What are the chances, in this part of the country, of getting to play outdoor baseball in March?
In the case of the Vermillion Tanagers, apparently the chances are pretty good!
Last year the VHS baseball team opened their season in Sioux City on March 20 in beautiful weather. And according to this week's forecasts, it may be even warmer this weekend as the 2012 edition of the Tanagers open their campaign again in Sioux City on Sunday afternoon, March 18.
Coach Jason Gault lost only two defensive starters from last season due to graduation. The Tanagers had a 6-9 record and lost in the postseason to Beresford, 7-6.
"VHS should have a solid pitching rotation," Gault said this week. "With the possibility of having five quality pitchers in the starting rotation, we will have a variety of options and looks. Our expectations are high for the starting nine to make the routine play often."
Starters back for the Tanager ballclub, which opens play against the Sioux City Bancrofts at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday on the diamond at Sioux City West High School, include senior center fielder D'Andre Fore, an all-region selection last year, and junior shortstop Tanner Settles, an all-region honorable mention player in 2011.
Other returning starters are junior catcher Chayse Meierkort, junior third baseman Tanner Anderson, senior first baseman Caleb Miller, senior infielder Stormy Mirtz, senior pitcher Nate Garrett, senior pitcher Nile Morecraft, and junior pitcher/outfielder Collin Bertram.
Other notable returnees include senior third baseman/designated hitter Cody Sommervold, junior outfielder/pitcher Joe Mazour, junior outfielder Peter Haught, junior outfielder Collin Olson, senior outfielder Mitch Ellison, sophomore infielder/catcher Jayce Huska and junior outfielder Damarius Johnson.
"This is a very experienced group of ballplayers with proven success," Gault said, citing the state Teener championship many of them enjoyed last summer and a successful Legion season. "The coaching staff feels that, with off-season workouts and a year of growth in our younger players, VHS should be in the hunt for the Region 1B title."
Beresford and Bon Homme, as usual, should be the region favorites again, but, Gault said, "we should be right there with them."
A new twist this season will be the return of wood bats. Gault said this will provide for amuch more pitcher- and defense-oriented game. "It's something that plays along nicely with our small-ball philosophy," he said. "That doesn't mean we don't have to have the hitting to put lots of runs up on our opponents, but if we keep other teams off base, it takes pressure off our hitters."