Young players will fill big roles for Bulldog baseball team

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Members of the MFL MarMac 2016 baseball team include (front, left to right) Dillon Pitzer, Zach Trudo, Bryce Burke, Cedrick Drahn, JT Stocker, JP Murphy; (middle) head coach Brandon Burke, Kyle Adam, Michael Egan, Nathan Johnanningmeier, Robert Reichard, Nick Larson; (back) assistant coach Randy Fuelling, Korby Keehner, Tyler Tayek, Michael Berger, Garret Keehner, Peyton Meisner, Kaleb Tilson and assistant coach Gunner Mohs. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Since finishing his high school baseball career with MFL MarMac three years ago, Brandon Burke has been itching to return to the district as a coach, to continue accomplishing some of the goals he had as a player.

“This job has been a life-long dream of mine. Since I was a young kid, I have wanted to coach baseball at MFL MarMac,” said Burke, who’s now entering his first season as head coach. “My long-term goals include conference championships and state tournament appearances.”

Burke hopes his players will benefit from his positive, winning attitude and high level of baseball knowledge. Also offering their experience are assistant coaches Gunner Mohs and Randy Fuelling.

Depth will be one of the biggest strengths for the Bulldogs this season, Burke noted.

“When we started, I had 14 kids interested in playing baseball, and now we have 27 kids out for the team,” he said. “I’m so impressed with the effort of the kids and coaching staff to really increase the numbers.”

Of those 27 players, Burke said 18 will be on the varsity roster to start the season.

“I plan to use them all,” he said. “Some of the kids on varsity will specialize in pitching and pinch hitting, for example.”

Burke said MFL MarMac returns less than 10 innings of combined pitching experience, making them young and inexperienced in this department.

“The team is full of potential in the pitching department,” he said, “and we need some young kids to step up and fill roles in the varsity pitching rotation.”

With such a young team, Burke said eighth graders Cedrick Drahn, Kaleb Tilson and JT Stocker, along with all of the freshmen players, will play a major varsity role.

“I look for these kids to play a bunch of innings for the team as the season progresses,” he said.

In addition to pitching, Burke said hitting will be another area in which they’ll look to improve.

Burke said the positions of outfielder and catcher will be points of strength for the team, as they carry the most experienced players.

Senior Bryce Burke and junior JP Murphy will be the team’s cornerstone players, Burke added. The two have a lot of varsity experience and will lead the top of the batting order.

The Bulldogs will face some tough competition this year, including South Winneshiek and North Fayette Valley in the conference, Burke noted.

“Our non-conference schedule will be very tough with games against Clear Lake, Sioux City North, Cedar Falls, Charles City, North Linn and Maquoketa Valley,” he explained.

As a staff, Burke said they’re looking for this season to set the foundation for a successful program.

“Our roster is very young and talented. The key moving forward will be keeping these kids our for baseball,” he said. “If we can maintain these high numbers, I truly believe we are a season or two away from competing for the conference title and making a deep tournament run.”

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