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Tigers await opportunity to hit the baseball diamonds

Senior captains Dustin Sauter and Darrick Henrichs will provide leadership for the Tigers this season.

Morris Area baseball coach Lyle Rambow expects his team to be a contender in the West Central Conference South and Section 6A with good senior leadership, solid pitching, and young hitters with great speed.

The Tigers were scheduled to open the season at home yesterday (Friday) against Yellow Medicine East, but with snow-covered fields that game had to be postponed.

Not only are the Tigers unable to play ball, but they haven't even been able to practice outdoors.

"The weather doesn't bother me," said Rambow. "I'm very patient."

Rambow said the season may start later than it has in a lot of years, but if they could get going by mid-April that would be early enough for him.

"We might have three or four games per week, but baseball can be played that way," Rambow added.

Rambow has good reason to be positive going into the 2009 baseball season. Three of his top pitchers from 2008 are returning to the mound this year.

Senior lefty Nate Gades had a 1.77 ERA last season, pitching just over 23 innings. He recorded three wins, no losses, and led the Tigers with 23 strikeouts.

Senior Dustin Sauter's ERA was 3.38. He pitched 29 innings and recorded two wins, three losses, and was named all-conference.

Also returning is sophomore Eric Riley who pitched 20 innings for the Tigers last season.

Sauter and Riley, when not on the mound, will cover the short-stop position.

"Sauter and Riley will be solid in the middle," said Rambow.

New pitchers this season will be sophomores Travis Rinkenberger and Tyler Hansen, as well as juniors Josh Taylor and Alex Sinclair.

Another key player is third-year starter, senior catcher Darrick Henrichs.

Other starters returning are senior Chris Boettcher in the outfield, junior Tanner Berning in the outfield, junior Jon Jallo at first base, junior Mitch Carbert at third base, sophomore Tyler Hansen in the outfield, and sophomore Ryan Beyer at third. Beyer is also the back-up catcher.

"Our outfielding situation is excellent," Rambow said. "Boettcher, Hansen, and Berning will give us good speed out there."

Also on the varsity roster are senior Jason Grasshoff at first and juniors Tanner Rohloff at second, Taylor at second, and Sinclair at third.

"The corners are looking good with Beyer and Carbert at third and Jallo, Sinclair, and Grasshoff at first," Rambow said.

Taylor has been battling an injury, but Rohloff is also ready to play second base.

The Tigers also have their bases covered on the other side of the ball.

Sauter led the team with 26 hits and 16 RBI in 2008 with a .333 batting average.

Boettcher hit the team's only homerun of 2008 and finished the season with a .359 batting average.

Henrichs also broke 300 with a .328 batting average.

Last season the Tigers finished 7-13 overall with a 5-9 West Central Conference South record.

Rambow expects tough competition in the conference from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City and Minnewaska Area, as well as new comer Paynesville Area.

The Section 6A tournament begins May 26. Wheaton/Herman-Norcross and Hawley are expected to be the teams to beat.

Next season, the Tigers will move to Section 3AA.

Rambow's assistant coaches include volunteer Don Goracke as pitching coach, junior varsity coach Jim Greenwaldt, and freshman coach Shane Tappe.

Dylan Stanton-Ring is the team manager.

Rambow will have plenty of assistance with stats with five volunteers. Keeping the books will be Meranda Hennen, Alisha Roske, Fallon Meixel, Dani Staples, and Bree Kruize.