EBEN - There are plenty of new faces for Superior Central on the baseball diamond this spring as the Cougars prepare to begin their season.
The Cougars, who hope to open with a pair of doubleheaders downstate this weekend, have five returners on their squad of 14.
They visit Hale on Friday before heading to Oscoda Saturday. The Cougars beat Oscoda for the Posen Invitational title a year ago.
"I remember it was a close game," said manager Bill Maki. "They (Oscoda) were a solid team. Also, they were well coached. They'll be good competition for us.
"I don't know anything about Hale. We'll have to learn on the fly. We just want to make it fun for the boys. We're looking forward to this weekend."
The Cougars are led by fourth-year seniors' Cody Maki, who will pitch and play shortstop, and Matt Maki at catcher.
April 11 - at Hale (DH); April 12 - at Oscoda (DH); April 23 - at Marquette; April 28 - Gladstone; April 30 - at Houghton.
May 1 - Marquette; May 2 - Houghton; May 7 - Negaunee; May 10 - Posen Invitational; May 12 - North Central; May 16 - at Negaunee; May 17 - Rudyard Invitational; May 19 - at Gladstone; May 20 - Norway.
"We'll rely on these guys for the experience and importance of their positions," said manager Maki. "We'll also rely on their hitting. We're hoping they can get the timely hits for us."
Additional returners are junior outfielder Jake Aho and pitcher/infielder Avery Natctman and sophomore outfielder Ben Kulik.
A majority of newcomers are juniors. Among them are pitcher/infielders Colton Richmond and Brandon Maki.
"Colton played Little League baseball and has some limited high school experience," said manager Maki. "He has a pretty good fastball. I think he'll be able to contribute. Brandon is a very good athlete who played some Junior League ball last year. He has experience on the bigger field. He'll be our second or third pitcher."
The remaining juniors include Nick Goings, Josh Herndon, Tristen Thorson, Kyle Kurth, James Rau and Kalvin Gauthier, all of whom will primarily be outfielders. Goings, a left-hander, will also pitch and Thorson will sometimes play first base.
"Nick is an inexperienced pitcher, but I think he'll be able to give us some good innings," said manager Maki. "He's a good hitter and has good speed. I think he'll be able to run down some flyballs. Josh also has good speed and plenty of potential. Tristen is improving right along and Kyle appears to have power and a decent arm. James has pretty good speed and a decent bat. Kalvin is coming along. He's swinging the bat pretty good and making contact."
Also new to the team is sophomore pitcher/infielder Elijah Pasanen.
"We expect Elijah to contribute," said manager Maki. "I think he'll pick things up on the mound. He has a good arm and a pretty good bat."
Helping with the coaching duties again this season is assistant Chuck Santure.
"Chuck has some baseball experience and is very helpful," said manager Maki.
With at least four feet of snow still laying on its field, Superior Central's pre-season drills have been confined to the gym.
"It's not the same as being outdoors," said manager Maki. "Outfielders don't have the opportunity to gain experience chasing flyballs. We do live pitching and use pitching machines. We're hitting and throwing. We're gradually getting the kids ready for this weekend.
"I have high hopes for a lot of these kids. We're glad to have the numbers. I think that could give us some depth. The kids are working hard and they're coachable. They're picking things up. We're making some progress."