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Baseball begins for Merrill Blue JaysSubmitted: 04/01/2015

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MERRILL - The weather looks like it's starting to finally warm up, and that means baseball is back.

For the Merrill Blue Jays, it means a fresh start.

"As a team I think we want to win, go farther in the playoffs than we have the last couple years," says senior pitcher Justin Pyan. "Last couple years you won a playoff game or two, I think we really want to go farther than that this year. Hopefully [get] a chance at state, if we can get one."

The Blue Jays play in the Wisconsin Valley Conference.

That means they'll face tough teams like SPASH, DC Everest, and Wausau West, but Merrill welcomes the competition.

"When you play in the Wisconsin Valley Conference, every game you want to be competitive in," says Head Coach Brian Artac. "That's really my goal: I want to be competitive in that game. I want to be in a situation where we can win the game."

Coach Brian Artac, along with assistant Shawn Schultz, feels his team can be competitive.

They give credit to their pitching staff, which includes workhorse Justin Pyan.

"Pitching really, really, really controls this game, especially in the spring of the year," says Artac. "Good pitching beats good hitting. I don't care what anybody says, that's the number one thing."

Weather can always be a wild card when you play in northern Wisconsin, but this year, the team is able to get out and practice on their own field before their season starts.

"Last year I don't think we went outside for like a month," says Pyan. "It sucks being inside. It gets a little boring, but being able to come out here early, it really gets you better ready for the year."

Merrill also has an advantage on other teams: they have 10 players with varsity experience.

"I think that's one of our strengths, is that we have some kids who have some visualization of what it's like to play varsity ball," says Artac. "I think that helps a little bit."

Merrill will open its season this Saturday with a double header against Antigo in Wisconsin Rapids.

"I think we'll be good this year," says Pyan. "I think we're going to surprise some people."

Story By: Dan Marz

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