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Braves will field young team

BASEBALL: Banks will return just five players from last season's team
by: Tommy Whitcomb, Banks junior Jesse Hostynek will anchor the Braves’ pitching rotation this season.

Like most young baseball teams, Banks could be in for an up-and-down season in 2008.

The Braves return just five players with varsity experience, and nearly half of the team's 13-man roster will be underclassmen. That has head coach Wymon Smith ready for just about anything.

'We're a young team. We just don't have the experience,' Smith said. 'There are times we look pretty good out there and there are times we look like the 'Bad News Bears.''

Among the returners are seniors Johnny Janisko, Alden Bayless, Brett Gooding and Mitchell Engeseth, who played as a sophomore but missed last season while recovering from cancer treatments.

'It's like he hasn't even missed a beat,' Smith said of Engeseth. 'We're pretty pleased.'

The only other returner is junior Jesse Hostynek, who will shoulder much of the pitching load along with newcomers Chris Shaw and Michael Nowak, both sophomores.

'We've got a young pitching staff, but we've got guys we feel comfortable going to,' Smith said. 'The big question with being so young is our defense. Are we going to field routine balls? If we can get consistent play defensively, we're going to battle.'

The outfield should be solid with Bayless holding down left field and speedy sophomores John Criswell and Nick Turner in center and right.

'We should have one of the fastest outfields in the league,' Smith said. 'Those guys are working hard and going after balls.'

Infield play will be perhaps the biggest question mark with Janisko as the only returner. Cody Shulund will take over behind the plate after the graduation of his brother, Bryce, while fellow junior T.J. Arthur could see some time in the infield as well.

Other sophomores in contention for playing time are Nick Vandecouvering and Casey Wistrand.

'I think we're going to put up our share of runs,' Smith said. 'Defense will be the key.'