A busy summer at Coral Seymour Memorial Park will commence today when the American Legion Twins host East in a 12:30 p.m. doubleheader.
"Oiler park is looking great," Twins manager John Butler said. "There's only one spot with some kill on it, and I think that was done with fertilizer.
"It's the best this field has looked in 12 years."
The outlook for the Twins this year isn't as clear, but Butler is optimistic. The club finished fifth in the state last year after finishing second the year before.
This year, the Twins will have to fill two major holes in the rotation in order to make another run at the state title. Both Josh Gilbert and Larson Kohler have graduated from the program.
"That's the thing I worried about all winter," said Butler, who has been involved with the program since 1990. "Everyplace else, I was thinking we could fill in here with some of the young guys, and fill in there.
"Larson and Josh were just two horses you could always go to."
Butler does not think he has replacements that will be able to generate the strikeouts of Kohler and Gilbert. However, he does think he has capable arms. Returners that will see time on the hill are Mitchell Thompson, Tyler Marcuson, Mikey Griffin, Braden Price and Vinnie Madrid.
Newcomers that will add pitching depth are Josiah Covey, Ethan Oliver, DJ Stilchen and Tay Harling.
"I think with DJ, Tyler, Mikey Griffin and those other guys, we should be OK," Butler said. "There won't be a lot of strikeouts, but there will be ground balls and routine plays."
That will push defense to the forefront. The base of the defense will be Marcuson, who will log a lot of time at catcher.
"Tyler should probably come out and be one of the best catchers in the state this year," Butler said.
Homer's Dylan Morrison and Harling also will don the tools of ignorance for the Twins.
The infield will be anchored by Jake Darrow at second and Covey at shortstop. At third will be Thompson and Madrid. First will be manned by Steven Steger, Madrid and Oliver. At times Darrow will move to short, and Weston Price could play second.
The key piece of the outfield will be the fleet-of-foot Braden Price in center. Steger, Griffin, Oliver, Morrison and Weston Price also will play outfield.
Butler said Stilchen is a utility player.
"I think we should be really strong defensively," Butler said.
On offense, Butler said the team will be a work in progress.
"I've got a feeling we probably will struggle early and come on pretty late," Butler said of his team's bats. "By the end of the year we should be fine."
His goal is to win state, or at least finish in the top four.
He said the team will face a stiff test against East, even though the Thunderbirds struggled in high school play. Butler said the team will have five players that didn't play high school, and three of them are pitchers. He said the Twins will probably face 19-year-olds on the mound today.
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