Warriors Ready To Reach New Heights
2013 Season Preview
February 19, 2013
MILWAUKEE – Coming off of a 2012 season that saw the Wisconsin Lutheran College baseball team finish two games back of qualifying for the six-team Northern Athletics Conference Tournament, the Warriors are ready to excel in 2013.
“We have set some goals to take our program to new heights this year,” said fifth-year head coach Dave Reinemann. “One of those is to win 20-plus games, and another is qualifying for the NAC Tournament.”
With several returning starters mixed in with talented newcomers, the Warriors (12-18, 9-13 NAC in 2012) certainly can set their expectations high this coming season. WLC returns all four infielders, seven total starters, from last year’s team that narrowly missed out on the program's first NAC Tournament appearance.
Perhaps the greatest strength for the Warriors this spring will be in the infield, where all four starters return from a season ago. Senior Doug Martin (West Bend, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran), junior Garrick Day (Elk Mound, Wis./Elk Mound), and sophomores Sam Mattheis (Rosendale, Wis./Laconia) and Brandon Mantz (West Bend, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran) all return as the foursome combined for 137 starts a season ago.
“It’s nice to have experience coming back to the infield,” Reinemann said. “A couple of those returning starters will be asked to toe the rubber as well, so we will need depth, but with those guys we should be better defensively. They will all be important factors in our lineup.”
Day was an All-NAC performer last season after hitting .299, while Martin led the team with 25 RBI. Mattheis and Mantz, both in their first season collegiate competition a year ago, each hit around .275.
Adding to the infield depth that will be relied upon, Reinemann mentioned several players who could see time at infield positions, including returners Taylor Meyer (Sussex, Wis./Hamilton) and Joey Hodkiewicz (Burlington, Wis./Burlington). Reinemann also cited sophomore newcomer Aaron Roeseler (Watertown, Wis./Luther Preparatory) as a utility player this season.
“Taylor will be seeing time at both first and third base, and designated hitter,” said Reinemann. “Joey will be competing for time at third base as well and Aaron is looking to be our utility guy as we look for Sam and Garrick to chalk up some innings on the bump.”
Reinemann also pointed out that sophomore Scott Kamholtz (Wauwatosa, Wis./West), and freshmen Matt Wick (Bartlett, Ill./Barlett), Corey Lamp (Oconomowoc, Wis./Oconomowoc), Jared Pfeifer (Cambridge, Wis./Lakeside Lutheran), Ben Rennicke (Grafton, Wis./Living Word Lutheran), and Mitch Skarban (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran) are players who could vie for playing time in the infield.
Sophomore Brett Youngbeck (Brown Deer, Wis./Brown Deer) returns to the outfield after serving as one of the Warriors' top hitters in his freshman season. Youngbeck, an All-NAC Second Team and All-Freshman selection last year, hit a team-leading .385 a season ago.
“Brett will be one of our key cogs in the lineup this year,” said Reinemann. “He has developed more power, which combined with his high average and on-base percentage should help him be a key player in the middle of our lineup.”
Another returning starting outfielder from last season is sophomore Connor Vredeveld (Waterloo, Wis./Lakeside Lutheran). Vredeveld started 34 games, collecting 27 hits and driving in 20 runs during his freshman campaign.
“Connor is a good defensive outfielder who will be competing for our starting centerfield spot this year,” said Reinemann.
Sophomore Matt Gowin (Cudahy, Wis./Cudahy) is another player who could compete for a starting job this season, while catchers Tyler Schoen (Marion, Wis./Marion) and Jake Klemme (Plymouth, Wis./Plymouth) could also see time in the outfield. Reinemann also noted that sophomores Evan Teske (Crete, Ill./Illinois Lutheran), Derick Kermendy (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield), Zach Sager (Crete, Ill./Illinois Lutheran), Zack Skog (Hampshire, Ill./Hampshire), and junior Jake Meyer (Sussex, Wis./Hamilton) contend for an outfield position this season.
The Warriors received unfortunate injury news this offseason when they found out that last year’s ace, sophomore Alex Raver, would miss the entire 2013 season. Raver was an All-NAC Second Team selection last season and Reinemann says his loss will make way for others players to step up this year.
“We have some guys we feel are capable of stepping up and now it’s their opportunity to do that," said Reinemann.
Sophomores Jaime Paumen (Glencoe, Minn./Silver-Lake) and Mattheis are two players Reinemann mentioned who will log several innings at the top of the WLC rotation.
“Jaime had a solid freshman season, but definitely can take his game to a higher level for us,” Reinemann said. “Sam is a guy we are expecting big things from on the mound this year.”
Four other players identified as potential starters are juniors Alex Nikolai (South Milwaukee, Wis./Thomas More) and Day, as well as sophomore Scott Rivers (Waukesha, Wis./North) and freshman Josh Ruppell (Belgium, Wis./Cedar Grove-Belgium).
Reinemann stated that some of the six hurlers mentioned above could also be used in relief roles this season as the Warriors look to replace the graduated Steve Gustafson, who set the program record for saves in a season and posted a 3.54 ERA.
Other players who could fill in on the mound this season are junior Jake Meyer, sophomores Andrew Iverson (Janesville, Wis./Craig), Hodkiewicz, Jacob Gustafson (West Bend, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran), Dan Leiberis (Manchester, Conn./Manchester), Gowin, Kamholtz, and freshmen Skarban and Klemme.
Schoen and sophomore Korben Biersack (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield) both played ample innings behind the dish last season and are again expected to see significant time calling the games this year. Schoen started 39 games between catcher and outfield while hitting .265 and driving in 23 runs in 2012.
“We expect Tyler to catch a number of games for us as he brings great leadership to our team at that position,” said Reinemann. “He continues to improve defensively and will be an important player who figures to be in the middle of our lineup.”
Biersack played in 14 games last season and Reinemann expects him to see more work behind the plate in 2013. Another player who could see time handling the WLC pitching staff is Klemme.
Wisconsin Lutheran begins its 2013 season with its annual spring break trip to Fort Myers, Fla. The Warriors will play nine games from March 11-16 at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, beginning with a March 11 doubleheader against Defiance (Ohio). WLC begins conference play March 30 with a doubleheader at Marian.