Another good year for Orphans baseball team
It’s been a pretty normal occurence in recent seasons for the Howard Lake Orphans to advance to the Class C state tournament, and the 2014 season was no different.
The Orphans finished as the third seed in the Region 12C Tournament, locking up a trip to state, which this year took place in Jordan and Belle Plaine.
Howard Lake kicked off the state tournament with a 5-0 win over Montevideo, and followed that up with a nice 3-2 win over Waconia to advance to Labor Day weekend.
Unfortunately, the season came to an end for the Orphans in the round of 16 with a 10-2 loss to Jordan, in Jordan.
Jordan jumped all over the Orphans early in that game, scoring eight runs in the first inning.
Despite the tough end, the Orphans still enjoyed a fantastic season, and finished the 2014 North Star League regular season with an impressive 20-2 record, which was tied with Maple Lake for the best record in the league.
In NSL action in 2014, Luke Gagnon led the Orphans with a .368 batting average, while Eric Schreifels led Howard Lake with three home runs and 22 RBIs.
On the mound for the Orphans, Adam Koch led the team with a 7-1 record, and a 1.43 ERA in 63 innings pitched.
Also having a strong year on the mound for Howard Lake was Shane Khan, who was 8-1 with a 2.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 52-plus innings pitched.
Mike Gagnon is the Orphans long-time manager.
Town team baseball in Howard Lake goes back a long way, starting in 1905.
Back in 1905, they were named the Blue Sox.
Throughout the early 1900s, Howard Lake eventually lost the nickname, but gained a new one in 1947.
Playing their home games in Cokato that year, as their field was being refurbished and couldn’t be played on, they started getting called the Orphans, and the name stuck.
The Orphans made their first state tournament appearance in 1951.
Town team baseball in Howard Lake ceased from 1942-1946 due to World War II, but the Orphans took back to the field after the war, and thrived until 1967, when the team folded.
The 1970s and 1980s were a dark period for town team baseball in Howard Lake, as they had no team, with many players playing in neighboring towns.
The team did try to come back in 1991, and also fielded a team in 1992, but then folded again.
That is when a group led by current manager Mike Gagnon and Kevin Gruenhagen started the Orphans back up, and it has been a success ever since.
Howard Lake has advanced to 12 state tournaments, with their first one coming in 1951, followed by 1995, 1998, 2001, and finally 2006 through 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
The Orphans play their home games at Memorial Park in Howard Lake, which is located on the shores of Howard Lake.
Over the past decade, the park has seen a number of improvements, including seating behind home plate, a batters’ eye, and a grass infield, among other improvements.
All of those improvements, along with more to come, have made Memorial Park one of the best baseball fields in the area.
Prior to the 2009 season, new dugouts and a new backstop were added to Memorial Park.
In 2011, due to high water conditions on Howard Lake, Memorial Park’s outfield was flooded by the lake, which forced the Orphans to move their playoff games to Loretto.
Work has been done to fix the outfield, as it was damaged due to the flooding by the lake.
Getting Memorial Park back to great condition was big for the Orphans, as they were one of three teams to host the 2013 amateur state tournament, hosting the opening round of Class B state games.