The Tartan lineup is unproven, full of fresh faces. Curt Russell, in his 14th year as coach, is ready, regardless.
“We’ll have to earn our money putting the product on the field,” Russell said. “As a coach, that’s kind of fun.
“It’s also kind of scary.”
Tartan is gearing up to defend its Classic Suburban Conference title. The Titans graduated 10 players from last year’s team.
But there are two pitchers returning who give the team a solid foundation. One is Tommy Hanson, a 6-foot-4 lefthander who will be tough to hit.
“He has a phenomenal changeup that moves,” Russell said. “Everything he throws moves.”
The other is Eric Winter, who has committed to pitch at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. Winter is tall and lanky and throws hard.
“The ball just explodes out of his hand,” Russell said.
Hanson and Winter give the Titans, despite their lack of experience and question marks elsewhere in the lineup, reason for optimism.
“When those two kids are pitching, we’ll be in ballgames,” Russell said.
Hanson is a three-year starter, so he brings plenty of experience to the mound. He can also play in the outfield or at first base. Winter also is a solid shortstop.
Typically, Tartan fields a lineup that includes a balance of youth and experience every spring.
Last year, that mold was broken with a bunch of seniors. The lineup heading into this season is more unproven, but it still could be effective.
Problem is, the Classic Suburban is tough. Mahtomedi should be the team to beat, Russell said. Star pitcher Michael Baumann signed with Jacksonville University.
The Zephyrs return a lot of talent and firepower. John Hardgrove’s team has been building for this season.
At Hill-Murray, this will be the first time in almost two decades that Bill Lechner will not be coaching the team. The Pioneers’ athletic director and boys’ hockey coach cut the baseball job from his duties.
This year’s squad will be replacing a lot of top talent that graduated.
Simley is a dark horse. The Spartans have some premium talent. Richfield also has a new coach.
The Titans have skilled players and should be strong up the middle, with plenty of speed throughout the lineup.
But when will the weather relent so fans can get outside and see just how good these teams are?
“It can’t be worse than last year,” Russell said. “Eight games in five days we played at one point. Can’t be worse.”
The Titans are scheduled to open the season at home against Simley on April 7.
Russell said it’s looks more likely it will be the third week in April before fields will be ready.