The Oshkosh North baseball team has been sick of running into Sun Prairie the last few years.
Two of the last three seasons, the Spartans fell to the Cardinals in the Division 1 sectional championship, one game away from state. Sun Prairie went on to win three state titles in that span.
However, the Spartans won’t be included in the same sectional this year, so they won’t have the Cardinals to worry about.
It’s early to be talking about sectional baseball, but that’s how high the expectations are for the Oshkosh North baseball team this year.
“The program has high expectations this year,” head coach Troy Schaefer said. “Players are put in position to do a lot of great things.”
Oshkosh North’s roster consists of 10 seniors this season, nine of whom played last season.
Pitching and defense will be a strength again for the Spartans, who return an all-state player in senior Alex Hintze. Hintze finished last season with an 8-2 record with a 1.53 ERA.
“I think we are fortunate to have all of the pitchers that we have and we are even more fortunate to have who I would consider, two of the best catchers in the state,” Schaefer said. “Pitchers are thankful that they have good catchers behind the plate and a great pitcher will tell you he’s as good as the guy catching the ball and the defense behind him.”
Will Clark, another senior, returns after helping the Spartans reach the sectional final. Clark made honorable mention all-Fox Valley Association last season.
Sam Hawley and Ben Bathke, two more seniors, will split time behind the plate to catch. Hawley made first-team all-conference last year.
Offensively the Spartans return some of its best hitters. Bathke, Aaron Roth and Brandon Schroeder return as seniors to pack the Spartan lineup.
Bathke, who earned honorable mention last year, batted over .300 while Schroeder was second in the conference with a .404 batting average, while not striking out once.
“Bathke played half of last season with a messed up finger and still hit over .300, that was awesome,” Schaefer said. “Roth has been a big hitter in our program for many years and we’re excited to have him back.”
Senior Jake Guenther returns to lead a Wildcat team that finished 6-15 a year ago.
Guenther, the team MVP the last two seasons who can play almost any position in the field — and is the team’s top pitcher — looks to lead an Oshkosh West team that had trouble finishing games a season ago.
“We played in a lot of close games but could not get over the hump,” head coach Tony Gerharz said. “Our expectations this year are to be as competitive as possible in the always strong (Fox Valley Association).”
Besides Guenther, senior Josh Bartelt returns as the starting catcher and senior Konnor Zuehl returns as the starting shortstop. Other seniors returning that had experience on varsity last year includes Cody Hinn (outfield), Ben Stilson (pitcher, infield) and Jake Disterhaft (pitcher, first base).
Gerharz said the team has sever juniors, such as Max Antoneau, Matt Brewer, Trevor Brown, Jake Esson, Nate Jaeger, Matt Rebholz, Alex Scholl and Brett Unglaub and other talented sophomores and freshman that could contribute this season.
The Knights are coming off a 5-15 2014 season, but head coach Reed Tyriver hopes another year of experience will help for a team that only lost two seniors.
Finishing second to last in the Trailways-North Conference a year ago, Tyriver said he hopes to be one of the top teams this time around.
“A lot of younger guys got some opportunities to play and get some experience last year and I am fully expecting that experience to pay off for us this year,” the coach said. “I expect us to compete and be one of the top teams in the conference this season.”
Lourdes’ biggest strength entering the season is pitching. Tyriver said he has at least four pitchers that he feels comfortable putting out on the mound every day in Evan Ganther, Sam Gelhar, Michael Godfroy and Nathan Ruegsegger.
Tyriver also said that Ganther and Ruegsegger are the team’s top returning hitters.
Other upperclassmen that will make an impact includes catcher Sam Russo, second baseman/shortstop Alex Kroll and outfielder Eddie Sweet. Tyriver also said that sophomore third basemen/pitcher Jack Brooks could have a big year.
The Wolves enter the 2015 season with a new coach in Randy Wilke, who previously coached the JV team.
Winneconne will be very young this season, having only three seniors and four juniors on the roster.
Wilke said senior Austin Halverson and junior Nate Wright will lead the team out on the mound after having limited varsity experience a season ago.
As far as the offense goes, that will be a work in progress, according to the head coach. He said the offense only returns two starters from last season and will look to the younger players that played on JV a season ago.
The Foxes are coming off a 13-8 season, where they finished fifth in the Flyway Conference.
Omro lost five seniors from last year that made all-conference, but if there is one strength this year that the tam didn’t have last year, it’s hitting.
Head coach Frank Goetz said the pitching kept the team in games last year, but struggled to score runs. That shouldn’t be the case this season.
Goetz said the team will be looking at Alan Reyes to lead the team, a senior catcher that in Goetz’ mind, is a front runner for the conference player of the year. Along with Reyes, Victor Lancour, Nathan Purtral Hunter Amundson, Billy Arps, Braxton Malnory, Max Potratz, Zach Grabner and Devin Marine are players that will look to make some noise this season offensively.
Goetz also said that senior Austin Clark will be the team’s ace, followed by Lancour, another senior.
The Tigers lost a lot from their team that made it to state last season, so head coach Dan Jonas knows his young team will have their struggles early on this season.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the talent to go far again.
“We’ll be really young,” Jonas said. “Underclassmen are really hopeful for, they play a lot of ball. We got some good kids. By the end of the year we’ll be good. I don’t know if our record will reflect with how much we will improve.”
Jake Merrill returns after making third-team last season as a designated hitter. Besides him, sophomore Hunter Merrill will be the other player to lead the Tigers offensively.
Jonas said his team will rely on Owen Krueger to lead the way on the mound, followed by a trio of sophomores — Andrew Radloff, Cody Sandleback and Trey Achtoung.
Krueger was a big part of the reason the Tigers made it to state last season, pitching well in sectionals.
Winning one game in 2013 and just three last season, the Indians look to continue to improve as they enter the 2015 campaign.
Head coach Bryant Bednarek said the team only lost one all-conference player from a season ago and believes his team will be more competitive as most of his lineup returns.
“Last year we were a sophomore dominate team, we still are young,” Bednarek said. “We made some big strides last year, and going into this year, we return 90 percent of our lineup and guys know what they should be doing.”
Berlin will look at junior Carter Jodarski and senior David Miracle to lead the pitching staff, as well on the offensive side.
Another person to keep an eye out for this season is senior Justice Keller. Bednarek said the catcher hit third in the lineup last season and batted over .300, including two home runs.
Alex Wolf: (920) 426-6661 or firstname.lastname@example.org