LEROY —  Pine River’s baseball team, which advanced to the state quarterfinals last season, started practices late last week with the goal of getting ready for another banner season.

Veteran coach Shawn Ruppert had 11 players on his team late last week but figures keeping about 13 players.

Key players returning include seniors Skyler Nelson and Brandon Hoaglund, and juniors Mitch McDonald and Lucas Harris. All four will probably pitch to some extent.

The Bucks graduated their top two pitchers, Lincoln Erickson and Devin Ruppert, from last year.

“I think we’ll be pretty good,” said Ruppert. “We need to get outside and practice, just like everyone else.”

Beal City should be among the tough Highland Conference teams the Bucks will face.

The Bucks are scheduled to play at Vestaburg March 26 and at Manistee Catholic April 8, but Ruppert admits it will be tough being able to play early-season games. The first scheduled home game is April 11 with Manistee.

SOFTBALL

The Bucks are in their second week of practices under veteran coach Laura Mumby. She has 11 players on the varsity and 14 on the JV.

Pine River graduated several starters from last year. Two that are coming back include pitcher Brooke Pennington, center fielder Kassy Nelson and first-base-pitcher. Alexis Stokely. Alyssa Johnson, a designated hitter last season, is also back.

Jenna Johnson will be a shortstop for the Bucks while Chelsey TerBurgh will be at outfield and shortstop and Johnson is at third base.

“Three are a couple of other spots we’re shoring up for sure,” Mumby said. “We have spring break (starting March 28) the week before everyone else does.”

Games are scheduled for March 26 at Vestaburg, prior to break, and Manistee Catholic Central April 8.

“We’re pretty young,” Mumby said. “Even our more experienced players didn’t have key positions last year. Brooke did a lot of pitching, That’s an important spot. They’re an eager group. They worked hard all week inside.”

The team should be fast and pitching will be strong, Mumby indicated.