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Depth, experience to lead way for Miller baseball

Kevin James has high hopes for his Yukon Millers baseball team.
The team, which finished last season 22-15 and in the finals of the regional tournament, returns the bulk of its starting lineup.
James also sees potential in the players that are filling holes that were created by graduation.
The Millers hit the field Monday for the first time, facing Piedmont in a scrimmage.
The Millers lost 2-1 despite a good outing by Josh Sanders on the mound.
Sanders pitched three innings for the Millers and took the loss. He gave up two runs on five hits. He also struck out five, but didn’t walk anyone.
James said despite Monday’s scrimmage loss, he is looking forward to seeing his team in action this spring.
It is the “oldest” team he has had in several years with nine seniors on the roster and eight juniors.
“We’ve got a lot of kids back,” he said.
That includes the Millers’ top two pitchers — Sanders, who has signed with Texas Tech, and Carson Benge, who was the No. 2 pitcher from last season.
Benge also was among the team’s top hitter with a batting average of .318.
Both pitchers are right-handers, though Benge hits left-handed, James said.
Sanders, the coach says, throws in the mid- to upper-80s, but also has a nice slider, curve and change-up.
“His change-up makes his fastball look a lot quicker,” he said.
Benge’s off-speed pitches help his fastball, James said.
“When you hand them the ball, they compete,” he said.
Benge, when he is not on the mound, was the team’s starting third baseman.
Also making up the infield are Jeff Lodus, who played second base last year but is expected to slide over to the shortstop position.
Lodus, who has signed with Cowley County Community College, also could see some time on the mound.
Lodus was the team’s lead-off last year, hitting .327.
Senior Matt Wilson is expected to start at second base. Wilson averaged .240 last year at the plate.
In the outfield, Mickey Boyer hit .270, while Mason McIntyre is a two-year starter with a .240 batting average.
New to the starting lineup are catcher Carson Lee, and at first base, Hunter Brown and Josh Holston are expected to share time.
In the outfield, James said he expects to see Sanders, Nick Scavitto and Austin Arnold with playing time.
Dawson Owens and Kolby Flow are expected to be utility players.
James said he likes what he has seen from his players, thus far.
“They come to the park every day, ready to go. They’ve had a good off season. They’ve worked hard and gotten stronger,” he said. “They’ve had a pretty good mentality.”
The benefit of having the majority of last year’s team back is that the players already know what is expected.
“We’re pleased with where we are at,” James said. “We like how our kids are doing.”
So far, there have been few surprises.
“We have had some guys who have stepped up and taken on a leadership role. … It’s not one guy or two guys, there are several. It makes it easier on the coaching staff if there is a group leading instead of an individual,” he said.
Going into the season, James said he is looking for consistency from his team.
“We feel like we have a pretty good understanding of what we want to accomplish and we’ve got a pretty good approach at the plate. We’ve got a bunch of guys back with experience on the field and we’ve got some guys who can throw it a little bit.
“So, we’re excited about where we are at and we’re expecting big things out of them. Now, it is time to go out and play,” James said.

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