BHS spring previews: Baseball: Experienced pitching staff should lead Jacks this spring
BEMIDJI — Last spring the Bemidji baseball players and coaches were chomping at the bit to go to work. With two consecutive trips to the state tournament on the resume, including a second-place finish in 2012, the Lumberjacks were eager to make another run at the state title.
And the prospects appeared bright as a stable of talented pitchers were back from that 2012 squad.
Before the end of the first week of competition, however, Bemidji’s hopes for a state appearance took a hit as one by one the pitchers were felled by injuries and the coaching staff had to dig into the roster to find the right players to take the mound.
Among the pitchers who were forced to sit out the 2013 season was Ryan Hirt who felt a twinge in his elbow an inning into his initial appearance. The previous year Hirt was among the top hurlers in the state and the lone blemish on his 10-1 record came in the state Class 3A championship game when the Jacks lost 1-0 to Eastview at Target Field.
A year of rest did wonders for Hirt’s elbow, however, and the senior is ready to return to the mound. Also back is fellow senior Collin Rutledge who, by necessity, assumed the top spot in the rotation last spring. Complimenting the staff are junior Seth Anderson and senior lefty Gabe Salander.
“Our expectations are that the pitching staff will be strong this year,” said BHS coach Mike Fogelson. “Ryan is back and is fully healthy. Collin is a lefty and was our ace last year. He also is back and looking very good. Seth was our No. 3 starter last year and the junior is looking strong and Gabe pitched some for the Legion last year and also looks very good.
“We’re very excited about our group of pitchers.”
Bemidji’s pitching staff also includes many pitchers who gained valuable experience with the Legion and VFW programs during the summer and who will also be pitching candidates this spring.
“We’re hoping to be strong at the top with our pitchers,” Fogelson said. “Collin had to develop by necessity last year. He was going to be our No. 3 but he ended up being our ace and that experience will be a tremendous help to us this year.
“All of our pitchers are looking strong. We have arms that look alive and we are feeling good about our staff.”
Fogelson also is pleased with the development of his position players and said that battles for playing time will the norm and not the exception.
“We have many young kids who gained experience with the Legion and the VFW during the summer and there is tough competition for the starting nine,” the coach said. “We have only four seniors but our junior and sophomore classes are very strong. And that makes for great competition.”
Among the early-season candidates for the infield spots are sophomore Erik Fitzgerald at third, junior James Hendricks at short, junior Parker Lucas at second plus Hirt and junior Lucas Goins at first.
Also in the mix for the middle infield spots are juniors Seth Anderson and Cody Anderson plus sophomore Tony Geerdes.
“Erik started at third for the Legion and was one of the team’s top hitters,” Fogelson said. “James is healthy again and Parker started at second much of last season. Lucas also saw lots of action at first base for the Legion.”
Catchers senior Thomas Revering and junior Austin Wiedemann are back so the Lumberjacks should be strong behind the plate.
The battle for the outfield positions continues and Fogelson plans to take his time making those decisions.
“We can’t establish any outfield positions until we get outside,” the coach said. “Collin is our primary returning outfielder but we have many guys battling for the starting positions.”
That group includes Legion and VFW veterans Dan Johnson, Tyler Geerdes, Jake Leitner and Ben Thompson.
“We’re a young team,” Fogelson said. “During the first week of practice we had 58 players out, including 27 freshmen and only four seniors. We’re really excited about this team’s potential. It all starts on the mound and we will be strong there. We’re hoping to put a solid nine players on the field and with our schedule, which includes five doubleheaders into our first 11 games, we’ll be able to work 15 or 16 kids in those games and that will enable us to see who rises to the top.
“Everybody on the team feels that they are in the mix but those doubleheaders will give us the opportunity to see where everybody is at,” the coach continued.”
Coach: Mike Fogelson
4/3 at Brainerd (PPD)
4/10 Moorhead (DH) 4 p.m.
4/15 Alexandria (DH) 4 p.m.
4/21 at Grand Rapids (DH) 1 p.m.
4/26 Eagan (at Grand Rapids) noon
4/26 Eden Prairie (at Grand Rapids) 3 p.m.
5/1 Warroad 4:30 p.m.
5/2 Fergus Falls 5:30 p.m.
5/8 Thief River Falls 4:30 p.m.
5/9 Hibbing 4:30 p.m.
5/12 at G.Forks Central (DH) 4 p.m.
5/16 Des Sagedahl Classic 4 p.m.
5/17 Des Sagedahl Classic 10 a.m.
5/19 at Detroit Lakes 4:30 p.m.
5/22 Brainerd (DH) 4 p.m.
5/26 8-3A tournament (high seed) TBD
5/29 8-3A tournament (high seed) TBD
5/31 8-3A tournament (high seed) TBD
6/3 8-3A tournament (high seed) TBD