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Stingers add four more players for 2012

WILLMAR -- The 2012 Willmar Stingers roster is beginning to take shape.

On Wednesday they added four new players to push the roster to 16.

Joining the Stingers are sophomore infielder Hunter Dozier and junior infielder Zach Benson from Stephen F. Austin, along with freshman utility man Brady Anderson and freshman outfielder/first baseman Michael Suchy from Florida Gulf Coast.

Dozier is the most accomplished of the group, having started at shortstop for the Lumberjacks last season as a freshman.

He's penciled in as the starting shortstop for the Stingers and could pair with Alabama's Kenny Roberts at second for a potent combination at middle infield.

A product of Denton (Texas) High School, Dozier hit .315 with five home runs, 34 RBIs, a .467 slugging percentage and a .363 on-base percentage for Stephen F. Austin in 2011.

"He's a bright spot for us," Stingers co-owner Ryan Voz said. "He was highly recruited by a few other summer collegiate leagues, but due to our relationship with Stephen F. Austin he committed to be a Stinger next summer."

The downside is that Dozier will be eligible for the Major League Baseball amateur draft and could turn pro if selected.

"It's a little bit of a risk, but we think it's worth it," Voz said.

Dozier's Lumberjack teammate Benson could start at third base for the Stingers or possibly fill more of a utility infielder role. Benson sat out last year as a red shirt junior at Stephen F. Austin after playing at San Jacinto College in Houston in 2009 and 2010.

"He was a guy who's been on our radar since the beginning of last summer," Voz said. "Had we had any other injuries in the middle infield we would have brought him in."

Benson hit .287 with two home runs, 26 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and a .374 on-base percentage for the Gators during their 2010 run to the NJCAA Division I World Series title game where they lost to Iowa Western.

Dozier and Benson will be the starting shortstop and third baseman for Stephen F. Austin this year, and Voz said it's an advantage signing players who are college teammates, such as Rob Elliot and Jason Leblebijian from Bradley last season.

"Bringing in guys that have played together in the spring has worked in the past and we're looking forward to having both of these guys," Voz said.

Freshman recruits Suchy and Anderson will give the Stingers some needed flexibility with the roster.

Anderson will either be in the starting rotation or the closer for Florida Gulf Coast and can also play second base and center field. Voz said the Stingers are looking at him as being a two-way player this summer.

Suchy will be the starting right fielder for the Eagles but can also play first base.

"That was the part that was intriguing to us, that we could use him at first base or outfield," Voz said. "Suchy's the type of guy that could give us more than one role."

With the four new additions, 14 open spots remain on the Stingers' roster.

Voz said the roster will be complete by the time May rolls around.

"We still need to sign quite a few arms," Voz said. "We also still have some outfielders we need to sign and we're looking at securing another catching position."

Notes: The Stingers also announced that Tyler Shepple will be returning for his third season as the Willmar pitching coach. Shepple was a teammate of Stingers' manager Matt Hollod at the University of Washington and played professionally in 2002 with the Ogden Raptors in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He was a 20th round draft pick of the Brewers in 2002. ... Stingers' outfielder Pat Stover (Santa Clara) was named one of the Top 100 collegiate players for the 2012 MLB draft in the Dec. 12 issue of Baseball America. Stover has signed to play for the Stingers in 2012, but is draft eligible.

Ben Brewster

Ben Brewster covers the Willmar Stingers and other area sports, as well as laying out the daily sports section cover for the West Central Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @benbrewster.

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