Baseball: Tigers need hitters to break out
The Farmington baseball team will need to have some players step up at the plate if it’s going to improve upon last year’s 7-7 record in the Missota Conference.
The Tigers lose their top three hitters from a team that hit .263 and averaged less than four runs a game a season ago. Jordan Lugowski and Spencer Merle were both lost to graduation after each hitting .400 and Zach Speikers (.333) tore his ACL during the basketball season, leaving Johnny Dittman (.309) as the team’s lone returning hitter who batted above .270.
“Our strengths are pitching and defense. Improving on our 7-7 record in the conference is something I think we can do. It’s going to come down to our offense,” Farmington coach Jon Graff said. “We have to find a way to get that offense and score runs. With the new bats, offense is down in the Missota the last three years. If we can get to that magic number of four or five runs a game, the pitching and defense will be there.”The Tigers’ staff will likely be composed of four pitchers who saw varsity time a season ago — JD Hinks, Jordan Beschorner, Parker Holmstrom and Austin Martinsen. Hinks posted a 4.16 ERA while pitching a team-high 33 2/3 innings, Beschorner turned in a 2.37 ERA in 23 2/3 innings and Holmstrom (8 IP) and Martinsen (4 IP) have each shown promise on the mound in JV and summer ball.“One of our strengths is their experience. All of those guys have had some pretty good games,” Graff said. “Those four combined make a pretty good start to a staff.”When not pitching, those four could also see time elsewhere around the diamond. Hinks and Beschorner are among those competing for time at third base, Holmstrom played well when filling in at second base last spring and Martinsen will have a chance to prove himself in the outfield, along with Landon Neilson, Ryan Geibel and returning regular Jordan DeCroock.Dittman could take over for Speikers and Lugowski at shortstop after tallying 17 hits and 11 runs scored in 17 games last season. Graff is hoping Dittman, as well as returning catcher Bobby Eckert (.265, 10 RBI), returning first baseman Nick Schoening (.264, 8 RBI) and DeCroock will step up to lead the Tigers at the plate.“Dittman could pick it up a little bit more and Eckert got some great experience last year and he’s consistent at putting the ball in play. Schoening didn’t hit like he wanted last year, but he can put the ball in play hard. I’m hoping DeCroock can make a nice jump after battling injuries last year,” Graff said. “I think you’ll see a big jump in production from them at the top to get things going for us.”That production will determine whether the Tigers can move up in the Missota Conference after finishing at .500 in the league for the first time since 2006.“Shakopee is tough and Northfield’s VFW went to state, so they have some good players coming up,” Graff said. “I think we got some good experience last year and the team is ready to make a little noise here.”The regular season is scheduled to begin with a home game against Hastings on Wednesday, April 2.