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Irish baseball preview: A few pieces in place

Rosemount baseball coach Chris Swansson demonstrates proper form to his players at the start of the first practice of the season Monday afternoon at the Irish Dome. The Irish return several key players from last year’s team that finished .500 in the South Suburban Conference for the first time in at least a decade.

The loss of a 12-member senior class has left the Rosemount baseball team with its share of positions up for grabs going into the season.

But the five returning varsity players the Irish do have look to be a solid group to build around. Back from last year’s squad that finished 9-8 in the tough South Suburban Conference are the Irish’s top two pitchers – Ben Smith and Luke Dahl – speedy outfielder Jordan Turner and the double play combination of Cole Northwick and Chris Bauer.

“We feel good about the four or five guys solidifying the top spots. There’s a lot of competition between a lot of guys who put a lot of work in over the winter,” Rosemount coach Chris Swansson said. “These guys are excited about their chance to be leaders. A lot of them have contributed in different ways and will get to do more than they have in the past.”

Dahl will make contributions both on the mound and at the plate, as he did a season ago when he hit .323 with a .500 on-base percentage while playing third base, and provided a 1.68 ERA and four wins in 33 1/3 innings pitched. Smith joins him at the top of the Irish rotation after posting a 2.53 ERA in 36 innings.

Other candidates to pitch include Alex Duffy, Dennis Reinhardt and John Birkholtz, who threw some innings for the JV team last year.

“We feel really good about Dahl and Smith hopefully starting two or three games a week,” Swansson said. “We don’t have a ton of guys with a ton of experience, but we’ve got some younger guys we’re excited about seeing compete on the mound.”

Birkholtz and Hadden Lanoue are also candidates to compete for spots in the outfield alongside Turner, who led the team with 31 hits and 22 runs scored while batting leadoff last spring.

“Turner started as a sophomore, so he’s got some experience going into his third year,” Swansson said. “He can hit and runs really well, so it’s nice to have him in the lineup.”

Swansson also believes Northwick (.246, 8 RBI) and Bauer (11 runs) are ready to step it up at the plate.

“They had really good summers after last season,” he said. “They were a little streaky last season, but are looking better offensively.”

Alex Tauer and Aaron Roszak are both utility players who are in the running for more time after playing some varsity last season.

The Irish have been practicing in the dome all week. They are flying to Tampa Bay Sunday and will spend four days practicing and playing varsity and JV scrimmages against teams from around the country before returning on Friday. They will also attend a spring training game between the Yankees and the Phillies.

Weather permitting, the regular season begins Wednesday, April 2, with a game at Woodbury.

“It was tough last year having so many doubleheaders because of the late snow. That last week of the season we lost three one-run games. Otherwise, things were going in the right direction,” said Swansson, whose team finished up at 10-11 overall and 9-8 in the South Suburban. “We lost a playoff game to Eastview in extra innings and had a close game with Eagan, so we felt we were really competitive. I think our guys fed off that and saw what it takes to be .500 or better. We can feel the momentum from that and they want to improve on it.”