ESCANABA - If opening day results are any indication, putting runs on the board shouldn't be much of a problem this season for the Escanaba Polecats.
The Polecats gained a split in a Wishigan League baseball doubleheader at Menominee on June 9 with Porterfield, Wis., winning the nightcap 12-0 after dropping the opener 8-7.
"The first game was a real good game," said Polecats' manager Jon Bintner, who fired a three-hitter in the nightcap. "Our defense definitely stepped up in the second game. Our hitting should be good this year. Many of our guys are coming out of high school and American Legion ball. They have some recent experience."
The Polecats, who visit Peshtigo, Wis. for a twinbill on Sunday, have 18 on their roster.
Bintner says he's pleased with the turnout and participation.
"I'm baffled by the number of people we have at practices," he added. "We've had enough for a full outfield and infield. I really like having this many guys at practice. That way they can be rewarded for the time they put in. Hopefully, this will continue."
The remaining schedule:
June 23 - at Peshtigo, Wis. (DH); June 26 - Tri-City; June 30 - Crivitz, Wis. (DH).
July 7 - at Gillett, Wis. (DH); July 14 - Marinette (DH); July 17 - Channing; July 24 - at Channing; July 31 - Tri-City.
Pitching is one of the question marks, according to Bintner.
"We just don't have the overall depth," he said. "Much depends on who has to work or is on vacation or gone on a family outing on gameday, which is to be expected with adults. Our guys need to be flexible. The lineup will change from game to game.
"I think we're definitely capable of having a successful season. Our defense is pretty solid. I don't see us hitting many home runs, especially with the wooden bats. But we have good speed. Many of our guys can beat out ground balls and baserunning is probably one of our strong suits. We certainly have some base stealing ability."
Alex DeHaan, who caught both games against Porterfield, and Shane Garvey are also in the pitching rotation. Joining them are Trent Schwalbach, Matt Jensen, Austin Young, Josh Broderson and Jared Dagenais.
Broderson, however, is battling a shoulder problem and will play mainly in the middle infield.
Garvey will also play in the outfield, with Schwalbach at first base and shortstop, Young (first base and outfield), Dagenais (infield-outfield) and Jensen at a variety of positions.
Also ready to help in the infield are Dale VanDrese (second base), Paul Tomaszewski (shortstop) and Ian Demers and Brandon Gagnon (first base) and Robert Ganzel (second and third base), who will pitch on occasion.
"Dale has been with us quite a few years," said Bintner. "He plays mainly in the home games, but he's always welcome and willing to go on the road when needed."
Also helping in the outfield are Gagnon and Kevin Bugay.
Tony Peacock, who's struggling with a torn ACL, will be used as the team's designated hitter.
"Tony is a very good hitter," said Bintner. "We need his bat in our lineup, and Kevin is a pretty good bunter and hits a pretty good percentage. Our team has gotten younger. We've lost a few guys who have been with us for a lot of years."
Retired from baseball are third-baseman Jim Barnes and catcher Eric Moran.
Kyle Berres, who plays in the outfield and infield, is also serving as an assistant manager.
"Kyle will take the group to Peshtigo Sunday," said Bintner, who helps Tom Ohman coach the Esky Cubs. "The adults can pretty much manage themselves. Only, Kyle needs to be aware when he needs to make a pitching change. I'm glad I have Kyle on board. This gives us more flexibility. With my schedule, it's difficult. If one of us isn't here, the other is still able to conduct practices."
Among the league foes, Bintner points to Marinette as the team to beat.
"Anytime I look at the schedule, I think Marinette is going to be our toughest opponent," he said. "They make baseball more of a summer program. With being in two leagues, the have the ability to play more games. They also have the numbers."
Following Sunday's twinbill, the Polecats make their first home appearance this season against Tri-City on Wednesday.