The bar is set for the New Life Academy baseball team.
The Eagles started their spring season with a 9-2 loss against Minnehaha Academy on Wednesday, the reigning Class 2A state champions. The game at Fort Snelling was a rematch of the Class 2A, Section 4 tournament from last spring when Minnehaha Academy won two straight games against the Eagles to advance to the state tournament.
After losing on Wednesday, New Life Academy now has an idea of how well it will need to play to have a chance at winning a section title.
"We've got to play good competition if we want to be successful and compete," head coach Dave Darr said. "Hopefully this benefits us in the long run, our young guys knowing what we have to do and how prepared we have to be and focused from the get-go."
Leading 1-0 after one inning, Minnehaha Academy scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning and two more in the third to pull ahead 6-0.
The Eagles scored both of their runs in the fourth inning when Zach Miller and Justin Hamil came around to score.
Minnehaha Academy forced New Life Academy starting pitcher Henry George from the mound after he pitched three innings and allowed three earned runs, with six runs scoring total. The patient Redhawks drew walks and forced George to throw a lot of innings.
"They've got a few returning players, and I knew they were going to be tough," George said. "They put together some good at-bats, they didn't really chase a lot of pitches. I struggled to find the fastball command a little bit."
Alexander Jordan was 3-for-4 at the plate for Minnehaha Academy while scoring two runs. Steven Johnson and Bennett Theisen each also scored twice for the Redhawks.
Five different players collected hits for New Life Academy, with Noah Rodriguez and Peter Bouillon both connecting on doubles.
The Eagles hope to continue getting better against top opponents as their young players gain confidence over the course of the season. Five of the players in New Life Academy's lineup on Wednesday were sophomores or younger, with some playing limited varsity innings last season.
As these young players get accustomed to the varsity game, Darr expects them to keep improving.
"They are good enough to play," he said. "They just have to understand that they are good enough, and we believe they are good enough. Once they do that we're going to be okay."