MOSINEE – The Mosinee baseball team hosts Antigo for Tuesday’s Great Northern Conference opener in a showdown between what is expected to be the top two teams in the conference this season.
“I consider us to be the favorites,” said Mosinee coach Adam Olson, whose team finished tied for second with Tomahawk behind Antigo in the GNC last year. “We have the most returning players (in the conference). I have very high hopes and expectations for the team this year but we are just going to take it one day at a time.”
Mosinee, which is off to a 3-1 start, brings back seven starters from last year’s team that lost to Notre Dame 2-1 in a Divison 2 sectional semifinal.
The returning group includes junior pitcher Bryce Graveen, who finished tied for the GNC lead with five wins last year and was a first team all-conference selection. He also led the conference in strikeouts with 46.
Graveen is the No. 1 starter for a deep Mosinee pitching staff that is one of the strengths of the team this year. He has made two starts for Mosinee this season, including a loss to undefeated Denmark, which is ranked No. 2 in Division 2.
Graveen also bats in the middle of the Mosinee order and had a .526 slugging percentage in the GNC last season. Six of his 12 hits in conference play were doubles.
“He has extremely good accuracy in hitting his spots (as a pitcher). He can place both his fastball and curveball for strikes where he want and when he wants when he has everything working,” Olson said. “Obviously the speed or how hard he throws is a key, but placement is the biggest thing for him.
To start, talk a little about the conference race this year. Antigo lost quite a bit from last season, do you consider Mosinee to be the favorites? I would say so given that Antigo lost quite a bit from last year and we have seven starters back. We have quite a bit of talent, but we still have to show up to practice everyday and work hard and show up to games and work hard. We have all the potential to do well this year.
One of the strengths for the team this year is the pitching staff. You’re the No. 1 guy, but just talk about the depth of the pitching this year: I haven’t seen depth like this for Mosinee in awhile. We have a couple key guys back this year and also a few freshmen and sophomores stepping up also.
You had a strong year last season, but what area did you feel you still had work to do in as a pitcher? I feel I still needed to work on my technique so I have more velocity when I thorw. I also have been working on my changeup a lot, too.
What was the biggest area of improvement for you last year as a pitcher? From my freshman to sophomore year it was just hitting my spots better.
You are batting fifth this year. Talk a little about the lineup as this team has the ability to put up a lot of runs: Yeah, we have a bunch of guys who have the ability to hit the ball — all the way through (the lineup). We have depth.
Talk about the challenges of being a three-sport athlete as one season blends into another with little or no break: It’s tough. It’s a lot of work in the weight room and everything and then practicing and doing camps in the summer as well — hockey, football and baseball.
Which is your favorite sport? Definitely baseball.
Tim Johnson can be reached at 715-845-0731. Find him on Twitter @timmyjo11
•Sports: Baseball, football hockey
•Family: Father: Rick; mother, Diana; brother, Kyle
•Favorite subject: Science
•Favorite team: Chicago Blackhawks
•Favorite athlete: Mike Trout
•Game day routine: I jam out to country music on days that I pitch.