Tiger baseball hopes to stay on the upswing

Several newcomers looking to replace graduated players

Farmington’s Spencer Merle takes a big swing for the Tigers in 2012. He’s one of the team leaders back this spring. (Photo by Rick Orndorf)

Farmington’s Spencer Merle takes a big swing for the Tigers in 2012. He’s one of the team leaders back this spring. (Photo by Rick Orndorf)

Farmington baseball head coach Mike Winters said he hopes to compete for the top-half of what he called an “extremely tough Missota Conference” this spring.

With loaded teams such as Red Wing and Shakopee, the Tigers hope to find a winning combination with eight veterans returning from a 7-13 team.

The team’s leading hitter, Spencer Merle, is back after batting .435. He was also one of the Tigers’ leading pitchers last season, working 23 innings.

He’ll bat third for the Tigers and start in center field when not pitching. They’ll need his arm a lot this season after losing two of last year’s top pitchers to graduation.

“Pitching will continue to be a work in progress,” Winters said. “We have a few quality underclassmen to do the starting and a variety of upperclassmen to do the finishing.”

Jon Hinks pitched several innings in 2013 along with Kevin Olund, Kyle Mayer, Jordan DeCrook and Johnny Dittman.

They can’t all pitch at once, but they can play other positions. Olund will see time at first, Mayer in the outfield, Dittman as a utility player/catcher and DeCrook in the outfield. They lead the list of returning veterans along with infielder Jordan Lugowski.

Newcomers are infielder Zachary Spikers, catcher/utility player Bobby Eckert, first baseman Nick Schoening, pitcher/utility player Parker Holmstrom, outfielder Landon Nielsen, outfielder Ryan Giebel, pitcher/infielder Jordan Beschorner and third baseman/pitcher Jared Lipinski.

Winters sees plenty of athleticism and speed on the team, but the key will be getting some experience for the pitchers and varsity at-bats for the younger players.

The weather hasn’t been forgiving for the Tigers, but the team traveled to Arkansas for four days during spring break for some quality outdoor time.

The Tigers also were scheduled to play St. Cloud Apollo on Wednesday night in the Metrodome.

Thursday’s game at Red Wing was rescheduled for April 10. Farmington’s home opener is scheduled for Tuesday against New Prague.

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