Heading into the 2023 season, the Chaska baseball team has a chance to do something that the program has not done since 1993: win back-to-back conference championships.
Accomplishing that goal, however, could require a difference in production from players and team-wide approach, according to head coach Craig Baumann.
“We’re going to learn a lot as we go from game to game here,” Baumann said. “And these guys are going to learn and progress, and the product won’t look the same as Game 1 to Game 20.”
Chaska had a record-setting regular season in 2022 that ended with an 18-2 overall record and a Metro West Conference championship. As the section 2AAAA no. 1 seed, the Hawks, however, came up short of winning the section title, falling 7-4 to Prior Lake in the elimination bracket.
Now with the 2023 season underway, Chaska is looking to adjust without several key players from last year in order to continue competing for the conference and section championships. The Hawks graduated 14 seniors, several of whom not only graduated but are playing college baseball this spring. Additionally, Chaska’s five All-Conference players from last season all graduated.
With 12 seniors on the 2023 roster, the Hawks still have senior leadership but have less varsity experience given the depth of last year’s lineup. Before the Hawks’ season opener against Wayzata April 13, Baumann said the starting lineup on the field come section tournament time could look vastly different from the first game of the regular season. And with a change in experience could also come a change in approach.
“Last year was like, ‘Alright, we know what we got. Let’s go out there and let’s try to blitz everybody first.’ This year might be a little different approach,” Baumann said. “The game one lineup might be different than the game 20 lineup. It might be totally different just because guys are just inexperienced and we just want to make sure that we’re peaking going into playoff time, that’s our goal.”
Despite those changes, the goal remains the same for the Hawks. Baumann said the culture and expectation of competing for and winning championships late in the season has been instilled and continues throughout the program, even when the roster changes.
Four players Baumann expects to step up for Chaska are the senior captains of the team. Maddox Foss comes in as the Hawks top pitcher, earning the start in the first game of the season and will also play shortstop, and Karsen Atteberry returns as one of the outfielders and was one of Chaska’s better hitters down the stretch last season, according to Baumann.
Other senior captains Isaac Whicker and Matthew Magnuson will be key contributors to the Hawks. Magnuson will rotate between first and third base along with pitching while Whicker will play second base.
At the start of the spring, Chaska was ranked as the No. 7 team in the state, with Chanhassen (No. 3) being the only other Metro West Conference and section 2AAAA opponent in the top 10. Baumann expects the team to be competitive on the offensive side after seeing some production in the first weeks of practice but said the pitching staff will need to step up, with Foss being the main returning pitcher from last year’s team.
Opponents of note on the Hawks’ schedule include No. 6 Andover April 24, No. 10 St. Michael-Albertville May 2 and the rivalry games against the Storm April 28 and May 11. Chaska also plays Class 3A opponents in the Metro West Conference in No. 1 Benilde-St. Margaret’s May 18, No. 9 New Prague May 4 and No. 10 Orono May 23.
Chaska last won two consecutive conference titles in 1992 and 1993. The Hawks are also looking to end their state tournament drought, last reaching the tournament in 2008.
The section 2AAAA tournament is scheduled for May 29-June 8 with the Class 4A state tournament scheduled for June 13-14 and 16 at CHS Field in St. Paul.