from NCAA Division I Valparaiso University in Indiana. Burg is 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA. Baggs notched career victory No. 500 in an 18-2 win over Eastern University on March 4.

Wisconsin-Superior

Coach: Eddy Morgan, second season

2007 record: 9-30, 1-23 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Current record: 12-8, 3-5 WIAC

Conference opener: lost 3-2 to Wisconsin-Oshkosh on March 29; at Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Saturday and Sunday

Key returners: Sean Cummings (Jr., 2B, .400 BA, 32 H, 5 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 8 SB) and T.J. Wink (So., P, 1-2, 2.82 ERA).

Outlook: The Yellowjackets have made tremendous strides over last season in large part because of the addition of 22 newcomers, including six from Mesabi Range Community and Technical College. Junior pitcher and third baseman Joey Hostrawser, who Morgan said has been clocked at 92 mph, has had an impact on the mound and at the plate. Junior third baseman Nate Hedley is hitting .333 and provides pitching depth. Freshman shortstop Mitch Loegering is batting .354 and leads the team with 14 RBIs, while juniors Tim Bouvine (3-2, 1.56 ERA, 27 K, 7 BB) and Justin Saufley (4-1, 24K, 9 BB) give the Yellowjackets the type of pitching they haven't had in more than a decade. "If you get good pitching and make the key plays, you can compete against anybody," Morgan said. "We're excited about the future. We feel next year's recruiting class could be as good if not better than this one, and this class is pretty good."

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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