Prep Baseball Preview: Weather permitting, season ready to start

2:43 PM, Apr. 11, 2013  |  Comments

Play ball!

That's what the area's prep baseball teams hope to do this upcoming week or the next. A tardy spring thaw has set the season back by three weeks, but with fingers crossed, the first pitch is just right around the corner.

Algoma Wolves

This year Algoma's baseball team is poised to break out of their three-wins-per-season slump. It's a win tally that has plagued the team the last three seasons, after four consecutive Packerland Conference titles from 2006-09.

The Wolves have had a baptism by fire the last few years, but this season they'll be returning more experience than youth.

"Over the last few seasons we've had to force a lot of freshmen and sophomores into our lineup," said Algoma head coach Brad Eastman. "We're starting to finally field a team with experience this season."

Algoma will rely heavily on the experience and talents of juniors Hunter Prokash and Sam Koss. The duo will lead the Wolves on the mound, while also being formidable at the plate. The team's success will also be dependent on sophomore outfielder Andrew Gorz, the Wolves' lone member of the All-Packerland (second) team last season.

Jake Wiese will be the Wolves' only senior on the roster. He has started since a freshman at various positions, but this year he'll settle into the shortstop position and take on some pitching.

Other players on Algoma's roster with varsity experience are Austen Dart, Cody Haucke, Ethan Ray and Alex Mura. The varsity squad will also be represented by: junior Logan Jossie, and sophomores Eliot Prokash, Ty Grovogel and Alec Wery.

Eastman said the team is prepared to take that next step: "Our players have been putting the time in, focusing on the fundamentals, and they've really been striving to improve. Last year we were close to getting over that hump, and this year I truly believe we have the experience needed to be successful."

Kewaunee Storm

Ten players from last year's squad graduated, so on paper it looks like a rebuilding year for Kewaunee. However, the squad isn't reaching back to an empty cupboard. A handful of their returning players starred on last year's team.

Logan Brusky (So.) and Alex Mehn (Jr.) will be back on the mound this year. Last year they accounted for seven of Kewaunee's 10 wins. Brusky had Kewaunee's most notable single-game performance when he threw a no-hitter against Mishicot.

Brusky and Mehn were also two of Kewaunee's top hitters last year. Mehn had a second-best .267 batting average; Brusky hit a fourth-best .262 and was also second on the team in RBIs with 13. Sam Kohnle (So.) will also be counted on; last year he contributed 13 RBIs.

Seniors Steven Kinjerski and Joe Pribek are Kewaunee's other returning varsity players. Senior outfielders Taylor Holly and Jackson Dworak will also bring experience and leadership to the team.

New to the varsity squad are Andrew LaCrosse (Sr., C/OF), Presten Olszewski (Jr., P/3rd), Josh Lamack (So., OF), Austin Pekarek (So., 2B) and Jordan Siebold (So., 3B/OF).

Looking at what's ahead, the delayed start to the season hasn't been a blessing to anybody, but for Kewaunee the condensed schedule will challenge their greatest weakness, their struggle to be consistent throughout the year.

"We've been able to start hot, but we fizzle out," head coach Matt Kohnle said. "With the games stacked up because of the weather, we'll have to be more consistent. Staying consistent will be our biggest challenge this season."

Luxemburg-Casco Spartans

The Spartans have their sights set on another Division 2 regional championship, and like every season they'll take on the herculean task of trying to capture the Bay Conference title.

For L-C it starts with pitcher Caleb Willems. He was the Spartans' workhorse last year, and they'll be expecting the same out of him this year. In conference games Willems saw work in 50.6 innings - he was the Bay Conference's ironman on the mound. His low ERA of 1.80 helped him garner second-team All-Bay honors last year.

"Willems started as a freshman and he has come a long way since then. He's a nice ballplayer, and as a team captain he is doing a good job of leading the team," said L-C head coach Terry Jorgensen.

L-C will be counting on juniors Dan Dorner (3B) and Cole Kirchman (OF) to produce on offense. The Spartans will also rely on the senior leadership of Brent Kuehl, Alec Nelson and Joey Paider.

Jacob Jandrin (Jr.), Depree Stevenson (Jr.), Josh VandenHouten (Sr.) are the Spartans' other returning varsity players. Newcomers to L-C's varsity squad include: Taylor Codr (So.), Cole Cravillion (Jr.), Logan Joniaux (So.), and Blake Ravet (Jr.).

"These guys all know what it takes, and what we need to do to get far in the tournament," said Jorgensen.

Jorgensen said the team's biggest challenge this year will be producing more runs. Counting nonconference games the Spartans averaged four runs per game last season.

"We need to score more runs - especially in conference games. It'll take a lot of pressure off of our pitching. I would say that will be our biggest challenge this year."

Bay Conference rundown

L-C's Jorgensen expects the Bay Conference to be competitive top to bottom again. However, West De Pere and Hortonville appear to be the favorites. In his words, "they are top-notch programs." He also expects Seymour to make some noise.

Jorgensen also said the Spartans will be vying for that conference crown, stating that winning the conference title is the team's constant goal. "It's something we are always gunning for. You play to win. We want to win that championship just like everyone else."

Last year's standings: 1. West De Pere, 12-4; 2. Hortonville, 11-5; 3. Marinette, 9-7; 4. Luxemburg-Casco, 8-8; 5t. Denmark, 7-9; 5t. New London, 7-9; 5t. Seymour; 8. Shawano, 6-10; 9. Oconto Falls, 5-11.

Packerland Conference rundown

The consensus among the area's coaches is that Sturgeon Bay will once again be the favorite to win the Packerland this year. The Clippers return the conference player of the year in pitcher Riley Cordier; they also return first-team all-conference selections Casey Giesseman, Joseph Omilinksy and David VanDreese.

Oconto and Sevastopol are also expected to finish near the top of the Packerland standings.

Last year's standings: 1. Sturgeon Bay, 13-1; 2. Oconto, 10-4; 3t. Gibraltar, 9-5; 3t. Sevastopol, 9-5; 5. Kewaunee, 6-8; 6. Southern Door, 5-9; 7t. Algoma, 2-12; 7t. Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran, 2-12.

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports