Jake Swenson fields a ground ball during a Marinette Marine baseball practice in the P.F. Neverman Gym. Area sports teams are confined to sharing gym time to practice.  EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Jake Swenson fields a ground ball during a Marinette Marine baseball practice in the P.F. Neverman Gym. Area sports teams are confined to sharing gym time to practice.
EagleHerald/Jody Korch
MARINETTE - Pitching and defense should be strengths of the Marinette Marine baseball team this season. The question is run production.

Runs were at a premium last season, when the Marines were 2-3 in one-run games and scored two or fewer runs in nine games.

The Marines will try to utilize their good team speed with small ball to manufacture runs.

"With our pitching staff, if we get four or five runs a game we'll be successful," Marinette coach Dave Francour said. "We're going to do a lot of hit and runs and bunting. Moving runners."

Marinette returns four starters from last season's team which finished 15-10 and took third in the Bay Conference.

Seniors Jake McMahon and Derek Klegin are returning honorable mention all-conference players. McMahon plays third base when he doesn't pitch. He posted a 1.40 earned run average with 29 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched last spring.

"He's very competitive," Francour said. "He has good velocity. He's learning how to change speeds."

Klegin is a dependable shortstop, and he'll fill the No. 3 or 4 pitching role.

The other returning starters are seniors Nathan Kallestad and Ty Bebo. Kallestad primarily was the designated hitter last year but he'll bring his speed to centerfield. Bebo returns at second base, so the Marines have three of their four starting infielders back from a year ago.

"We were very solid last year," Francour said of his infield. "I expect the same this year."

Seniors Quentin Ellie and Austin Wright got a taste of the varsity last season. Ellie will play in rightfield.

"Very fast," the coach said. "He'll be able to run balls down."

Wright will play outfield when he's not pitching. Last year, Wright was probably the best junior varsity pitcher in the conference, according to Francour.

"Austin is always around the strike zone, and he works fast," Francour said. "He gets the ball and he's not messing around. People like to play behind him because they're not standing around."

Junior Cody Tessmer is the catcher.

"He's improved a lot from jayvees," Francour said. "He works hard. Very good at blocking the ball. He does a nice job of catching the ball. We're counting on him. He'll be a key to our team. He's got to get some experience. That will come."

Senior Jake Swenson will play first base.

Other juniors include outfielder Ryan Cruz; Aaron Benson at third base, pitcher and outfield; and Alex Servatius at second and outfield.

"We've got a lot of team speed at the top of the order and bottom of the order," Francour said. "I think we've got to choke up on the bat and be line-drive singles hitters."

In between the speed at the top and bottom, Kallestad, Benson and Swenson provide the pop.

The lingering winter has forced the postponement of Marinette's first four games, and will likely delay more. A condensed schedule with four and five games a week will place a premium on pitching. The Marines are pitching three times a week.

Practicing in the gym has gotten old, but there's a silver lining - extra emphasis on the basics.

"We're getting a lot of fundamentals down being indoors," Francour said. "A lot of skill work, situational work."

Francour expects Hortonville, defending champion West De Pere and Seymour to be among the top teams in the Bay.

"I think we should be in every game," Francour said. "There's no reason for us not to be successful. Hopefully we can get off to a good start. Last year, we didn't."

Andy Walters is the varsity assistant coach and the volunteer assistants are Shawn McMahon, John LaCourt and Dave Klegin. Mike Maedtke is the jayvee coach, and his volunteer assistants are Ryan Hmielewski and Jordan Kinney. David Nemetz coaches the freshmen and his volunteer assistants are Dan Grabowski and Chris Janquart. Nick Brukardt serves as roving instructor.