Oshkosh North’s Alex Hintze knows this is his last shot.
After falling in the WIAA Division 1 sectional championship game twice in the last three years, both times to Sun Prairie, Hintze and a senior-dominated Spartan team know that if they want to get over that hump, this is the year to do so.
Luckily for Oshkosh North, it won’t be put in Sun Prairie’s sectional. So if there was a meeting between the two, it would be in the state title game.
“We have 10 seniors and they have been contributing since sophomore year and we know how to play,” Hintze said of this year’s expectations. “We are relying on our seniors to be able to lead this team and find success.
“Seeing the same opponent (Sun Prairie) in the same game twice in my career, it’s kind of disappointing to lose so close and have it taken away from you. I want to face them again, hopefully we’ll meet them in the state championship game.”
Hintze has been the catalyst for the Spartan baseball team for the last four years, dating to back when he was a freshman.
There was no doubting Hintze’s abilities on the mound ever since his first start. He posted an 8-0 record with a 1.91 ERA in his first season, helping him earn honorable mention in the ever-so-tough Fox Valley Association.
Since then, he has accumulated a career record of 22-3 with an ERA of 1.70. He also set the FVA record for most strikeouts in a season last year with 114, helping him earn third-team all-state by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association. He finished last season with an 9-2 record and a 1.50 ERA.
“He’s got incredible talent, he oozes athleticism,” Spartans head coach Troy Schaefer said. “His legs are incredibly muscular, he’s built, athletic and he’s just an athletic specimen. He has a lot of natural ability and with that drive to be successful.”
He also tore it up at the plate. Hintze hit .429 last season with a .556 slugging percentage.
There’s a reason that Hintze had multiple offers from Division 1 programs early in his high school career — he can throw and he can hit. Plus, he’s a lefthander and that always helps.
Hintze has four pitches in his arsenal — a curveball, splitter, changeup and his favorite, the fastball. His fastball was once clocked at 91 mph and that allows his off-speed pitches to be so effective.
“Definitely the fastball because I like to overpower people,” Hintze said when asked what his favorite, go-to pitch was.
It didn’t take long for Hintze to decide where he wanted to play ball at the next level. After a visit to the University of Connecticut, Hintze verbally committed shortly after last August. Three months later in November, Hintze signed his NCAA National Letter of Intent.
Hintze said he had multiple offers from Big Ten schools and mentioned that Indiana and Michigan were his next two options.
“The northeast is beautiful and I’m excited for it,” Hintze said. “There will be no education like it and I’m just ecstatic and can’t wait. My thought process behind it was that I fell in love with the area and I visited some other schools, just the relationship with the coaches and the offer, I just couldn’t’ turn it down.”
Once the season is over, all attention will be turned to UConn, a team where it will look to Hintze for contributions right away.
“It sounds like what they’re planning on, is that he’s going to be expected to do stuff right away,” Schaefer said. “I was privileged enough, Alex let me sit in with the head coach on the visit and I listened to him talk about his role and I think Alex will play a big role right out of the gates. He’s ready for it.”
Watching Hintze pitch against other state caliber competition in the FVA conference night in and night out, it’s obvious that Hintze is ready for the next level. He credits the tough conference, summer baseball and his coaches for that success.
Besides spring and legion ball in the summer, Hintze also participates in national tournaments on a travel team. He recently helped the Oshkosh Legion baseball team make it to the Class AAA state tournament, ending an eight-year drought. However, he was unable to make the trip due to traveling team obligations.
While he has been naturally gifted since his freshman year, Hintze said without his coaches help, he wouldn’t have been able to take that next step.
“From freshman year until now, a lot of it was the mental side of games,” Hintze said. “We worked on the physical part but it was a lot mental. I was emotional and I wasn’t keeping my head on my shoulders and a lot of it was figuring out what I had to do to myself to get on that next level and coaches helped me through that process.”
Baseball isn’t the sport where Hintze found success. In the fall of his junior season, Hintze rushed for almost 1,000 yards and had 14 touchdowns for a Spartan football team that made it to the WIAA Division 1 championship game, where they lost to Kimberly.
This last fall, Hintze was named the Player of the Year in the Valley Football Association South after rushing for 1,060 yards, while throwing for nearly 600 yards. He also caught 13 passes, leading the Spartans to a second straight league title.
Hintze may be one of the best athletes at Oshkosh North and throughout the state, but he doesn’t act like it. He is a genuinely nice person and always has a team-first attitude.
“He has a tremendous heart for all people. I have watched him be an incredible young man to our youth, our camps and a lot of times when he’s supposed to be teaching the drills he’s playing with the kids,” Schaefer said. “He has a tremendous rapport with young people. I’ve watched him be an amazing human being to students with special needs, takes time out of his day and puts arm around them and to say hi.
“He brings a tremendous amount of energy to the practices, you’d never know he was a very talented player by the way he acts. He doesn’t act like he’s one, he just loves getting other guys pumped up. Brings positive energy. He’s a good human being.”
And when it’s all said and done, Hintze is just thankful that he had the opportunity to play for a program like Oshkosh North.
“We have a winning legacy and I’m just excited to be a part of something special,” Hintze said. “The past seniors behind me led the way and showed me how to win and I want to keep the legacy going.
“The relationship I’ve built with coaches and my friends. I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else. No other school compares to the (guys) here.”
Alex Wolf: (920) 426-6661 or firstname.lastname@example.org