The Region 6 baseball tournament picture is beginning to look a lot like it did last year.
The defending regional champion, Bishop Ryan hopes to make a repeat appearance at the state tournament, but just like in 2013, Velva-Drake-Anamoose is standing in the way.
But the Aggies came up short last season. This year, they're hoping to take the next step.
"Right now our guys have the midset, that we got close last year but didn't exceed our goals," V-D-A coach Matt Weidler. "We're taking things one game at a time, taking a good approach in practice and in game situations."
Last season's Region 6 regular-season champs, the Aggies still boast an unblemished regional record in 2014, including a 6-4 win over the Lions at Corbett Field.
Junior Isaac Effertz leads V-D-A in a number of offensive categories: batting (.515), hits (17) and runs scored (21). Junior Marcus Mack and sophomore Seth Vedaa are tied for the team lead in RBIs (12).
The Aggies have just six seniors on their 22-man roster, but Weidler insists his team is experienced.
"It's a veteran group," Weidler said. "They've played a lot of baseball, whether in high school or during the summer. They've taken it upon themselves to get ready and put themselves in a good position for the end of the season."
V-D-A (6-0 Region 6, 14-1 overall) dispatched Central McLean in a doubleheader Thursday - 11-0 and 8-1. The Aggies battle Ryan at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Velva.
Iowa-bound Hochhalter has eyes on state
A number of Division I schools came knocking on Carrington track star Kayla Hochhalter's door during the offseason.
It was a reality she'd been waiting for since her athletic career began.
"It's always been a goal of mine," Hochhalter said.
The University of Iowa won Hochhalter's signature in the spring, but the Carrington senior still has work to do for the Cardinals before heading south.
Carrington claimed the Class B state championship in girls track and field last season, and Hochhalter's contributions were a big part of that.
The senior thrower took state in discus with a distance of 135 feet, 5 inches, 10 inches further than her nearest competitor. She also finished second in shot put (41-2.5) and third in javelin (135-1).
She hopes to challenge for state titles in all three events this spring.
"If I could win state in all my events, that would be amazing," Hochhalter said. "That's what I'm shooting for."
Her coach, Greg Hoeckle, praised his senior for all the hard work she puts in, something he believes sets a good example for his younger athletes.
"Anytime when you have success like that, it trickles down through the rest of the team," Hoeckle said. "Our younger athletes get a chance to learn from our upperclassmen, who have had a lot of success. Hopefully the program will continue to build off of that. Her effect will be felt for years to come."
The Panthers finished 11th at last season's state meet, but their hoping to do even better in 2014 with a host of returning athletes.
Rugby junior Brad Heidlebaugh, a sixth-place finisher in discus last year, is currently third on the team in scoring with 54.5 points. Junior Nolan Hovland leads all Rugby scorers with 57.
"As long as we stay healthy, I think we've got a chance to be competitive," Rugby coach Scott Grochow said. "We've got several kids back who were state qualifiers last year, and they're starting to do some pretty nice things this spring."
Hovland has already qualified for the state meet in the high jump. He also won the 300 hurdles (43.85) and the high jump (5-1) during Thursday's Peace Garden Conference Meet.
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.