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Seniors return to the diamond

When Jake O'Neill attended a Superior baseball tryout camp earlier this year, he was surprised to see fellow high school senior Joe Reichert with a bat and glove.

When Jake O'Neill attended a Superior baseball tryout camp earlier this year, he was surprised to see fellow high school senior Joe Reichert with a bat and glove.

The pair had last played together as eighth-graders, with O'Neill sitting out two seasons since and Reichert turning in his baseball cleats for track shoes every spring.

"I didn't even know he was coming out for the team this year," O'Neill said. "I didn't know if I was coming out for the team this year. I showed up for an open gym and saw Joe there and said, 'Hey, you're playing this year?' "

Spring sports often give seniors an opportunity to return to the field and compete one last time before graduation or stay in shape for college.

That's the case for Hermantown's Janae Baron, who plans on playing soccer at Wisconsin-River Falls in the 2009-10 season. With nothing to do this spring, the energetic Baron decided to return to the high school softball diamond for the first time since her freshman year.

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"I was bored all winter, so I just wanted to play again," said Baron, who quit softball in favor of golf as a freshman but did play in summer leagues between ninth and 10th grades. With some prodding from best friend Megan Mullen, Baron tried out for a team that's renowned for its success.

"It's really fun, I wish I had never quit in the first place," she said. "I'm good at time management. I like being busy, I can't stand not doing anything."

Reichert, who also played football and basketball, participated in track and field for three seasons -- running the 400 meters and relays and competing in the high jump -- before deciding on giving baseball another shot.

"I just thought I'd give it a try, and it's working out so far," said Reichert, who signed to play in the secondary for defending NCAA Division II football champion Minnesota Duluth. "It's coming back to me already. Hopefully, I can keep it up."

Reichert, who bats fifth and plays right field, entered Tuesday's game vs. Hermantown with a .411 batting average, two doubles and a home run.

He struggled a bit against the Hawks, going 0-for-3 with two walks, but Spartans coach Don Dembroski likes what he's seen so far from Reichert and O'Neill.

"In any sport, there's a unique set of skills. There's small nuances that you forget about that are an important part of the game," he said. "Both are contributing, so that's good to see. It's a credit to them to have the athleticism and the work ethic to be contributing the way they are."

O'Neill played his sophomore year but sat out as a freshman and junior. He said he appreciates spring as a change of pace from the grind of football.

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"It's nothing like football season where everything is timed down to the exact minute in practice, where you have to be doing something at all times," said O'Neill, a first baseman who bats cleanup. "You can joke sometimes and you have to be serious at times -- it's not strictly hardcore where you have to be 100 percent baseball 100 percent of the time. You can relax a little bit, knowing that you aren't pressured to be perfect 100 percent of the time."

Baron isn't feeling the pressure, either. A second baseman and outfielder, she's fitting in on the defending section champions and finding she hasn't lost a step.

"I thought it was pretty easy to pick back up," she said. "I thought it was going to be harder than it was, but it's not bad."

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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