I-L junior Brandon Krueger delivers a pitch against Winnisquam last spring. The Lakers open their season in Tilton on April 13. File Photo. (click for larger version)
April 02, 2012MEREDITH — There will be plenty of difficulties for the Inter-Lakes High School baseball team to overcome this spring. For one, the Lakers graduated seven seniors off a 9-7 team. With just three returning players on the roster, veteran skipper Vint Choiniere will have to turn to his large underclassmen population to fill in those blanks.
It's not all bad for I-L, however. One of those three returnees is Brandon Krueger.
The junior southpaw is one of the top pitchers in Division III and after two tremendous varsity seasons, Krueger will be counted on perhaps more than ever to lead the Lakers into battle this spring. He struck out 62 batters in 60 innings of work last year as a sophomore.
"We all know that Brandon has had an outstanding two years on the varsity in every category you can name," began Choiniere of his number one pitcher and expected number three hitter in the lineup. "But I've also seen such a growth in him this year on the leadership side and with his maturity level. As far as a player, I told him that I would work very hard not to apply any extra pressure this year. We all know he's going to be looked on to carry a heavy load. On the mound, he'll probably pitch even more innings than in the past and then in the middle of the order as a hitter. There's inevitable pressure there but I think he's ready to carry that."
I-L finished with a winning record last year but the season came to a close in a very disappointing fashion. The Lakers lost to winless Hillsboro-Deering in a play-in round game in Meredith, 1-0, to put what was expected to be a potentially dangerous postseason run to bed.
It's a new season at Prescott Park however, as Choiniere will turn to his small contingent of returning players to try and get the job done. Senior Brian Borders is the lone member of the class of 2012, and he's got plenty of experience with the program. Borders will see time on the mound after giving I-L quality innings last season, and he'll also slide over to first base throughout the year.
Krueger and Willie True are the other two returning varsity players, and the pair of juniors both impressed as sophomores a year ago. True saw most of his time at third base last year, and his defensive skills will have him at either third or shortstop again this season. Krueger will play first base when he's not pitching.
"It is a challenge to have that many first year players but I want to compliment the three returning players," said Choiniere. "On day one, we had a good conversation with those three and they've been phenomenal in leading the way for the other players. They're buying into the fact that they want to help these young guys make us all successful."
Juniors Matt Dunlap and Sean Mahoney will be new to the varsity squad this year, as Dunlap will see some time on the mound and play some outfield while Mahoney, at 6-foot-3, makes for a big target at first base and will also be a designated hitter.
I-L has five sophomores on the roster, all new to varsity, and Choiniere expects some key contributions from the class. Ryan Hambrook (outfield), Nick Hurd (pitcher, utility), Dillon Mailand (catcher), Travis Manville (infield) and Eamon Bean (outfield) will look to fill in some key spots vacated by graduation.
Three freshmen round out the squad, as Chase Dickinson (pitcher/shortstop), Logan Goewey (infield/catcher) and Dylan Sheehan (1B/OF) hope to find their way into the lineup.
"It's very early but I see some good potential with these young guys," said Choiniere. "We've got a couple big scrimmages before the year starts and they'll be critical in figuring out exactly who can do what. All of the pitchers we have will have opportunities to show what they can do."
One aspect of the season that is expected to help the young Lakers is a staggered JV/varsity schedule. With games often played on different days instead of simultaneously as in the past, the chance for Choiniere to swing some players back and forth could prove valuable as far as development goes.
Assistant coach Dan Curnyn returns to the bench besides Choiniere this spring, and he'll also be the head coach on the JV squad. Volunteer assistant coach Trevor Greene is also on the I-L staff.
The Lakers get it started on April 13, when they travel to perennial power Winnisquam Regional High School for a 4 p.m. start with the Bears. I-L lost a tough 3-2 game in its opener in Tilton against WRHS last April.