Pine River set to face challenges during 2016 baseball season

LEROY — Pine River celebrated a 33-4 record last season for baseball, but the Bucks lost some key players from that district championship team.

Veteran coach Shawn Ruppert is hopeful he has the material to produce another competitive team this season.

He has seniors Grant Ruppert (catcher) and Marcus Washington (shortstop) and Tyler Wing (outfielder), plus sophomore Mason Powell (pitcher and outfielder) returning this season.

“We’ll have some (other) kids that will help us out,” Ruppert said. “(Junior) Tristen Nelson came up toward the end of last year, he’ll help us a lot on the infield. (Junior) Raden Homes is a pitcher and will get lots of playing time.”

Other players on the varsity last year like seniors Matt Goodenow (utility) and Dylan Loop (outfielder) will contribute. Sophomore Andrew Park (utility) also is expected to help the Bucks.

Pine River got outside a few times during the three-week preseason and also had games at Big Rapids Crossroads Charter Academy and Grant last week.

“We’ll definitely not be as experienced as we have been,” Ruppert said. “We have some kids that know how to play ball. Given time, we could be a decent team. We have a few holes to fill.”

Team speed will be a strength.

“Pitching might be the spot where we have the least experience, so we’ll have to work hard there,” Ruppert said.

Defending champ Beal City will enter the Highland Conference as the team to beat. 

Pine River is home Tuesday against Lake City.