Young Big Rapids baseball team looks to build off last season’s strides

PITCH: Big Rapids junior Jackson Lund pitches during the 2016 season. (Pioneer file photo)

PITCH: Big Rapids junior Jackson Lund pitches during the 2016 season. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — While the Big Rapids Cardinals return a decent amount of baseball experience this spring, look for that experience to be enhanced by a potentially strong group of young players pushing for varsity playing time.

Three sophomores, seven juniors, and two seniors return for a Cardinals program that finished the 2016 season with a second-place finish in the CSAA Gold and a 17-16 record.

“Even though we were young, we had a good year last year,” Cardinals coach Sam Daugherty said. “We’re going to be young again this year with seven juniors and two seniors.”

The Cardinals lost conference player of the year Dakota Sanders to graduation but return two first-team all-conference players in juniors Jackson Lund and John Yonker.

Lund, a second baseman, was a catalyst in the top of the lineup last season. He batted .356 with five doubles, 23 RBIs and 30 runs scored. He also saw some action on the mound, striking out 22 in 28 2/3 innings with a 5.13 ERA.

Yonker was the team’s workhorse on the mound, throwing 63 innings with a 10-1 record and 1.56 ERA. He was 6-1 during conference play to lead the Cardinals to a second-place finish.

The two returning seniors are Drew Wotta and Garrett Daum.

“Drew was a strong hitter in the line-up last season and will be again this year,” Daugherty said. “Daum can play any position and will be very valuable in a utility role for us.”

Adam Frisbie, a junior transfer student from CCA, will play first base and pitch. Sophomore catcher Elliott Blair returns after a successful freshman season. Junior left-fielder Aaron Repke is expected to be the team’s lead-off hitter.

Sophomores Connor Kinnally and Jason Gray have had good springs and are expected to see time on the field. Connor Vennix and Justin Cook will be players who will see time both on the mound and out in the field.

The Cardinals begin the season at Montague on April 6. The team is young, but Daugherty believes his team can be in the mix for a CSAA Gold title.

“We’re hoping last season’s experience will help us going forward,” He said. “It’ll be a very competitive conference. We’re hoping that our pitching staff develops this year. Pitching and hitting should be our strengths.

“We have a great group of kids. They all love baseball and work hard. We’re looking to continue to improve overall as a ball club.”

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