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Royals return key pieces in repeat bid

WINNER--Familiar faces abound for the Winner/Colome Royals. The Royals, who won last year's Class B state high school baseball title, return seven starters and 13 letterwinners in a quest to return to the top of the class. Winner/Colome's three s...

Winner/Colome third baseman Carter Brickman prepares to throw to first base during the 2016 Class B state high school baseball tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium. (Republic file photo)
Winner/Colome third baseman Carter Brickman prepares to throw to first base during the 2016 Class B state high school baseball tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium. (Republic file photo)

WINNER-Familiar faces abound for the Winner/Colome Royals.

The Royals, who won last year's Class B state high school baseball title, return seven starters and 13 letterwinners in a quest to return to the top of the class.

Winner/Colome's three seniors-Kelly O'Bryan, Drew DeMers and Holden Thieman-highlight the experienced Royals. The trio were all-region selections, while DeMers and Thieman were all-staters.

"Those are probably our three key guys, but we are pretty deep," Winner/Colome coach Drew Weber said. "We have a lot of depth at different positions, too."

Weber said despite all the returners, the team doesn't feel any pressure and added they are used to facing expectations from other sports. Winner is coming off back-to-back Class 11B football titles, while Colome won the Class 9B football crown in the fall.

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Now they want to have that same sustained success on the diamond.

"We want to be considered one of those top baseball programs," Weber said. "There is a lot to prove for us, as we trying to build that reputation as a big baseball community."

Weber said perhaps the biggest strength is the team's pitching depth. O'Bryan, DeMers and juniors Ty Bolton, Riley Calhoon and Carter Brickman will anchor the pitching staff. Bolton and Brickman were also all-region performers. Bolton (1.19 ERA) was an all-stater.

Weber tabbed O'Bryan (2.23 ERA) as the team's big-game pitcher.

"He would be the guy if we need a game to win - 2-1 - he will be the guy we would throw," Weber said. "But a lot of those other games where you can just try to win - 6-4 - I feel like we have a lot of guys that can go out there and throw strikes, keep the ball in play, stuff like that."

O'Bryan will slide over from second base to shortstop and will also be the team's leadoff hitter. He will replace shortstop Reed Harter, who was an all-stater for the Royals last season and is now playing for Dakota Wesleyan University.

Weber said Winner/Colome will miss Harter's infield stability, but he likes the versatility with Calhoon, juniors Dalton Baker, Jeremiah Yeaman and freshmen Phillip Jorgensen and Joren Bruun. Junior Levi McLanahan will also be back in the mix after missing last season due to an injury.

"We have some options and they would be like our ninth-type guy batting-wise," Weber said. "We can do different things and see who is hitting the ball well and in high school, it is nice because you can DH for anybody. Maybe we have got a glove guy that we want somewhere and then we can hit with somebody else. We have some depth that gives us some options."

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Offensively, DeMers batted .444 last season and drove in 12 runs. Calhoon was close behind at .354 and had 15 RBI. Brickman (.317), junior Nick Lantz (.289), O'Bryan (.250) and Bolton (.220) will also add to the team's offensive production.

Weber hopes to see more runs manufactured by players in the middle of the lineup.

"We have lacked the power hitting that comes in handy in big games and are hopeful that some of the guys have matured physically and the hard work put in during the offseason will payoff for us," Weber said.

The Royals will open the season today against Todd County in Winner.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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