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Pitching key for Raiders this season

Pitching is expected to buoy the Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale Raiders this spring as they enter their fourth season under Steve Riewer.

Riewer has five pitchers among his 11 returning lettermen which include seniors Eric Blaha, John French, Travis Eckel and Joe French, juniors Dillon Card, Preston Riewer and Matt Lipinski and sophomores Jordan Frethem, Mitchell Blaha, Zach Johnson and Ethan Korfe.

Blaha, Card and Riewer return as the team's top three hurlers.

"They are the three that logged almost all of our innings last year," Riewer said. "Eric and Dillon are control pitchers who throw strikes and give us a chance to make plays. Preston is a little more of the strikeout pitcher, if he throws strikes."

Lipinski, Johnson, and junior Michael Kramer will also see some time on the hill. Riewer will see action behind the plate when he is not pitching.

Rounding out the BHV squad are senior Will Kramer, juniors Michael Kramer, Gavin Peterson, Donovan Warren and Yuri Kammradt, sophomores Ethan Orlando, Alex Cope, Cory Bertram and Zach Johnson and freshmen Mac Schluttner, Jackson Fore, Jordan Brownlow and Skylar Goddard.

Will Kramer was limited to JV action last year due to a transfer rule but his addition to the varsity is expected to boost offensive production because of his ability to drive pitches into the gaps.

"It's fun watching him in the batting cage. He is big and strong and we have noticed his swing is more compact this year," Riewer said.

French and Eckel are also expected to swing good bats for the Raiders.

Mitchell Blaha proved to be a topflight outfielder last year and will put a left-handed bat in the lineup. Frethem swung a .400 bat for the Raiders last year. Korfe is regarded as a solid middle infielder.

Riewer's club shook off a rough 0-5 start last season to win 10 of their last 15 games and finish the season 10-10. The Raiders were fifth in the PRC with a 4-8 mark.

Riewer sees New York Mills as the team to beat once more in the Park Region Conference. The Eagles won 11 of their 12 PRC games and 21 of 24 games overall as they placed third in the Class A state tournament.

The Raiders are slated to open the season April 1 on the Verndale diamond with Nevis.