Veteran Tigers have high expectations

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers are coming off a stellar 2014 baseball season but aren’t about to rest on their laurels.

Head coach Mark Weber welcomes back seven starters among 11 letter winners from last year’s squad which won the Central Lakeshore Conference title with an impressive 18-0 record, earned a regional championship and won a school-record 22 games while losing only three. Two of the defeats were against state runner-up Homestead (Mequon) and state qualifier Plymouth.

“I’m optimistic. The only teams that dominated us were Plymouth and Homestead, and both went to state,” said Weber who’s in his 21st season as the Tigers’ head coach.

HGHS lost to PHS in the sectional semifinals.

The Tigers’ returnees are led by senior pitcher/center fielder Zach Fritz and junior Brad Olson, a pitcher/first baseman/outfielder, who were All-CLC first-team players last season. Fritz made all-league as an outfielder and Olson at the utility position.

HGHS has three All-CLC second team picks returning in senior Bryce Hoffmann (pitcher/shortstop), senior Andrew Reinemann (second baseman) and senior Dakota Rabe (outfielder/third baseman).

Olson is the Tigers’ leading returning hitter, having batted .353 last season which ranked second. He and Hoffmann shared the RBI lead with 18 each.

Hoffmann and Zach Fritz head the Tigers’ pitching staff. Hoffmann was second in ERA at 2.63 and tied for wins with Fritz at five each.

The other starters back include sophomore catcher Jake Fritz and senior outfielder Alex Strege.

Weber pointed out key players he expects to lead the team.

“Zach Fritz, senior lefty, hasn’t lost a game in his career at HGHS [heading into the season]. Andrew Reinemann is the No. 1 infielder in this county,” said Weber.

“Bryce Hoffmann was 5-1 last year and played a great shortstop. He also hits a strong cleanup. Brad Olson is another promising junior lefty who hits with power. Dakota Rabe, our senior left fielder, brings very athletic multi-sport experience and will to win.

“We have seven seniors and some very promising underclassmen,” said the coach.

Weber gave his assessment of the team.

“The strengths are our program and desire for daily improvement. The weakness would be the distractions that are ever-present to teenage athletes,” he said.

The top goals, said Weber, are improving the mental game daily and, of course, to win the CLC, regional, sectional and state.

The veteran coach pointed out the keys for the team to have success:

“Staying focused on accomplishing individual and team goals, maturing as a team, understanding ‘process’ and realizing the value of sacrificing for teammates will bring success.”

Weber expects a tight CLC race.

“I would have to say that Oostburg, Random Lake and Sheboygan Lutheran will contend with us. We know we have a target on our backs,” he said.

“As usual, the team that keeps its mistakes to a minimum will emerge on top.”

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