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Bemidji State's Matt Hietala takes his turn in the batting cage at the John Glas Fieldhouse under the close watch of the coaching staff. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji State baseball team preparing for season in John Glas Fieldhouse

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Until last year, the usual sounds emanating from the John Glas Fieldhouse during winter months were from slapshots and body checks.

But when the Bemidji State University hockey teams moved to their new digs at the Sanford Center, things changed at the Glas. Now you hear the slaps of baseballs hitting leather gloves and the boinks of line drives jumping off metal bats.

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While waiting for spring-like weather outdoors, the BSU baseball team is practicing in the Glas, which is filled with screens, nets, pitching machines and batting tees.

"We've been doing this for about a month now," Beavers head coach Tim Bellew said. "We try to break it up in phases. The first two weeks are working on fundamentals and now we are trying to get up to game speed. Getting to game speed indoors is not easy. We utilize this facility and the (Gillett Recreation-Fitness Center) to have simulated games. It is not the same, but it gets the kids ready."

One season after posting the most victories in nearly a decade, the Beavers enter this season ranked 10th in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference preseason coaches' poll.

"We are a much better team than we were last year or four years ago when we made the playoffs," Bellew said. "The problem is that the conference has gotten so vast. It is always a battle no matter who you play."

This year's squad features only four seniors returning from last year's team that went 18-29 overall and 12-21 in the NSIC.

One of those seniors is outfielder Juan Molero from Venezuela. He is in his second season at BSU.

He hit a team-high .322 with two home runs and 14 runs batted in last season.

"I want to try to become more patient when I am hitting," Molero said. "I want to wait for the perfect pitch to square in on."

Despite only having only four seniors, the Beavers still have plenty of experience thanks to a dozen juniors.

Of those 12, one of the most notable is pitcher/first basemen Logan Kalis.

Kalis hit .297 with one home run and 15 RBI last year. On the mound, he went 3-1 with an earned run average of 4.94.

"I want to raise my batting average," Kalis said. "On the mound, I would like to throw more strikes and get the ERA down a little bit."

Adjusting to playing indoors is something that comes easier to Minnesota native Kalis than to Molero.

"It is pretty tough," Molero said. "It makes it hard to get a lot of things done, but we do what we can."

Playing indoors will be a trend as the Beavers play their first four games at the Metrodome in Minneapolis before heading to Arizona for the 2012 RussMatt Greater Phoenix Invitational.

"They get excited," Bellew said of his players playing at the Metrodome. "It is a great opportunity to showcase our program in the Twin Cities."

BSU did not play at the Metrodome last season because of the roof collapse.

"It is not very different from playing outdoors, but it is pretty cool," Kalis said. "It is also nice playing in 60 degree controlled heat than out in the cold."

Molero is eager to play in the Metrodome for the first time.

"I am really excited," Molero said with a grin. "My family is coming from Venezuela just to see me play at the dome."

Bemidji State will play Minnesota State Mankato at the Metrodome on Feb. 22 to kick off its 2012 campaign.

Minnesota State was pegged No. 1 in the preseason NSIC poll.

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Pioneer staff reports
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