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Opening day arrives for Alexandria Blue Anchors

While the Blue Anchors prepare for the second opening day in franchise history this coming Tuesday, Manager Al Newman is ready for the club to begin a more competitive season.

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Alexandria finished with an overall record of 24-46 in 2013, which was 27 games back of overall North Division champion Waterloo, which finished with a 51-19 record. The team hopes an offseason of searching for an improved pitching staff will give fans more victories.

“I think it should be a better team than last year, just for the simple fact that the pitching staff should be a much better unit,” Newman said as he returns for his second season with the club.

Last year, Alexandria finished second highest in earned runs allowed among Northwoods League teams with 441 and last in strikeouts with 381. The front office had these numbers in mind this offseason when it began searching for players.

While filling the starting pitching rotation, the Blue Anchors front office made the decision to find arms that are more suited for Knute Nelson Ballpark.

“We tried to go after pitching that is conducive to our ballpark,” Newman said. “We tried to be left-handed heavy with our rotation to take advantage of the huge left field line and left-center field. We tried to go with pitchers with more velocity than we had last year, which I think is important.”

One of the Blue Anchors’ strengths last season was offensive production. The team finished second in the league in hits with 469 and fifth in home runs with 52. Newman said the 2014 lineup will likely have a different look with less power.

“I think we’ll be more of a contact team this year, maybe small ball by just looking at the numbers,” Newman said. “The guys last year really swung the bats well. We had power throughout the lineup and that’s hard to duplicate.”

Newman said there are a few players who he is looking forward to watching play this season. These players include infielder Ryan Busch, who is coming to the team after a season with Georgetown University in the tough Big East conference, and Angelo State University outfielder Nehwon Norkeh.

“I’m excited to see what he is going to bring to the table this year,” Newman said about Norkeh. “He started as a freshman.”

The hope for the whole franchise is to stay competitive throughout the entire season. He already said they have a jump on last season as many of the team’s players are expected to arrive this weekend. Last year, many of the players arrived late, including a few key starting pitchers who missed more than 15 games.

“We’ll have 17 players here on opening day, and eight of them are going to be pitchers,” Newman said. “The ones that will be coming in are guys that actually pitched quite a bit this year, so they should have enough innings under their belts to give us some length, as far as the game is concerned.”

Newman is appreciative of the efforts by General Manager Kendall Hughson and Blue Anchors’ co-owner Adam Barta to improve the talent level throughout the roster. He hopes this effort will equate to more wins.

“Yes, I would hope that we would be .500. That way, I would know we are competing in the division,” Newman said. “That’s our goal to be competitive every night out.”

The Blue Anchors’ season opener is at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27 at Knute Nelson Memorial Park.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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