Laker pitching to be work in progress
Questions abound for the Detroit Lakes baseball team as it enters the 2009 season, and most of them center around this year's pitching rotation.
But there are some answers as well, with up to six seniors back with some solid experience from a year ago.
"We have a nice core of seniors back and most of them have a significant amount of playing time last year," said DL head coach Steve Fuhs. "We did lose a lot of quality innings from our pitching, though, and lots of at bats in the middle of our order."
Leading the pitching staff will be junior Brock Johnson, who started breaking out during last summer's Legion season.
The tall pitcher harvested confidence over the course of last summer and should be DL's ace this season, Fuhs said.
"Brock has confidence in himself and last year and the way history has been for us, our leading pitcher usually can eat up innings and throw strikes," Fuhs added.
Pitching depth will be the issue, as not a lot of pitchers return with much experience.
Senior Reed Oistad will be looked upon to contribute as a starter, as well as senior Nick Polejewski.
"Reed will be looked upon to give us some quality innings and Nick had some good games last year," Fuhs said.
A wildcard in the bunch will be senior Kyle Muckenhirn, who missed the 2008 season with a knee injury.
"Kyle looks like he can help on the mound," Fuhs said. "It's been two years since he's played, but he has nice velocity on his pitches.
"The question will be can he throw strikes and mix in some offspeed?"
The Lakers will also rely on a host of juniors on the hill, which includes Alex Guetter, T.J. Manning, Tyler Fode and Brett Provo.
Sophomore Connor McLeod also will have an opportunity to see some varsity action on the mound.
"There's some experience there on the lower levels and it's looking like they can throw strikes," the DL coach said.
Defensively, the Lakers return solid production up the middle in Oistad at shortstop and senior Aaron Gnoinsky at second base.
Senior Max Knoll also will man centerfield to complete the strength up the middle.
There will be a new platoon at first base in Muckenhirn and Polejewski, while Johnson will handle third base duties when he's not pitching, along with McLeod.
There will be competition in the outfield, with Knoll solidifying center, with a number of players vying for the right and left field jobs.
They include senior Dillon Cole, Fode, Manning, Guetter, juniors Andy Pederson, Joe Thompson and Dan Engberg.
"Those outfield positions could be determined by who can hit at the plate," Fuhs said. "We'll need some offensive production from those spots, as well."
Calling the game and handling the pitchers will fall to senior Brandon Johnson, who has the most experience at catcher.
Others who have played catcher on junior varsity include Engberg and Pederson.
"I see the catcher position as being the second most important one on the field," Fuhs said. "It will be determined who can play the best defense behind the plate."
The Lakers will have some decent bats in the middle of the lineup in Oistad, Polejewski, Gnoinsky and Johnson -- who have the most experience back.
"Hopefully those guys can lead us, especially early on in the season where it will take our younger guys some time to get adjusted to varsity pitching," Fuhs said. "I think we can hit the ball hard and in the gaps, too. Our kids also can run.
"The most important thing is putting the ball in play and not strikeout."
DL will be looked upon to be a contender for the Mid-State Conference title, an honor they captured last year.
Fuhs also sees the Lakers being a top four contender in Section 8-2A, with Pelican Rapids being the favorite.
"Pelican is senior laden and Perham is solid, as well," Fuhs said. "But it will all come down to pitching."
Assisting Fuhs this year is Terry Eiter, while Mike Even is the B-squad coach and Jake Blow the ninth-grade coach.
DL opens against Pelican Rapids at home Tuesday, April 14.
Detroit Lakes 2009 baseball schedule:
14 Pelican Rapids
17 at Fergus Falls
21 at Park Rapids
23 at Bemidji
24 Thief River Falls
28 at Staples-Motley
1 Pequot Lakes
5 at Crosby-Ironton
12 Wadena-Deer Creek
15 at Frazee
19 at Moorhead
21 at Thief River Falls.
Laker roster -- Seniors: Reed Oistad, Nick Polejewski, Dillon Cole, Max Knoll, Aaron Gnoinsky, Kyle Muckenhirn, Brandon Johnson, Matt Blanchard...Juniors: Dan Engberg, Tyler Fode, Alex Guetter, Andy Pederson, Brett Provo, Joe Thompson, TJ Manning, Brock Johnson...Sophomores: Connor McLeod.