Mar 10th, 2007 @ 9:06 pm | Author: Courtesy of Mike Griffenberg, TR Sports

That is the one word that can sum up Valley City State's baseball season last year. That was the number of starts that the Vikings top-four starting pitchers made as the Vikings went 1-15 in the Dakota Athletic Conference last season.

'The main key this year is that we need to have more than seven starts out of our starting pitchers in our conference games,' Vikings head coach Cory Anderson said. 'The year before, when we were 11-15 in the conference, every start we had was one of our top four pitchers.'

The reason the Vikings got so few starts out of their top four starters was because of Mother Nature and injuries. VCSU had a lot of makeup games in a short amount of time and three of the four starters had the injury bug at some point in the year.

Jason Beilke and Kory Foss, the Vikings No. 1 and 2 starters the year before each only made eight starts. Beilke, junior, went 1-3 with a 3.92 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. He battled elbow tenderness during the year.
Foss, senior, was 0-5 with a 6.85 ERA in 47 1/3 innings.

Anderson said that Foss had a blister on a finger of his pitching hand, and that affected his performance. In 2005 Foss was 4-4 with a 2.69 ERA and had three shutouts.

'We hope he can get back to where he was two years as a sophomore,' Anderson said about Foss. 'When you can't feel your finger, it doesn't allow you to throw.'

Senior Drew Calanchie went 2-6 with a 4.14 ERA in 10 games, seven starts, and battled a back problem. The only starter to take the mound every time he was supposed to was DAC Freshman of the Year Marc Wilson. Wilson went 6-6 with a 4.57 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 67 innings.

All four starters returned and, when healthy, make up a good rotation. There is also more depth at the top of the rotation this year. Anderson said that freshman Steve Franklin will battle Foss for the fourth spot in the rotation.

'I don't think we were as deep as we wanted to be as a pitching staff,' Anderson said. 'Now, when five and six are asked to throw, we can have some success with those guys too. I think we are deeper this year that way.'

VCSU also returns a lot of quality bats. Three of their top four hitters return this season.

Leading the way will be cleanup hitter and junior first baseman Reid Arnold. Arnold hit .298 and a team-leading three home runsm while driving in 20 runs. Also are returning are junior outfielder Scott Dusessoy and senior third baseman Pat Olson.

Dusessoy hit .298 and led the team in stolen bases (11) and runs scored (27). Olson hit .296 and led the team with 21 RBIs, but will miss some time early on. He tore a tendon in a pinkie over Christmas break.

Olson hopes to be back sometime over the Vikings' spring break trip. VCSU opens the season Sunday against Robert Morris College in Pensacola, Fla. The Vikings will be in Florida until March 16.

One player that won't be returning is Valley City native and the Vikings' longtime No. 3 hitter Doug Lonski. Last season, as a senior, Lonski led the team with a .321 average and drove in 19 runs.

'He had been a .300 hitter since he stepped on campus,' Anderson said. 'I think we'll miss him in terms of how steady and consistent he was.'

Taking his place in left field will be a platoon of juniors Bryce Ingram and Jeremy Wiebe. Anderson sill isn't sure who will be his new No. 3 hitter.

The Vikings return seven starters and one player, second baseman Matt Huonder, who was penciled in as a starter last year. Huonder only played in 10 games last season due to a blood clot in his arm.

One newcomer that will make an impact right away will be sophomore football standout Chauncey Calhoun. Calhoun, who started in center and batted leadoff for North Dakota State as a true freshman in 2004, will do the same for the Vikings. Dusessoy will move from center to right.

Anderson believes his team will be much better in 2007 then they were in 2006 because of one reason: they are a year older.

'You can see a total different team this year with the guys with just how they practice,' Anderson said. 'Last year they were all kind of still bright eyed and bushy tailed. This year they all have that experience to fall back on.'