LEROY — Grant Ruppert has been providing a valuable role in his junior season for the Pine River baseball team.

Ruppert also played as a sophomore for the varsity.

“Winning the district” was a major highlight in 2014, Ruppert recalls. “Last year was a lot of learning what’s expected of me. You get up there and put the ball in play, make the plays and execute the plays.”

Ruppert played second base, catcher and pitcher last season and is in the same spots. He points to catcher as his best spot.

“I’m able to keep the ball in front of me and prevent runners from advancing,” Ruppert said. “I have a decent arm. I threw a couple out last year. I have a nice quick release.”

Ruppert said he’s improved a lot.

“I learned a lot from last year,” he said. “It was a big step up. The speed of the (varsity) game is so much faster.”

Ruppert has had various appearances on the mound and said offspeed pitches are his strength.

“I got a lot of opportunities to hit the ball last year,” he said. “I just want to put the ball in play. I’m looking to maybe have a little more power this year.”

The Bucks are home Friday against Evart.

“I think we’re capable of a deep state tournament run, wherever that leads us,” Ruppert said, adding that the key will be “timely hitting and being able to get runners in whenever they’re on base.”

Pine River’s first two losses of the season were against Beal City.

“You can’t make mistakes because they’re going to capitalize on it when you make mistakes,” Ruppert said.