Intensity, focus key Tigers’ outstanding season

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

HOWARDS GROVE — Looking back on Howards Grove’s very successful 2015 baseball season, Tiger head coach Mark Weber was impressed with the team’s intensity and focus on improving.

“This was a very talented team that was sound defensively and dominant on the mound. But, more important, they played with intensity and were always focussed on improving,” said Weber.

“We had a great year going 17-5 overall and 16-2 in the Central Lakeshore Conference for back-to-back CLC championships and earning the No. 2 seed in the tourney [sectional].

“Obviously, continue developing pitching and defense are always keys [to a strong season]. In Howards Grove we always focus on our traditions of sound fundamentals and team development process,” said Weber.

The Tigers were upset by No. 7-seeded Kiel, 3-1, in a regional final which denied HGHS a second straight sectional berth.

Weber said the highlights of the season were winning the CLC title and having three Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association all-state players in senior center fielder Zach Fritz on the first team, and senior second baseman Andrew Reinemann and junior pitcher Brad Olson who were honorable mention.

“Along with Fritz, Reinemann and Olson, I’d have to say that Bryce Hoffmann and Dakota Rabe, both all-conference players, helped us tre- mendously. Hoffmann played a great shortstop and pitched extremely well. Rabe hit in that No. 2 hole and ignited rallies and put a lot of pressure on the defense with his quickness,” observed the coach.

“Matthew Bagnall pitched well as a sophomore and catcher Jake Fritz provided power in the middle of our lineup. Defensively, Alex Strege really improved and hit well down the stretch run to our [CLC] championship.”

Hoffmann, a shortstop and pitcher, was named to the All-CLC first team at the utility position. Rabe and Strege were all-league honorablemention outfielders.

Weber thanked many individuals and groups for their support of the baseball program this past season.

“Special thanks to assistant coaches Mark Holzman and Andy Bagnall. They are so talented and make baseball fun,” said Weber.

“[Thanks to] Shawn Holzman and Lael Bagnall for the announcing, Emma Bagnall for singing the National Anthems, and as always HG has great support for baseball with our fans, school staff, and the Millersville Recreation and HG Athletic Clubs.”

Weber gave his outlook on next season.

“We have Brad Olson and Matthew Bagnall returning along with very good bats with infielder Zac Stauss and catcher Jake Fritz. We have promising players in Isaac Dirker, Mason Valenstein, Eric Reinemann, Noah Bramstedt and a host of good freshmen coming up,” said Weber.

FINAL STATS, AWARDS The Tigers’ award-winners for the 2015 season include: Reinemann for Leadership (DKL – desire to excel); Olson, Pitching; Zach Fritz, Offense; Reinemann, Defense; Hoffmann, Most Improved; Bagnall and Strege; Mason Valenstein, Tiger Award; Reinemann, Rabe, Strege, Hoffmann, Zach Fritz and Quentin Zettler, Senior Awards; Dirker and Colton Bitter, Coaches’ Iron Man Awards; and Caleb Holzman, Jake Fritz, Stauss, Noah Bramstedt, Chase Williams and Jordan Peterson, Coaches’ “Braveheart” Promise Awards. The Tigers’ varsity letter winners include: seniors – Zach Fritz, Hoffmann, Reinemann, Strege, Zettler and Rabe; juniors – Stauss and Olson; sophomores – Holzman, Bagnall, Bramstedt and Jake Fritz; and freshmen – Bitter, Dirker, Valenstein, Williams, Peterson and Eric Reinemann. Zach Fritz led the Tigers in batting with a sizzling .391 average. Rabe had a team-high 16 RBIs. Zach Fritz paced the team in runs with 25. Reinemann and Zach Fritz led in stolen bases with 19 and 18, respectively. Olson and Zach Fritz led the pitching staff in wins with six each. Hoffmann had a team-high three saves. Olson had the top ERA with an impressive 1.15 and recorded a team-best 42 strikeouts in 42-2/3 innings.

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