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Sharing a dugout

It will be a whole new ballgame for Verndale baseball this spring as the Pirates join former rival Bertha-Hewitt in the same dugout.

The two schools are combining their baseball programs to become the Raiders and head coach Steve Riewer returns to high school baseball for the first time in more than a decade.

Riewer has 23 players from the top four grades of the two schools on his team. Seniors include Ethan Bakken, Ed Blashack, Jared Hoemberg, Nick Jasmer, Dustin Motschenbacher, Shane Ollila. Josh Olson, Austin Selvey and Cody Yungbauer. Juniors will be Matt Fretham, Daryn Kirscht and Zach Tranvik. Filling the sophomore ranks are Nick Brown, Dallas Ehrmantraut, Josh Gilb and Mike Mousseau. Freshman ballplayers include Eric Blaha, Jacob Booth, Andy Cihlar, Travis Eckel, John French, Chandler VanDam and Joe VanDenheuvel.

The biggest benefit of the co-op effort will be the Raiders depth on the hill. Bakken, Hoemberg, Motschenbacher, Selvey, Yungbauer, Ehrmantraut and Kirscht can all handle duty on the mound.

"I believe that pitching depth and defense will be our strengths this season," Riewer said. "We have a lot of good athletes than can play a variety of positions."

The one position that is still unsettled is catcher.

"We start the season without a natural at that position but I look for someone to step up," Riewer said.

The Raiders should have their share of good sticks in the lineup.

Sebeka is Riewer's pick to be one of the strongest teams in the Park Region Conference this season. The Trojans played in the Class A state tournament last spring at the Mall of America Field in Minneapolis.