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Park junior Tommy Swanson returns to the hill this year. Swanson finished the 2007-08 season 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA with 34 innings pitched last season.

Park baseball: Allowing fewer runs key to season

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Park head baseball coach Reid Tschumperlin felt his team hit well last season, but that it allowed too many runs to successful.

The Wolfpack scored 4.3 runs per game, but allowed 6.0 runs per game, the second most in the Suburban East Conference, and had a team Earned Run Average (ERA) of 4.58.

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However, according to Tschumperlin, a big strength of the Wolfpack this season will be its pitching depth.

Park returns its top two starters from last season -- senior Jose Gonzalez and junior Tommy Swanson -- to the hill this year. Swanson finished the 2007-08 season 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA with 34 innings pitched, while Gonzalez was 3-5 on the year with a 2.86 ERA and a team-high 67 strikeouts in 51 innings.

In addition to Gonzalez and Swanson, underclassmen Robbie Larson, Drew Benson and Jared Marks should also all see action on the hill this season.

"We have a lot of people that can (pitch) and who know what they're doing out there," Tschumperlin said.

At the plate, Park lost its leadoff hitter -- Brian Short -- and one of its best power hitters -- Dan Ubl -- but returns the rest of the top of the order, including one of its best overall hitters in senior catcher Ryan Nordtvedt.

Nordtvedt, the team's No. 2 hitter last season, was second in the team in hitting with a .389 batting average and tied with Ubl for the team lead in RBI with 14.

Short led the team in hitting with a .392 average and added a team-high seven stolen bases and 20 runs scored and will need to be replaced at the top of the order.

"Short just had a great year for us at the leadoff spot," Tschumperlin said. "We're going to have to find a person to leadoff for us and get on for those guys batting behind him."

In addition to Nordtvedt, Tschumperlin expects a trio of seniors -- outfielder J.C. Burrell, second baseman Sam Altier and third baseman Ben Bundschu -- to provide the 'Pack with offensive punch this year.

This will be the third year on the varsity team for Nordtvedt, Burrell and Bundschu.

"That experience is what high school baseball is all about," Tschumperlin said. "It's a huge jump from being a junior to a senior. They know how we do things. They've seen a lot of varsity pitching now and they've played in playoff games. Those are important things."

Also, the leading hitters on the VFW team this past summer -- Swanson and Benson -- are two juniors who should produce some runs for Park this year.

Tschumperlin expects his team's hitting will improve this season, just like the pitching.

"I think we're much deeper as far as hitting goes and I think we have a couple guys who can throw the ball pretty well for us," Tschumperlin said.

Park will find out where it stands early in the year. The Wolfpack opens the season hosting defending SEC champion Cretin-Derham Hall on April 6 at Granville Smith Field.

"We don't set wins and loss goals," Tschumperlin said. "Our goal is always to compete for the conference championship. You hope that our added experience and our pitching depth will help us improve this year.

"But, it's one step at a time. We want to win the conference. Then, when we go to sections, we want to go to state."

PARK BASEBALL

-- 2007 - 08: 8-14 overall; 6-10 Suburban East Conference (seventh place).

Key wins: Simley 4-0; Hastings 7-0, 3-2; Mounds View 14-5; Forest Lake 5-3; White Bear Lake 11-0.

Key losses: Woodbury 7-4, 7-4; Stillwater 3-2, 12-2; White Bear Lake 5-2; Forest Lake 13-2; Eastview 10-3, 10-1.

-- 2008 - 09

Key returners: Sam Altier, sr., 2B; Ryan Nordtvedt, sr. C; J.C. Burrell, sr. OF; Jose Gonzalez, sr. P; Tommy Swanson, jr. P; Ben Bundschu, sr. 3B; Drew Benson, jr. P.

Key graduates: Dan Ubl, 1B; Brian Short, OF; Dustin Tipp, OF.

Main competition (last year's record): SEC: Cretin-Derham Hall (17-6; 13-3 SEC), Stillwater (17-9; 11-5 SEC), Mounds View (11-9; 9-6 SEC), Woodbury (19-7; 11-5 SEC). Section 3AAA: Eastview (21-6; 14-4 Lake), Lakeville North (19-7; 14-4 Lake), Apple Valley (15-8; 12-6 Lake), Burnsville (14-11; 9-9 Lake), Rosemount (16-12; 8-10 Lake), St. Thomas Academy (12-11; 8-8 Classic Suburban).

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