Miller, Larkoski return to lead the Blossoms’ baseball
In 2019, Blooming Prairie baseball went 8-13, but with a large group of seniors and two returning starters, the Blossoms believe they can do much better this season.
Even though there’s just two returning starters and he’s one of them, senior center fielder/pitcher Alex Miller said that doesn’t put any additional pressure on himself to know that he’s supposed to be one of the team’s best players this season.
“I think it actually helps me to know that when I was a sophomore, I was already doing this,” he said. “I think most of us are excited for this season and ready to go.”
Likewise, senior third baseman/pitcher Luke Larkoski, who is the second returning starter, agreed that most players are excited to be playing again, especially since for most of them this is their last opportunity to play at the high school level.
“I think we’re pretty excited because we have a lot of returning seniors. We really didn’t get any playing time last year, but we do have a lot of good seniors. We’ve got 11 of us. We’ll have a pretty full team of seniors, which is good because we have lot of experience,” he said.
Larkoski believes he posted a 2.50 earned run average as a sophomore, but he hopes to do even better this season.
“I hope to be a little more focused this year, a little more locked in. I’ve worked on some different pitches to throw at them. As a tenth-grader, I didn’t have that many pitches that were developed. My curveball was not as good, but I've worked on that and it’s gotten a lot better so I hope to use that against batters,” he said.
In addition to his curveball, Larkoski will also throw a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a circle-changeup.
Miller didn’t pitch that much two years ago, but he also throws a two-seamer, four-seamer, changeup and a curveball.
When he’s not pitching, he’ll be the Blossoms’ starting center fielder. Miller said what makes him a good center fielder is his speed.
“I think most of the time I’ve been playing baseball I’ve been one of the faster guys on the team. I’m probably not as fast compared to these guys as I used to be, but I think I’m definitely still up there [as one of the faster players on the team] and that definitely helps,” he said.
Coach Matt Kittelson said Miller’s speed was one of the reasons he earned varsity minutes as a sophomore.
“Alex is just an all-around good athlete. We needed a guy who could come in and cover a lot of ground in center field. He’s fast, he gets a good read on the ball and he’s a very dependable outfielder,” he said. “He has good arm and then he just makes consistent contact at the plate. That was the biggest thing, we were a little shy on numbers and needed a couple sophomores to come help us out and he was a no-brainer. He actually as a sophomore was second on our time in batting average. He could do a lot of good things for us and he could do them well.”
When he’s at the plate, Miller tries to lock in on his job.
“I try not to lean back because when I lean back, I’m more relaxed, but if I’m leaning forward and into it, then my heads into it and I’m all in with it. I’m in there to hit the ball and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
Meanwhile, Larkoski focuses on making solid contact.
“When I get up to the plate, I like to tell myself that I just need to make good contact. If you make good contact, the ball is going to go places. There’s people fielding, but if you make good contact and it goes to them, so be it. However, if you make good contact the ball’s most likely going to fall and you’re going to get good hits,” he said.
He believes what makes him a good third baseman is his arm strength.
“I have a pretty decently strong arm. My dad was a pretty good pitcher in college and I think I inherited a good arm from him. It wasn’t always that good, I’ve been working on that as well,” he said. “We have a lot of strong arms on this team this year too so that’s really going to help us succeed.”
In addition to leading the Blossoms’ offense and defense, as the only returning starters Miller and Larkoski will also be tasked with being the team’s leaders.
Miller said his leadership approach will be based on what he saw in tenth grade from those seniors and he’ll try to transition that to this season’s team.
Likewise, Larkoski will also model his leadership after the way the seniors two years ago led the team.
“The seniors two years ago were pretty good leaders. They had a lot of good athletes; they just had some pretty unfortunate injuries. Seth Peterson, he was a senior two years ago, but he tore his ACL during football season. He couldn’t participate with us in baseball, but he was a very good leader so I really looked up to him and what he did as a leader so I hope to portray that on the field this year,” he said.
While it will take a team effort to win and have a successful season, Miller and Larkoski will try to use their leadership and varsity experience to help the Blossoms beat Mankato Loyola in a home game at 11 a.m. on Saturday.