Castle Rock’s Sunday surge stars in Hollywood

Written by Bob on June 23rd, 2014

The Castle Rock men’s fastpitch team of Castle Rock, Minn. Photo courtesy of Ken Schonning.

CASTLE ROCK, Minn. – On Saturday the results weren’t favorable, but come Sunday Castle Rock did a complete turnaround to win the Class C Division of the 10th Annual Hollywood Days Tournament.

Held at the Hollywood Sports Complex near Watertown, the tournament had 10 teams entered. After finishing 1-2 on Saturday and scoring just seven runs, Castle Rock qualified for Sunday’s C Division playoffs.

And that’s when the bats started heating up. Castle Rock outscored three opponents by a 32-14 margin starting with a 7-0 victory over Hollywood; followed by knocking off a tough Minnesota Computers / Scandia Fastpitch team, 11-5.

That set up a championship matchup with St. Paul Pawns, who beat Dawson 8-1 to advance. Castle Rock didn’t let their hot bats cool off, and erupted for a 14-9 win that improves the team’s record to 10-6.

The key to the ball club’s success, said manager and catcher Ken Schonning, is getting all his ball players together. When he’s got a full squad, they can cause some damage.

“We had all our players at the tournament,” said Schonning, who has managed the team for 36 of its 49 years. “We needed our sticks because we knew the Pawns are a good hitting team.”

Just how good?

After Castle Rock put up seven runs in the top half of the second to take an 8-2 lead, St. Paul answered back with six runs in their half of the inning to pull even. That upsurge summoned Nick Anderson to the circle to stop the damage. And the right-hander did, holding St. Paul to just one run the rest of the way.

“Nick has a good drop ball on the outside corner,” Schonning said. “He relies on hitting his spots and changing speeds. He did a good job over the last five innings.”

Castle Rock got a huge game from 23-year-old shortstop, Troy Hoeppner, who was 4 for 5 with six RBIs.

Hoeppner is one of several younger players showing great promise, along with the likes of Mike Weidt, 22, and Brock Pedersen, also just 22, Schonning said.

“Troy missed the cycle by a double,” added Schonning. “He hits bombs off any pitcher.”

Schonning is delighted that Weidt and Pedersen came to the team from slow-pitch backgrounds, while Hoeppner has inherited the fastpitch gene.

“Troy’s dad Doug was a phenomenal player who people just stopped to watch hit,” Schonning said, adding that Troy played college baseball.

The Castle Rock team started in 1965, and has been fielding a team ever since in this little community of about 1,500 located eight miles south of Farmington.

“We used to be a team of Castle Rock farm boys,” Schonning said, who took over managing the team in 1977. “We played in the Farmington League until it folded two years a go.”

The town might be small, but the team’s success has been big. Castle Rock has played in four ASA national tournaments, along with winning the Minnesota State ASA Class C championship in 1994.

Schonning says he likes the mix of veteran players such as Anderson, 52, and pitcher Darin Betzold, 55, and his up-and-comers, several who are in their early to mid 20 years old.

“We saw the ball well on Sunday,” he said, “and our younger guys were getting good at bats, quality at bats. Weidt (outfielder) had a 12-pitch at bat fouling off rise balls off Joe Ganther (St. Paul Pawns), a very good pitcher. (Weidt) was really focused.”

Castle Rock has played in the Hollywood tournament every year its been held. The softball facility, said Schonning, is excellent and a great venue for the sport. He also credits three people for promoting the sport in the area.

Joe Swartzer (owner of Hollywood Sports Complex), and Greg “Chopper” Lammers and Richard Quigley (sponsor and manager of Minnesota Computers / Scandia Fastpitch) put in a lot of time and work to make it all possible,” he said.

As for the rest of the year, Castle Rock will continue playing in leagues in St. Paul and at Hollywood Sports Complex, weekend tournaments when scheduling allows, and also plans on playing in the national tournament to be held in Mankato in August.

Meet the 2014 Castle Rock fastpitch team:

  • Villishi Serjo, outfield
  • Nick Anderson, pitcher
  • Scott Herss, third base
  • John Meier, first base
  • Darin Betzold, pitcher
  • Leo Dunham, outfield
  • Mike Weidt, outfield
  • Troy Hoeppner, shortstop
  • David Nowacki, catcher /first base
  • Chris Weyandl, catcher / third base
  • Logan Taft, second base
  • Travis Atkinson, pitcher / third base
  • Ross Charles, outfield
  • Brock Pedersen, outfield / first base
  • Ryan Clark, third base / outfield
  • Terry Dunham / outfield
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