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Preview: New Life Academy baseball returns with lofty goals

Zach Thor makes contact with a ball in a game last season against St. Paul Academy. File photo / Bulletin

The New Life Academy baseball team was just a few runs short of qualifying for the Class 2A state tournament last season.

Head coach Dave Darr said it was a good season overall for New Life Academy in their first since moving up from Class 1A to compete in Class 2A. But the Eagles had two opportunities in the double-elimination Class 2A, Section 4 tournament to defeat Minnehaha Academy and qualify for the state tournament.

The Redhawks won both games 1-0 and 8-4 to earn a spot in the state tournament where they eventually won the state title.

"At the beginning of the year, if you told us we would get second in the section and we would lose to the eventual state champion, I think we would have accepted that just off of what we had lost," Darr said. "But the fact that we were there and felt that we could compete with Minnehaha, and we did. Yeah, it was disappointing."

New Life Academy hopes to get another shot at making a section run this season. Some of the Eagles' top hitters graduated from last season, including Thomas Gunderson, Bradley Goulet and Simon Killeen.

But Henry George is back after coming within just one hit of the state record for most in a season after he slugged 53 hits.

"It's one of his goals this year, we talked about that," Darr said. "He's put on some good weight, some good muscle. He has worked hard."

George and Zach Thor are returning as the team's top two pitchers from last season. But New Life Academy will need a few other pitchers to help fill the workload after graduations. Adam Busch also decided not to play baseball this season after pitching and playing second base last year.

The Eagles will enter this season with lofty goals once again. They hope to contend for another Minnesota Christian Athletic Association title to add to their recent run in the conference.

"Our first goal is we want to win our conference," Darr said. "We have won it three years in a row, and I believe we've lost one conference game the last three years. We want to do that, that's kind of the staple."

New Life Academy won Class 1A state titles in 2015 and 2014 before moving up to Class 2A last spring. The Eagles hope they can make another section run this season to once again have an opportunity to qualify for state.