By Chad Courrier firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — For the last three seasons, Mankato Loyola baseball coach John Landkamer could pencil in Shane Sellner as the starting catcher or pitcher, and throw his name down in the third or fourth spot in the batting order.
Nothing’s changed this season, whenever it starts, as Sellner is one of only two seniors on the Crusaders’ roster.
“We’ve had a pretty good run of catchers here for the last 10, 15 years,” Landkamer said. “We’re fortunate to have Shane back there.”
Loyola needs to replace a lot of graduated talent, including the entire infield, as it begins the season, but Sellner has lent some consistency to the program.
Sellner, who has made a verbal commitment to attend Southwest Minnesota State in the fall, batted .379 last season with four doubles and 15 RBIs, and he walked 16 times, pushing his on-base percentage to .506. Sellner also pitched in seven games, with a 3-2 record and 4.99 earned-run average. He struck out 26 batters and walked 19 in 26.2 innings.
In his career, which covers 58 games, Sellner has 78 hits, batting .392 with 12 doubles, one triple and two homers. He’s driven in 47 runs and scored 61. Throughout the winter, he and several teammates would meet at least twice a week, before school, at an indoor batting cage to get some swings.
“I kind of have mixed emotions,” Sellner said. “It’s fun to get going, but that also means my final season is closer to being over.”
The other senior is Mark Kortuem, who will pitch and play first base. He batted .222 with a double and nine RBIs, and he was 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA, striking out 21 and walking 12 in 18.1 innings.
“Both of our seniors are great leaders,” Landkamer said. “They have experience and played in a lot of games. They can really help our younger players.”
Loyola, which was scheduled to open the season last week, has already postponed four games, meaning the schedule again will be compact. Landkamer said the Crusaders’ might be better equipped with pitching depth to handle the workload this season.
John Fink, a junior, was 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA, and junior Brett Taylor might get some innings.
“I don’t know if we have a standout, but we have good depth, which is important if we end up playing a lot of games in a short period of time,” Landkamer said.
Junior Jake Peller will be back in right field. Last season, he batted .315 with 13 RBIs. Other outfielders could be juniors Ryan Leiferman and Taylor Barnes and sophomore Noah Rajtar. The infield could have four new faces, with juniors Will Cipos and Austin Ellingworth in the mix.
“We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of baseball,” Sellner said. “In other years, we’ve had a lot of guys whose positions were solidified going into the season, but it’s different this season. It’s going to be super competitive at some positions, and you’re going to have to win your spot.”
The Crusaders have a game scheduled for Tuesday at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial. Three years ago, the Crusaders lost in the section championship game, and last season ended in the section semifinals.
This is the last chance at the state tournament for the two seniors.
“It would mean a lot,” Sellner said. “We’ve been so close in the last few years, and that makes us want it even more.”