Bucks aim to improve on 30-win baseball season

LEROY — It won’t be easy for the Pine River baseball team to duplicate its accomplishments from last season.

But the Bucks are going to give it a try.

Coach Shawn Ruppert and his players came off a spring break this week to resume practices for a schedule that was to open this Thursday at home against Suttons Bay. The Bucks are also scheduled to play at Morley Stanwood on Tuesday.

While Beal City won the Highland Conference last season, Pine River was 30-5 and won the districts.

Key players back include Nick Warner at catcher and Brett Hastings at center field. Warner saw some pitching action last year as did Isaac Wilkins and Devin Ruppert. Kyle Brock also returns at third base.

The Bucks graduated their top pitchers with Kyler Ruppert and Steven Sawyer.

Weather conditions have limited the Bucks’ ability to be outdoors.

“We’ve been on the parking lot, that’s about it,” Ruppert said. “We haven’t been on the field yet.”

Not being able to see action outdoors on an extensive basis has his team somewhat to a disadvantage, Ruppert said, “especially the way we’re so young. But every team up here is in the same boat.”

The Bucks have 13 players on the roster with six seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and a freshman, Skyler Nelson. The Bucks have five starters back. Several of the players saw summer baseball action.

“We lost a lot of players from last year that started,” Warner said. “I think we have guys who can fill in. We just need to get outside.”

Warner is in his fourth varsity season. He was happy with his 2011 performance.

“My catching improved and my pitching was better,” he said. “I need work on hitting a little better. I’m sure it will be good once I get to hit.”

Warner batted .330 last year. I should have gotten .380,” he said. “I need to hit pitches that are in the zone.”

As a catcher “I’m usually loud on the field and my arm is pretty good throwing people out,” he said. “I need to work a little more on blocking.”

As a pitcher “I throw a pretty good fastball and sometimes the curveball works,” Warner said. “I have pretty good control.”