April 02, 2013 | 04:33 PMWALWORTH — It would've been a showdown between two teams on the precipice of conference greatness.
Both the Big Foot and Badger baseball teams were supposed to face off Saturday in the annual nonconference contest. Ultimately, a snowy Jonas Field caused another cancellation (Big Foot's opener last Thursday was cancelled, too).
Hopefully, a new month will bring warmer weather. Tuesday's game at Evansville was also cancelled, and fingers crossed, Big Foot opens the season Friday at home.
But the anticipation of the season couldn't be any higher.
Big Foot coach Steve Bochat said a returning pitching staff along with some potent bats could have the Chiefs in contention for the Rock Valley South title — when they finally start playing games.
"Our team goal is to win conference," said Bochat, whose ball club was 14-14 a year ago and fourth in the six-team RVC South.
"We feel that we have a good group of guys this year that are driven to be better than we have been in the past. We have taken steps each year to be better than the year before, and now we feel it is time to put it all together. Our team motto this year is believe, and if we do that, we think that a conference title is there for the taking."
Despite the losses of key starters Luke Kahl, Tyler Santeler, Ryan Recknagel, Kevin Molitor and David Crump, Big Foot welcomes back six letter-winners, led by senior second baseman Carter Hehr, a first team all-Rock Valley selection last year.
Hehr led the team in hitting a season ago with a .385 batting average, good for second in the area.
Jon Quick, Collin Frederick, Brandon Hausner, Brett Morris and Billy Landers will join Hehr in Big Foot's powerful lineup.
"Hitting should be a strength for us," Bochat said.
"We have a lot of confidence in our lineup top to bottom. We need to make sure we play smart baseball. Knowing the situation and responding appropriately will be something we will be focusing on."
Despite no games, Big Foot has cultivated camaraderie already. During Big Foot's spring break last week, the Chiefs practiced every day.
"We found it to be a great bonding time, and it brought us closer together as a team," Bochat said. "It is a real testament to the commitment these kids have made to our program, and we believe it will pay dividends in the future."
Key newcomers for the Chiefs this spring will be Nate Freytag, Marshall Strenger, Austin Hoey, Zak Greco, Alex Landers and Tim Long.
Landers, the team's ace, and Morris, should lead the pitching staff.
Overall, last year's sectional appearance was learning experience, and it has this group of Chiefs hungry for more.
"Guys have really been working hard in the offseason, and it is starting to show," Bochat said. "There is a better feeling to start the year among this team than last year. Guys have confidence in themselves and their teammates because they know that they have put the time in and can see it in the practices we have had thus far."