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Torry Hupert of the Scarlets slides back to first base during a game last season at Dehler Park. The Scarlets finished last season with a 37-24 record and second place at state in what was considered a rebuilding year for the club. With most of the starters returning this year, coach Adam Hust is excited for his team’s chances. “It’s going to be fun to see how we can build off of what we did last year,” Hust said.

The excitement that Adam Hust felt at the end of the 2012 Legion baseball season has carried over to 2013.

The Billings Scarlets coach saw his team go 37-24, finish second at state and win a game at regionals last year — and that was in a rebuilding year.

Now, with most of the team returning, plus the addition of several young standouts, Hust is eager to see how this summer unfolds.

“It’s going to be fun to see how we can build off of what we did last year,” said Hust, who’s guided the Scarlets to three Montana State AA titles in six years as the head coach. “Having the season we did with that young of a team was encouraging and it lets me know that we’re capable of that and a lot more this year.”

The Scarlets have gone 5-5 in early season games against teams from South Dakota and Wyoming. They’ll make their first appearance at Dehler Park this season Friday night in an non-conference game against the Billings Royals that will kick off the Memorial Day Alumni Tournament.

Game time Friday is 5 p.m., and the Scarlets will play again Saturday at 11 a.m. against the alumni team.

The Scarlets’ everyday lineup will feature mostly familiar faces, led by the catching tandem of Nick Funyak and Shelby Zorn. Hust said both will be in the lineup in every game, starting at either DH or another position when they are not catching.

Elijah Sommerville will also see time at catcher but will be sidelined for the first half of the season with a broken hand.

Zorn will be joined at first base by Gage Hinsz and Michael Merchant, who are both in the starting pitching rotation.

Winston Cox returns at second base and will be backed up by newcomers Jalen Garcia and Gordy Svienson. Brayden Wickam returns at shortstop, where Garcia will also be a backup.

Returning starter Kenny Clarin will be joined at third base by Collin Maier, who’s part of the starting pitching rotation. Svienson, who Hust said will be the team’s utility infielder, will also see time at third base.

In the outfield, Ian Byorth returns in left field, where Cole Jones and Funyak will also see action.

Torry Huppert will move from right field to center this season. Christian Martinson, who’s in the starting pitching rotation, will play right field along with Cox.

“We’ve got a solid defensive lineup,” said Hust. “We made way too many errors and mistakes on that first weekend in Rapid City, but we’ve gotten better. It’s just about repetition … once school is out and we start playing every day, we’ll eliminate a lot of those mistakes.”

The starting rotation of Hinsz, Merchant, Maier and Martinson will be backed up by Svienson, Garcia, Huppert, Clarin, David Follett, Jordan Harris and Garrett Cosgrove.

“We’ve got a lot of kids that got a lot of innings for us last year … that experience is huge,” said Hust. “Gage is definitely our No. 1 right now, and Merchant and Martinson both came on strong in the second half of last season.”

Hust added that leadership will be one of the keys to the Scarlets’ success this season. Funyak, who just returned from his freshman season at the University of Puget Sound, will be one of those who will fill that role.

“Nick is a great kid and a great leader, but to have success you need a lot of kids who are willing to be leaders,” said Hust. “It doesn’t really matter who it is … it can be a 19-year-old or a 16-year-old.

“And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a vocal leader. We’re just looking for kids to step up and lead by doing things the right way every day.”

Hust will be assisted by former Scarlet Chris Martin and Bozeman native Matt Comer. Both were members of the MSU Billings coaching staff this spring.

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Sports editor for the Billings Gazette.