Story last updated at 12:18 p.m. Thursday, May 2, 2002

Homer High squad shaping up season
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Ben Kuhns ckecks a runner.  
The sophomore season for the Homer High School baseball program will be much like the inaugural one <> an opportunity for an underdog team to prove Homer knows baseball.

After last year's squad finished a surprising 9-3 with a share of first place in the district, Mariner coach Lary Kuhns simply hopes this year's team will do as well.

The Mariners are without the core of last year's squad as seniors accounted for all the starting pitchers and the majority of the starting position players.

"It's definitely a rebuilding year for us," Kuhns said.

Kuhns said versatility is the catch word for his team, meaning his players will often have more than one role to fill.

A trio of juniors <> Adam Crum, Ben Kuhns, David Drake <> will be the only returning starters in the Mariner lineup this season.

In addition, the Mariners will have the services of seniors Neal Kuipers, Joe Todd and Tom Crandall while relying on a "solid" group of freshmen to make some contributions.

"Our strengths are going to be our overall speed and our overall defense," said Kuhns, whose team has been drilling hard on fundamental station-to-station baseball, emphasizing bunting and base stealing.

The Mariners plan to use their speed to "give our power hitters as many opportunities to drive in runs as possible," Kuhns said. "We will definitely be playing some small ball."

The Mariners kick off their 12-game season with four games in three days in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys, with two games against Palmer on Thursday and Friday followed by a doubleheader with Wasilla Saturday.

Kuhns said he hoped this team could one-up last year's squad and earn a trip to the state tournament. The 2001 Mariners lost a chance to play in the big dance when they lost a tie-breaking coin toss to co-champion Wasilla.