North nine set to defend conference crown

North High School’s baseball team finished as the Metro East Conference co-champion with Mahtomedi in 2015. They tied for first with identical 14-2 records and finished five games ahead of third-place St. Thomas Academy.

Graduation hit both the Polars and Zephyrs pretty hard and North head coach Ron Adams doesn’t anticipate anyone running away with the league title this year.

“I think our league is going to be very close because I don’t think there is a superior team that is going to run away with it,” said Adams. “Anybody is going to be able to beat anyone else. It’s probably as even as I’ve seen it in quite a while.”

Despite the loss of the team’s top two pitchers from last season, Adams feels North has a chance to contend in the Metro East again this spring. The Polars return five starters, including senior staff ace Louie Varland.

“I think we’ll be okay,” said Adams. “Obviously not the knockdown we had last year but we should still be all right. Varland will be tough and we’ve got a couple guys behind him who are capable. If they get more consistent, we’ll be in good shape.”

Other returning starters include senior Jim Bothwell, who plays second base. Senior Dylan Foote is the regular catcher and will also pitch and junior TJ Wagner is another pitcher the Polars will turn to for innings.

Run production could be a bit of a challenge this spring. 

“We’re going to have to work to get runs I think,” said Adams. “Hopefully, we can pick it up. I’m optimistic.”

The rest of the teams in the Metro East should also feel some optimism as the season begins. Like North, Mahtomedi graduated two of its top pitchers from last season. Those pitching losses should bring the co-champs back to the pack a little.

Adams singled out Simley, South St. Paul and St. Thomas Academy as teams to watch out for in 2015. 

“Simley’s got a few highly-regarded guys,” Adams said. “South St. Paul has a couple of pitchers — one is going D1 and the other is going D2. St. Thomas will have something. They’ve got a new coach. They’re going to be there.”

Even though the number of players out for baseball is down a bit, Adams and the Polars still have another run at the league title as a goal.

“I think our long-range goal is to win the conference,” said Adams. “I’m not going to say we’re going to do it but I think if we work hard enough we have a chance to do it.”

The Polars kick off the season with a busy week that features four games. North hosted South St. Paul on April 11, travels to Hastings on April 13, hosts Tartan on April 15 and visits White Bear Lake on April 16.

The schedule continues next week with road games at Henry Sibley (April 18), St. Thomas Academy (April 20) and Simley (April 22).

The White Bear Lake game is one of four non-conference tilts on the Polars’ schedule this season. North also faces Roseville, Stillwater and Park-Cottage Grove, all of whom are members of the Suburban East Conference. The game against Park-Cottage Grove on May 12 is scheduled for Siebert Field, the home of the University of Minnesota baseball team. 

Of the seven other teams in Section 4AAAA, North plays five during the regular season. Only Cretin-Derham Hall and Woodbury are not on the Polars’ schedule this spring.

 

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

2016 North High School softball schedule

April 11

April 13

April 15

April 16

April 18

April 20

April 22

April 25

April 27

April 28

April 30

May 2

May 4

May 6

May 9

May 11

May 12

May 13

May 16

May 18

vs. South St. Paul

at Hastings

vs. Tartan

at White Bear Lake

at Henry Sibley

at St. Thomas Academy

at Simley

vs. Hill-Murray

at Mahtomedi

vs. Roseville

at Stillwater

at South St. Paul

vs. Hastings

at Tartan

vs. Henry Sibley

at St. Thomas Academy

vs. Park at Siebert Field

vs. Simley

at Hill-Murray

vs. Mahtomedi

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

12 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

3 p.m.

7 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

4 p.m.

7 p.m.

4:15 p.m.

7 p.m.

 

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