The boys of spring
Spencer is the team to watch heading into baseball season
By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — The Spencer baseball team is coming off one of its best seasons in program history, and there is no reason to think the Rockets will take a step back this spring.
After sharing the Cloverbelt Conference East Division championship with Neillsville last year with a 15-1 record, finishing 20-5 overall, and reaching the WIAA Division 3 regional finals before suffering a tough one-run loss to eventual sectional champion Marathon, Spencer is poised for another big season.
Cloverbelt East Player of the Year Bobby Pilz leads a group of eight returning letter winners for the Rockets.
Pilz hit .485 with 29 stolen bases and 41 runs scored and was a perfect 7-0 on the mound, striking out 51 in 57 1/3 innings.
Also back in the pitching rotation will be Calvin Lenz (5-2) and Nate Neumann (4-0), who combined for 55 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched.
When not toeing the rubber, Pilz will either be behind the plate when Lenz, the regular catcher, is pitching or at shortstop.
First baseman Ryan Busse (.369 average, 15 RBIs); third baseman/pitcher/outfielder Jake Meyers (.364 average, 26 runs, 20 RBIs); utility player Hunter Hildebrandt (.333 average, 22 runs); and infielder Jonny Tomke (.329 average, 27 RBIs) are all back for their senior seasons. Also returning is sophomore Hunter Luepke, an outfielder and pitcher, who hit .342, had 20 RBIs, and scored 20 runs a year ago.
“We’re not quite as deep as we’ve been in the past,” first-year coach Steve Pilz said. “Fortunately, we’re pretty versatile with probably half a dozen players that can play multiple positions. We’ll try and pick up where we left off last year: pitching well and playing defense. We need to cut down on our strikeouts and put the ball in play.
“It looks like four or five teams could be near the top of the conference.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coach: Steve Pilz, first year.
Last year’s record: 20-5, 15-1 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.
2015 WIAA playoffs: Lost to Marathon 4-3 in Division 3 regional final.
Returning players: Bobby Pilz, sr., P/C/SS; Ryan Busse, sr., 1B; Jake Meyers, sr., 3B/P/OF; Hunter Luepke, so., CF/P; Calvin Lenz, sr., C/P/IF; Hunter Hildebrandt, sr., OF/IF; Jonny Tomke, sr., IF; Nate Neumann, sr., OF/P.
Top newcomers: Austin Post, sr., OF; Caden Schillinger, so., Utility; Dominick Wichlacz, so., IF/P; Tanner Kleinschmidt, fr., P/1B.
Coach: Shane Freitag, first year.
Last year’s record: 17-8, 8-4 Wisconsin Valley Conference.
2015 WIAA playoffs: Lost to Chippewa Falls 10-2 in Division 1 regional semifinal.
Returning players: Trevor Schwecke, sr., SS; Braden Bohman, jr., OF; Scott Berg, sr., 1B; Tyson Slade, sr., 3B/OF; Jeremy Brost, sr., OF; Jared Klein, jr., C; Jake Brueggen, jr., P.
Top newcomers: Paul McGuire, jr., 3B/C; Connor Jasurda, jr., 2B/P.
What the coach had to say: “We want to put ourselves in a position to win every day, show improvement, giving our best effort, implementing what we practice, and demonstrating good sportsmanship at all times,” Freitag said. “We have a good amount of senior players with experience along with the younger players that have been working hard and putting time in prior to the season.”
Coach: Mark Brost, 12th year (117-76).
Last year’s record: 8-11, 6-6 Marawood Conference South Division.
2015 WIAA playoffs: Lost to Stevens Point Pacelli 8-3 in Division 3 regional semifinal.
Returning players: Kaleb Bolder, sr., 1B; Logan Willfahrt, jr., C; Caleb Weinfurter, jr., SS/P; Aaron Willfahrt, jr., CF/P; Coy Krings, jr., 2B.
Top newcomers: Colten Yeske, so., 1B/OF; Dylan Altmann, jr., OF; Steve Hartman, jr., OF; Cason Schmutzer, so., 3B/OF; Cam Ertl, so., IF/OF; Ryan Isaacson, so., OF; Dalton Hoffman, so., IF.
What the coach had to say: “We will be improved this year,” Brost said. “We are still young at many positions as we have only one senior. We expect our defense to be a strength and our hitting and pitching to grow and improve as the year progresses. We expect to be very competitive in the Marawood South.”
Columbus Catholic Dons
Coach: Joe Seitz, 11th year (57-106).
Last year’s record: 10-11, 8-8 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.
2015 WIAA playoffs: Lost to Loyal 13-1 in Division 4 regional semifinal.
Returning players: Billy Young, sr., P/utility; Tyler Fuerlinger, jr., SS/3B; Matthias Gouin, sr., C/OF; Charles Payant, jr., P/C/OF; Ryan Dieringer, jr., OF; Brett Loveland, sr., IF; Bailey Keffer, jr., P/OF.
Top newcomers: Evan Nikolai, sr., OF; Bryce Fuerlinger, fr., OF; Noah Taylor, fr., P/IF; Evan Dieringer, fr., IF; Jared Mandel, fr., Utility; Ethan Meece, fr., P/OF.
What the coach had to say: “We are going to be a little inexperienced with our pitching, so we are going to have to develop that as the year goes on,” Seitz said. “Early on we are going to have to outhit some teams to win. If we can play solid defense and our pitchers are able to develop like I think that they are capable of, we should be able to be competitive in our conference.”
Coach: Brad Grube, third year (23-19).
Last year’s record: 9-9, 7-5 Marawood Conference South Division.
2015 WIAA playoffs: Lost to Athens 10-0 in Division 3 regional quarterfinal.
Returning players: Dylan Peterson, sr., C/IF; Wyatt Ehrike, sr., OF; Lucas Heideman, jr., IF; Cole Hoffman, jr., IF; Dakota Singer, jr., OF; Matt Handrick, OF; Andrew Bargender, IF/OF.
What the coach had to say: “We want to be competitive and improve every day and every game,” Grube said.