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home : sports : sports May 1, 2016

3/18/2014 12:58:00 PM
Outlaws baseball swings into season
By Rongi Yost

The varsity baseball team returns eight players to the squad this year and adds nine newcomers who will lend depth to the team. The Outlaws hope to defend their league title, which they have won for the past three consecutive years.

Stellar senior player Joey Morgan will be back for his fourth year as a varsity starter. Morgan dominates play on both offense and defense. Joey will start at catcher for the Outlaws and will also be one of the starters in the pitching rotation.

"Joey changes the game," said Coach Steve Hodges. "When he's behind the plate the offense knows he has a strong arm, and they are hesitant to run. He's just as threatening on the mound. He's one of the hardest throwers in the league and dominates when he's on the mound. He's also an offensive threat when he comes up to bat and does a great job of driving guys in who are on base in front of him. He's a run-producer and a definite advantage for us. It's a challenge and difficult for a pitcher to pitch around him."

Jarden Weems is also a four-year varsity starter, back for his final year. Weems is a versatile player, able to fill in wherever he's needed. He is one of the Outlaws' starting pitchers, but also plays shortstop when Justin Harrer pitches, and he plays third base when Joey Morgan pitches.

"Jarden has always been put in a position to be a utility player," said Hodges. "He's always flexible and willing to provide that for us, and not many athletes can do that. Because of the pitching rotations, he has to fill in and play other positions. He has a great attitude and approach to being a team guy and doing what's best for the team."

Two juniors, Harrer and Ben Larson, and sophomore Alex Olivier also return to starting positions.

Harrer will be the foundation of the Outlaws' defense at the shortstop position and will be one of the starting pitchers. Last year in the state quarterfinals, Harrer pitched for a victory over Ontario and is on track to be an impact on the mound this year as well.

"Justin is even stronger this year," said Hodges. "He put up good numbers for us last year on offense, and he has good speed and can do a lot. He's a five-tool guy: He can run, he can throw, he can hit for power, he can hit for average and he's a great fielder. In over 21 years he's the only freshman I've ever coached that has started at shortstop on varsity, which says a lot about his ability."

Larson played in the outfield last year for the Outlaws and will play there again this year, as well as see some time at second base.

"Ben was hurt his freshman year but is coming off a strong sophomore season," said Hodges. "He was a big surprise for us last year on offense, and he will play with even more confidence with a year under his belt."

Olivier rounds out the returning starters, and due to his speed will start for the Outlaws in center field. Hodges expects Alex to do damage on the bases as well, and looks for a breakout year offensively.

Juniors Billy Biggers, Cody Kreminski and Jonathan Luz are also back for another season.

Biggers will start in left field for the Outlaws, and coaches expect great things at the plate from the left-handed hitter. Kreminski will start at first base. Hodges told The Nugget that Cody has a great swing and will play an important role in the lineup at the fifth or sixth spot. Luz will see time at second base and in the outfield.

Freshman Ryan Funk will start for the Outlaws in a dual role. He will catch for Morgan when he is on the mound and will play third base when Weems is on the mound.

"Ryan is pretty developed physically, and he has good power," said Hodges. "He's very coachable and has a good attitude. I think it will be great for him to have Joey as a mentor."

Senior Tristan Kirschner, is new to the team and will play in the outfield. In addition to Kirshner, seven freshman join the squad; Alex Gannon (infielder), J.W. Bertanga (first base), Hayden Parsons (infielder), Will Werts (outfielder), Ryan Cook (outfielder), Jacob Guerney (catcher), and Jake Larson (infielder).

The Outlaws have been hard at work in preparation to defend their title.

"We've got a lot of work to do, but we have a pretty good shot," said Hodges. "But we will have to earn it and work hard for it. We lost five seniors last year and have to really progress as a group. We have guys on our team that are motivated to do that. We've just got to create some chemistry and unity, and we will do that while we are in Arizona over spring break and then come back ready to kick off league."

The Outlaws were to play at Madras on Monday, March 17. Sisters will play at Summit on Wednesday, March 19, and then head to Arizona on Friday, March 21, and play six games while there.

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