Tags: Feature Sports Story, Sports
Krien (click for larger version)
Skipper (click for larger version)
April 02, 2013 | 04:26 PMWith zero seniors in 2012, the Badger baseball team outperformed expectations.
The local boys were a game out of the conference title hunt going into the last game of the season. However, a late hiccup to end the regular season followed by a first-round playoff loss to Racine Horlick abruptly dashed Badger's hopes.
The breakout season let the Southern Lakes Conference know the young squad is for real. And it begged the question: What will these guys do for an encore next year? Well, next year is here.
The team has been snowed out so far this spring, but to say Badger coach Aaron Zweifel is excited about his team would be an understatement.
"We definitely believe we can win conference," said Zweifel, now in his fourth season. "It will depend on our ability to stay healthy, play solid defense and hit consistently. This team is looking to do big things this year and has some lofty goals."
Not only does Badger have the SLC title in its sights, Zweifel said the team hopes to advance to sectionals and make some noise in the playoffs.
Catcher Peter Krien, a first team all-conference catcher last year, returns for his senior season.
Krien led the area in batting average with a .387 clip last season, just edging out Big Foot's Carter Hehr (.385). Krien topped the Badgers in on-base (.489) and slugging (.640) percentage, RBIs (25), runs (21), home runs (three) and doubles (10). He was second on the team with 29 hits and added five steals.
Returning along with Krien are senior shortstop Eric Skipper (first team all-SLC), senior third baseman Mitch Jensen (honorable mention all-SLC), four-year varsity pitcher/center fielder Colton Andresen and three-year varsity players Ian Weber and Travis Stahulak. Other key returners will be Jonah Zeinert, Trent Bobula, Bryan Kostein and Donald Schnurer.
Skipper and Weber provide a dynamic 1-2 punch in the middle infield, and Andresen is the staff ace on the mound. Jensen was second on the team in batting average last season, hitting over .300.
"I'm very happy with our progress up to this point," Zweifel said. "They are approaching practice the right way. They are looking to make every rep count and are constantly coaching each other. They all played summer baseball and many of them played in the fall, so they've continued to improve."
Andresen, who didn't pitch in the final month of the season last year due to an arm injury, is going to be eased back into things on the mound, according to Zweifel. After Andresen, Stahulak is the No. 2 starter followed by Skipper as the No. 3. Zweifel said Weber and Zeinert will see considerable time on the mound. Donald Schnurer, Gunner Losch, Tom Ritzman, Conway Middleton and Kevin Murray are all potential hurlers.
"We've got a lot of arms, and we're going to need them all with this weather and the way games are sure to get stacked this spring."
Along with a ton of varsity experience, Zweifel welcomes newcomers Losch (lettered his sophomore season but didn't play as a junior), Ritzman, Middleton, Murray, Derek Denecke, Jake Morelli and Bryan Nugent.
While the hitting is much improved, Zweifel said the team must increase its quality at-bats and put the ball in play more consistently. But the constants will be defense and chemistry. These guys are friends on and off the field.
"Defense should be something we hang our hats on once again to give us a shot every game," Zweifel said. "Our seniors have really embraced their new teammates, and guys are staying on each other and working hard."
Badger will go toe-to-toe in the SLC with defending champion and rival Wilmot, Burlington, Westosha Central and Waterford among others. While the Badgers have potential for sectionals or even state, Zweifel wants to take it one game at a time along the way.
"We hope to improve every game," he said. "Another goal is to compete every game and give ourselves a chance to win in the end."
Badger opens its season at home Friday against East Troy at 4:30 p.m.