July 3, 2006
Howard Lake Orphans host region tourney this year
By Jenni Sebora
Clad in new uniforms, some roster and player position changes, and a newly installed batters eye, Howard Lake Orphans baseball has some new “looks” this year.
Although the Orphans are off to a slow start this year, presently posting a 10-7 overall record and 5-4 league record, at the time of this writing, the Orphans expect to be at the top of the North Star league, West division by the end of the season, Orphans manager Mike Gagnon noted.
The team’s most recent losses to Delano, Maple Plain, and Watkins have been by two-run margins, and the remaining losses came down to the wire with one-run losses.
But, the Orphans hope to be at the top of their game when it counts the most, at playoff time.
“We are consciously making decisions so that we are at our strongest at playoffs. Obviously we want to win, but we are keeping in mind our long-term goal as well,” Gagnon said.
That long-term goal includes earning a trip to the Region tournament, which the Orphans themselves are hosting at Memorial Park this season, and a berth into the state tournament is always a goal.
“Of course, we would like to make it to the state tournament,” Gagnon added.
Part of the strategy to “peak” at play-off time includes different line-up combinations during the season to see which players emerge as the best combination of defense and offense for the 2006 Orphans team, Gagnon noted.
“We have a couple of positions that players are competing for. We’ll experiment with different line-ups and see who rises to win more playing time,” Gagnon said.
The 2006 Orphans’ roster this year is without catcher and outfielder Kevin Werner and utility player Josiah Hagemann, who stayed in Duluth where he attends college.
The Orphans have added J.J. Pettit and Steve Lee, son of former Orphan Dave Lee, who will be competing for playing time.
According to the 2006 season preview on the Orphans’ web site, www.orphansbaseball.com, first base will mainly be covered by Aaron DeMarais and Adam Koch, when they are not pitching. The rest of the infield positions will likely be filled by the 2005 North Star west MVP John Stueven, Jesse Berg, Tim Sonnek and Luke Gagnon. Ben Borrell among other Orphans, Tom Bobrowske, Steve Lee, Matt Streich and Tom Borrell, who are vying for playing time, cover the outfield.
Pitching is key to winning and continues to be a strength for the Orphans baseball team. And not overthrowing their pitching staff early in the season so they can “peak” later in the season is key to the Orphans’ philosophy too, Gagnon noted.
“You have to pitch well to do well,” Gagnon said.
Adam Koch led the way last year in the team’s pitching success as he was named the west division MVP pitcher, winning six league games.
The Orphans’ pitching staff is deep and talented. Shane Heber, Jake Streich, Ben Borrell, Andy Gagnon, Steve Miller and DeMarais are all part of that deep pitching staff.
Behind the plate duties are shared by Andy Gagnon, Chad Burau and Matt Donovan, the orphans web site noted.
“Andy Gagnon is off to a good start behind the plate and hitting,” Gagnon said.
And hitting is the area the team hopes to improve upon. Borrell, Donovan, and Stueven, who had a .414 league batting average in 2005, are also doing well offensively for the Orphans thus far this year, manager Gagnon noted.
The team hopes to have everything in order to qualify for the Region 11C tournament, which as noted will be held at the Orphans’ own Memorial Park this year.
Although the Orphans didn’t qualify for the region tournament last year, the team has made it to this level eight out of the past 12 seasons and earned three state tournament berths, in 1995, 1998 and most recently in 2001. The first state tournament appearance for the Orphans was in 1951.
Memorial Park will be ready to host the region tournament as there have been many new additions in the past 10 years, including a grass infield, an announcer’s stand, a sprinkler system, a permanent outfield fence, various signs, logos, and decorations, a new scoreboard and most recently a batters eye.
So although in 1947 when the Howard Lake town team baseball team was donned its name, the Orphans, because it had no home field to play on due to renovations occurring to the field, the Orphans now have a premier ballpark to play on a field worthy of a region tournament.
Orphans 2006 roster