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Paynesville Press - April 3, 2002

Baseball team wants to improve its defense

By Michael Jacobson

Defense was the Achilles heel of the varsity Bulldog baseball team that finished 6-12 last spring, but coach Brad Skoglund expects defense to be a strength of the team this year.

A year ago, the Bulldogs allowed 35 unearned runs in 18 contests, nearly two per game and more than a third of their total runs allowed. "Last year," explained head coach Brad Skoglund, "we didn't play good enough defense. We let games slip away because of our defense."

This year, though, he expects defense to be a strength of the team. "I think our strength is going to be defense," he said. This year, the varsity team may have to rely on defense, pitching, baserunning, and timely hitting to win games, especially in a strong conference.

St. Cloud Cathedral, who reclaimed the conference title last year after the Bulldogs unseated them in 2000, won the state title last year. The Crusaders are rated #1 in state to start the year.

Skoglund expects three or four teams in the conference could be rated in state this year, as Melrose started four sophomores and took second in the conference; Sauk Centre has pretty much everyone back; and Albany has its top two pitchers back.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us in conference," said Skoglund. "In our conference, we're going to have to play our 'A' game all the time."

"That said, I think the subsection race is wide open," he continued. "I expect we can compete for the section title."

Thirty-three players are out for baseball this spring, including 12 juniors and seniors. They started practice on Monday, March 18. They were scheduled to play their first game on Thursday in Annandale, but now it looks like their first game will be on Monday, April 8, at Kimball.

"The kids are doing a great job. We've really worked hard," said Skoglund. "Our practices have been extremely good. As a coach, I'm extremely pleased."

A projected lineup for the team is: senior Wes Lieser and junior Dustin Humbert at first base; seniors Ryan Schneider and Max Meagher at second; senior Pat Rohe and junior Russell Leyendecker at shortstop; senior Jeremy Fuchs and sophomore Adam Kampsen at third; junior Josh Kampsen and Schneider catching; and senior Nick Fuchs, senior Craig Thomes, senior Scott Buermann, junior Josh Krupke, and Leyendecker in the outfield. (Nick Fuchs suffered a broken ankle in wrestling and will not be available until later in the month, at least.)

On the mound, Skoglund expects to start Jeremy Fuchs, Josh Kampsen, and Adam Kampsen. Fuchs led the team a year ago in ERA at 2.71, and Skoglund said he has been throwing the ball very well this spring.

Skoglund expects to use Lieser and Leyendecker in relief.

"Our pitchers have to keep us in the games," he said. "When we see outs, we've got to make plays."

On offense, the Bulldogs may have to manufacture some runs, especially against the tough pitching - especially left-handed pitching - they can expect to see in the conference. "We're going to have to find ways to score runs," said Skoglund. "If there's one thing I'm concerned about, it's run production."

One thing in the Dogs' favor is their team speed, with Skoglund calling this year's squad the fastest he has coached.

"We've got some fast guys," he explained, "but we need them to get on base. We need them to go to first base instead of the dugout after they bat."

Leading returning hitters for the Bulldogs are Meagher (.365), Adam Kampsen (.454 in 11 at bats), Schneider (.289), Jeremy Fuchs (.270), and Rohe (.250).

The coaching staff for baseball is the same this year. The varsity coach is Skoglund, and his assistant is Dick Realdsen. The junior varsity coach is Ron Fuchs, and the ninth grade coach is Tom Ludwig.

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