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Amateur Baseball: Lake City, Bay City gear up for new season

The amateur baseball season kicks off this weekend with several area teams taking the field. Here is a look at two area teams.

Bay City Bombers

2011 record: 10-13 overall, 6-10 St. Croix Valley

Key returning players: Bump Ulvenes, Tim Eaton, Tony Schultz, Jordan Eggenberger, Dustin Frandrup

Key losses: Dan Roschen

Bay City fielded one of the youngest teams in the St. Croix Valley League last season after losing five longtime starters and the Bombers will once again be one of the youngest teams in the league this season.

Bay City has one player age 30 and that's it as the Bombers will field a team that's short on experience. Seven players have six or more years of experience this season.

"Six guys retired at the same time and five of them were starters," second-year manager Tony Schultz said.

Bay City only lost three players from last season's 10-13 team and two were part-time players, Schultz said.

Schultz is one of the veterans with nine years of experience. The manager/pitcher started seven games last season and went 3-1 with a 4.15 ERA. Bay City had a team ERA of 5.40 and Cole Kuesel handled the majority of the pitching workload. Kuesel went 4-8 with a 5.33 ERA in 76 innings.

The Bombers return the majority of a lineup that hit .264 and scored 115 runs. Bump Ulvenes led the team with 18 RBI and hit .304. Dan Roschen led the team in hitting with a .340 average and had 12 RBI.

Kuesel finished with 15 RBI and Dustin Frandrup had 13 RBI and a

.333 batting average.

With its youth, Schultz expects the team to use its athleticism as a tool. That may mean playing more small ball and taking extra bases when presented with the opportunity.

"Just being so young we were able to do some things that we weren't able to in years before," Schultz said.

The Bombers contended for a playoff spot into July, but dropped their final four games to finish 6-10 in the league and miss the playoffs.

With a year of experience in a new system, Schultz believes the team can build off last season.

"Last year it was kind of unknown how it would go," Schultz said. "We all have a year under our belt in the new system and everyone knows their role."

Lake City Serpents

2011 record: 12-12 overall, 11-12 Classic Cannon Valley League

Key returning players:

Brett Gwaltney, Matt Miller, Chris Sill, Brandon Gosse, Kyle Sursely, Eric Sandstrom.

Key losses: Kris Long.

Last year, the Lake City Serpents defeated the Red Wing Aces for the first time ever and also secured a win against Hastings but fell in the Class C playoffs.

As a young team, Lake City is still learning while trying to contend with Class B powerhouses like Miesville and Red Wing. The Serpents are one of four Class C teams in the Classic Cannon Valley League but manager Scott Gwaltney said they can hold their own.

"I felt like we competed," he said. "I felt like we were a very good C team. It's hard for (the team) to realize that now, 'you guys are really good at your age.' We still have a lot of kids who are young and are learning the game but still know the game."

Lake City brings back most of its lineup from last season but Scott Gwaltney said it looks like the Serpents will lose Kris Long, a .317 hitter with six stolen bases last year. His speed will be missed, he said.

But in Brett Gwaltney, Chris Sill and Matt Miller, Lake City brings back enough offense to contend.

Last season, Brett Gwaltney hit .360 with 15 runs and six stolen bases, Sill knocked in 14 while batting .284 and Miller finished with a .322 batting average and 14 RBI.

"I think we're well-balanced," Scott Gwaltney said. "We don't have a lot of power but we have good team speed. We're right where we want to be."

Ben Edelbach, a freshman infielder for Rochester Community Technical College, is joining Lake City and Scott Gwaltney said he should provide some offensive help for a team that hit .265 collectively last year.

Gwaltney said he also expects Eric Sandstrom, a freshman at Riverland Community College in Austin who played one game with the Serpents last year, to be an asset on the pitching staff. He is 2-1 with a 3.375 ERA in 26 2/3 innings with the Blue Devils this season.

On top of those additions, Lake City welcomes back four starters from last year that had ERAs at 4.40 or less. Kyle Sursely threw a team-high 50 innings and finished the season 3-3 with a 3.24 ERA and one save. Brandon Gosse tallied 39 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings while going 4-2 with a 2.51 ERA and Brett Gwaltney was 1-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 39 innings. Andrew Roble had two saves while throwing 28 2/3 innings with 23 strikeouts and a 4.40 ERA.

"We have good pitching," Scott Gwaltney said. "We have enough arms so that's not an issue."

The Serpents start the season against Red Wing May 13 in Lake City.

"We'll be tough," Scott Gwaltney said. "We have a good nucleus but can we hold onto it? That's the key."