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LP-A baseball takes next step to varsity level

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For two years, the Lake Park-Audubon baseball team has been working to this season.

After playing a junior varsity schedule the past couple of years, the Raider baseball squad has made the jump up to a varsity schedule.

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LP-A added baseball and softball to its spring season sports programs in 2006, with each building up to the varsity schedule this year.

"Two years ago, we had huge eighth grade and sophomore classes, and now these players are 10th graders and seniors," said LP-A head coach Darrin Myhre, who has overseen the building of the Raiders the last two years. "We have seven seniors who deserve a chance to play on a varsity team."

Over the course of 2006-07, Myhre focused on teaching the fundamentals of the game, since the majority of players had only played up to the Babe Ruth level.

During those two seasons playing junior varsity, Myhre saw the progression from his young players.

"The biggest thing is they have the knowledge of the game and have been fundamentally and technically sound," the LP-A coach said. "That was my biggest concern when I started out."

The process also included fitting the right position to the correct player and that has turned out to be a pretty solid defense, Myhre said.

The Raiders do employ a six-man rotation on the mound, providing a deep pitching lineup, but none are especially overpowering type of pitchers.

Meaning, the ball will be put into play.

"Our entire defense is strong and it will be the strength of our team," Myhre included. "Our pitchers are not going to overpower anyone, but they do a good job of keeping the ball low, which will create a lot of groundballs."

LP-A's ace will senior Brandon Lunde, whose strength is location.

Following Lunde in the rotation will be seniors Justin Bergquist and Andy Walter.

A trio of sophomores will also see time on the hill in Caleb Lunde, Tyler Mickelson and Jake Lunde.

All of the Raiders' pitchers are right handed.

The infield target at first base will be Brandon Lunde, when he's not pitching, with senior Alex Cigelske and junior Garrett Davis providing depth.

Junior Kenyon O'Brien will provide an athletic presence at second base, while Caleb Lunde came into his own at shortstop a year ago.

"Caleb has good range, as well and is not afraid to lay out for a ball," Myhre said.

Bergquist, who Myhre calls his best infielder, will man third base.

There will be a rotation in the outfield, with a host of players seeing time in senior Steve Kornovich, Cigelske, Jake Lunde, Walter and junior Mike Olson.

"I like our outfield's speed a lot," Myhre commented.

The plan is to have strong defense, because the biggest challenge of going from junior varsity to varsity is the level of pitching, meaning the offense could struggle some early.

"We hope to keep the score low," Myhre said. "It's a big test for us getting used to varsity pitching when we are hitting.

"It's a big adjustment seeing more change-ups and off-speed pitches. We do a lot of bunting, running and stealing."

The Raiders are not in a conference and will play in Section 6-1A, which includes Bertha-Hewitt, Chokio-Alberta, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Hancock, Hawley, Menahga, Morris, New York Mills, Parkers Prairie, Pine River-Backus, Sebeka, Verndale, West Central, Brandon-Evansville, Herman-Norcross/ Wheaton, Ashby and Hillcrest.

"Our goal is to be competitive by the time the sections roll around," Myhre said.

"It will be a matter of how we adjust to varsity pitching and playing strong defense."

The Raiders, who have lost two games due to weather, will open the season at home at Verndale Friday.

Raider schedule

April

18 Verndale

22 at Ada-Borup

25 Pelican Rapids JV

28 at Pelican Rapids JV

May

8 at Waubun

9 Hawley

15 at Breckenridge

16 at D-G-F

17 at Verndale Tournament

20 Waubun

22 Frazee.

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