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Baseball: Looking for players to step up

Ty Vincent throws a pitch during a recent preseason practice.

It will take contributions from some first-time varsity performers if the Farmington baseball team is going to put together its first winning season since 2006.

The Tigers went 17-6 that season and won the Missota Conference title. Since then they have had three straight losing seasons, going 7-17 and 7-15 before improving to 8-14 last spring. A large group of seniors graduated and just five varsity regulars are back from that squad, leading head coach Mike Winters to spend the first week of practice conducting an open tryout with skill evaluations for all players who reported to Tiger Field.

Winters expects his returning juniors and seniors, as well as some sophomores, to challenge for spots in the varsity lineup he will write up for Thursday's season-opening home game against Hastings.

It's likely two of those spots will go to a pair of seniors who earned Missota Conference honors for their performances last season -- Justin Lavey and Tyler Landry.

Lavey did a little bit of everything last season. He served as the team's leadoff hitter, led the team in innings pitched and started in both the infield and outfield. He hit .347 with a team-high 19 runs scored, 10 stolen bases and a .402 on-base percentage during his junior campaign. He also logged 37 2/3 innings on the mound, tossed two complete games and posted a 4.09 earned-run average.

Landry, an outfielder and pitcher, was an honorable-mention all-conference honoree after hitting .327 with two triples and a .413 on-base percentage. He hurled 20 2/3 innings and turned in a 3.73 ERA.

Other returning varsity regulars are shortstop Taylor Wood (.190, 3 RBI), outfielder Mike Jolliff (.065, 2.42 ERA in 8 2/3 innings) and pitchers Justin Tang (3.71 ERA in 17 innings) and Cody Carlson (seven innings).

With Lavey, Landry, Jolliff, Tang, Carlson and juniors Dayne Eich, Zach Wallace, Matt Molitor and Cole Lusky all providing mound experience, pitching could turn out to be a strength for a team that had a collective ERA of 4.73 last season.

Those pitchers will be backed by a defense that struggled throughout last season and committed 54 errors that led to 65 unearned runs in 22 games.

Winters hopes this year's defense will be solidified by the additions of senior outfielders Matt Rudorfer and Matt Schmeltzer and senior third baseman Brian Newberg, all of whom saw limited varsity action as juniors. New seniors expected to challenge for spots include Tony Ferrozzo, Alex Roschen and Eric Oslund.

This year's junior class is rounded out by third baseman Quinn Eden, first baseman/catcher Sebren Baer, first baseman Tommy Korbein, outfielder Zak Payne, infielder Mike Nikoley, catcher Josh Kallstrom, outfielder Joey Hoffman and second baseman Eric Slobodnik.

Winters is joined on the Farmington coaching staff by assistants Jon Graff and Jason Berg, sophomore coach Jason Kohlbeck, freshmen coaches Brent Grengs and Jay Jurkovich, eighth-grade coaches Brandon Chant and Joe Moser and seventh-grade coaches Tom Auge and Nick Davis.