Flames look build on strong 2014 finish

by Greg Ceilley of The Review Staff

PLYMOUTH – A nice blend of young players and veterans boosts the Plymouth Flames’ hopes for a successful 2015 baseball season.

The Flames are looking to build on last year’s strong finish which saw them advance to the championship game in the Land O’ Lakes Baseball League Northern Division playoffs. Plymouth shared third in the division at 10-8 and was 20-12 overall.

“I am generally optimistic for several reasons. Obviously, the way we finished last season provides a reason for this optimism. We now have a nucleus of young ballplayers coming from the high school ranks to blend in with the veterans,” said longtime Flame manager Rick Meyer.

“Several of these young guys have been playing college ball, so I’m excited to see what we can do once everyone is there.”

Among the current college players are shortstop Clay Henning, catcher Jake Klemme and infielder Greg Rhude, all former standouts at Plymouth High School. Newcomer Michael Raeder from Sheboygan Falls plays on the UW-Milwaukee club baseball team.

“I expect us to be led by a solid core of young collegiatelevel players such as Greg Rhude, Jake Klemme, Clay Henning and Michael Raeder, as well as recent collegiate players Dave Stecker and Matt Schroeder. I just feel that we’ve needed this youthful nucleus for years,” said Meyer.

“I think team defense, along with team speed and athleticism, will be our strengths,” said Meyer.

“Once again, it will be exciting to see what these guys can do together. I think we will be able to do some good things in all aspects of the game. We might not be great in any one aspect but I think we will compete and be sound in all facets of the game.”

The Flames return their topthree hitters from 2014, led by Klemme who hit a robust .398. Matt Schroeder was next at .364, followed by Joe Fabian, .324. Returnee Michael DuCharme was the RBI leader with 30.

The Flames’ pitching staff is headed by Schroeder who had a team-high five wins last season.

“I feel our biggest key [to success] will be to have a consistent lineup. We have the talent but we need to get it on the field at the same time,” said Meyer.

“Also, another big key will be to improve our hitting. We will be tough to beat if we can improve on our run production – an area we have struggled at in recent years.”

The LOL combined the Northern and Eastern divisions for league play this year because they are down to 12 teams total, compared with 14 in 2014. Howards Grove moved out of the Northern Division and into the Shoreland League.

The Flames remain in the North. Teams from the North and East will play within their respective divisions and against the other division.

“The league will be tougher this year as we have merged with the Eastern Division. I’m sure Cedarburg [defending North champion] will again be strong, although I know very little about the Eastern teams,” said Meyer.

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