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Members of the 2021 Midland varsity baseball team are, left to right, Front row- Kael Cress, Cooper Sterk, DJ Soper and Owen Sterk. Middle row- Damion Cruise, Lucas Ervin, Warren Etten, Ethan Paulsen, Seth Bixler and Jamisen Dodge. Back row- Zain Sauer, Iziek Soper, Head Coach Josh Soper, Carson Hunter and Matt Sauer. Not pictured: Aaron Bixler and Assistant Coach Ryan Manternach.

WYOMING

Midland baseball coach Josh Soper knows what it takes to win games, he’s done in a lot in the past both with the Eagles and at Monticello.

Now that’s he’s entrenched back in Wyoming, Soper wants to bring the program back to its normal lofty status after a COVID shortened 2020 campaign that saw the Eagles finish with a 7-9 overall record and 5-8 mark against Tri-Rivers Conference competition.

With letter winners returning in Iziek Soper, Jamisen Dodge, Aaron Bixler, Warren Etten, Carson Hunter, Ethan Paulsen and Lucas Ervin, Soper is hoping the mix of youth and experience will once again lead the Midland program back to their winning ways.

On the field, Soper knows where it starts, too.

On defense.

“That’s where we have spent most of our practice time so far, and our defense has progressively improved from three weeks ago,” he said. “Ethan Paulsen, Carson Hunter and Jamison Dodge all have varsity experience in the outfield. We are still looking for that fourth guy, but Owen Sterk could provide some depth out there as well.”

Iziek Soper, who has experience at first base and catcher in the past, will log most of the innings behind the plate defensively.

The Midland infield also appears to be strong.

“Zain Sauer and Warren Etten will provide experience on the left side of the infield and newcomer Matt Sauer will have an opportunity at third, depending on who is pitching,” Soper said. “DJ Soper and Aaron Bixler will be on the right side. I also see Jamisen playing more of a super-utility role where he will also play second base and some shortstop depending on the situation.”

Zain Sauer had a huge 2020 campaign and enters 2021 after hitting .434 while Iziek Soper (.367) also topped the .300 mark for the Eagle offense last summer.

“Jamisen, Zain, Iziek, Aaron and Matt have consistently looked good swinging the bat so far this spring,” Soper said. “Zain and Iziek had tremendous seasons last year and we will look to them to be our primary run producers. Aaron will also be in a position to drive in a lot of runs.

“The bottom of the order will need to grind out productive at-bats for us to be a solid offensive team, though.”

Soper’s main concern this summer?

Pitching.

“That’s our biggest area of concern,” he said. “Warren, Zain, Iziek and Jamisen have all logged varsity innings, but they will be in more important roles this season. How they respond to those new roles will dictate a lot. Carson has looked tremendous on the mound this spring in practice and has earned the chance to pitch at the varsity level.”

Midland loses their top-two pitchers from last season in graduated seniors Alex Smith and Jensen Dodge, who combined for 44 innings pitched. Etten returns with the most experience from 2020 logging 18 innings with a sensational 1.17 earned run average.

The Tri-Rivers Conference race once again appears to be challenging according to Soper.

“North Linn, Alburnett and Easton Valley should be the top teams,” he said. “I would describe us as in a transition. There are times we look good, and other times we don’t.

“Consistency and pitching will be our keys. We have some experience with five seniors (Soper, Hunter, Bixler, Paulsen and Ervin), some possible impact players in the junior and sophomore classes, and some newcomers in the freshman class.”

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