The Southeast Legacy Twins announced their 2012 roster last week, with four local players making the cut.
Among the 15 players selected to the midget AAA baseball club were second baseman and pitcher Austin Orsted, outfielder Tanner Odgers and catcher Jolan Lingelbach, all of Estevan, as well as shortstop Lucas Lafrentz of Bienfait.
Third baseman and pitcher Garret Fitzpatrick of Carnduff is also a product of Estevan Minor Baseball.
The Twins are made up largely of players from Estevan and Weyburn and compete in the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League.
Twins head coach Tom Copeland said there were some hard decisions to make, but the team followed a clear philosophy in making the final cuts.
"We leaned toward pitchers, we leaned toward first-years over third-years. All things being equal, with a first year, if we feel we can develop a guy (he takes priority over a veteran)," Copeland said.
"Sometimes that’s hard for a kid to understand, but that’s our logic and we won’t sway from that. We’re on a continual rebuilding program trying to make this team better."
He said that despite the small contingent from Estevan, each of the locals will be starters and he expects the team will include more players from the Energy City in the future.
"The Estevan guys are all top players, all starters," he said. "Weyburn doesn’t have a bantam team. The future of the Twins, a lot of it is in Estevan’s bantam program. Some years you’ll see three or four from Estevan, but over the next four or five years you might see that number flip."
Team captain Nolan Axten of Minton, who is a centre fielder and reliever, is the lone third-year on the team. He joined the Twins midway through last season and will bat cleanup.
"Far and away, he’s the best character guy we have. He’s a leader, very quiet kid, strong, mature," said Copeland, who ranked Axten as one of the Twins' top three players.
There are 10 second-year players on the team, along with four rookies.
Among those four, 15-year-old pitcher James Giroux of Weyburn could make the biggest impact. Copeland said he didn't know anything about Giroux until he showed up at the team's fall ball program last year.
"He’s our number two starter. He throws a lot of strikes, he throws hard, he throws down in the zone and he has good control of his breaking ball," said Copeland. "Once he develops some stamina, he will be awesome."
The Twins also have high hopes for Weyburn shortstop Carver Krafchuk after seeing his progress in fall ball.
"He's really good defensively at short. We're also going to convert him to a catcher to get more at bats," said Copeland.
After a rebuilding season which saw the Twins employ 10 rookies and finish 4-15-1 in 2011, those players now have a year of midget AAA experience and the team figures to move up in the SPBL standings.
"These guys still have a lot to learn about carrying the load, being a lot more responsible, being mature, not repeating mistakes and getting better every day," Copeland said.
"The kids are bigger, they have a year under their belts, they got a bit of confidence. They got a taste of what it’s like to win when we (made the semifinals) at provincials (last year)."
With the league down to nine teams this year, Copeland said he's aiming at a fourth-place finish or higher.
"I feel that the strength of our team needs to be pitching and defence. I think our hitting is going to come and go at times. I don’t think it needs to matter. I think we need to go out there and focus on our pitching and our defence," he said.
"The trouble with our team last year was we just gave up too many runs," Copeland continued, saying he'd like to get the team's earned-run average down into the low four range.
"Our starters should throw a ton of strikes. They’ve proven in the past that they have that ability."
The rotation includes opening day starter Justin Chuckry of Weyburn, followed by Giroux, Orsted and Mackenzie Lamontagne of Wawota.
The SPBL regular season schedule is up from 22 games to 32 this year.
The Twins' season opener is May 2 in Regina against the Wolfpack. Their home opener is May 4 against the Regina Athletics. Game time is 7 p.m. at Lynn Prime Park.