Preview: Woodbury baseball is back for more
The Woodbury boys' baseball team ended its season last spring doing what few teams in the state could — winning a game.
The Royals defeated Lakeville North 7-1 on June 17 at CHS Field in the Class 4A third-place game to finish its season with a 23-4 record.
While the Royals lost a talented group of seniors that made them one of the top teams in the state, they have plenty of players back this spring who once again have high expectations.
"We had a bunch of guys that are just like family for everyone," star pitcher Max Meyer said about last year's team. "It was just so fun playing with all of them. We stayed loose, and we just had a good time and we played well together. It's going to be a good group of guys this year, too."
The future University of Minnesota player Meyer will help lead a group of pitchers that saw plenty of varsity action last year. Talented No. 2 pitcher Brady Mundahl graduated last spring, as did closer Tyler Gustafson. Returning varsity pitchers this season will include seniors Nolan Glunz and Brodie Paulson and junior Jack Horman.
"That part of the crew is back still," head coach Kevin McDermott said after talking about the varsity pitchers. "We're going to call on a couple of young guys to help out there and fill some roles."
Ronnie Sweeny is back as a first baseman who often hit third in Woodbury's talented lineup last spring. Meyer will also help stabilize the infield as a shortstop when he is not on the mound, and Glunz and Gus Newman are back as outfielders.
Those players helped Woodbury earn its second appearance ever in the Minnesota State High School League baseball tournament last spring.
"Last year was special because it was our last year playing with the age above us," said Newman, who was out of practice last week while battling an illness. "We've been playing with them since we were about 10 years old. When they graduated, I think we lost more chemistry than anything."
The Royals split the Suburban East Conference title with Forest Lake last spring after both teams finished with records of 13-3 in conference play. Woodbury won all four games in the Class 4A, Section 4 tournament to earn a spot in the state tournament.
"It was a lot of fun coming out and playing good baseball," said Sweeny. "We had very few errors; we put runs up. We just beat teams."
The Royals once again feel like they have a talented enough team to contend for another Suburban East Conference title and have a chance to win another section title. To do that, they will have to compete with challenging conference opponents including Forest Lake, Stillwater and Cretin-Derham Hall.
"We want to be in the mix, that's for sure," McDermott said. "We feel like we can be a top-end team. But it's going to come down to being mentally tough enough and winning those close games."