Tigers young but have much talent

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers have a very young baseball team this season but head coach Mark Weber likes its talent.

The Tigers have only two seniors and three juniors on the varsity roster as Weber will rely on several underclassmen to contribute.

“We are optimistic because we have a very talented group. We’re very young but talented. We lost six seniors and five were starters from last year’s [Central Lakeshore Conference] championship team,” said Weber who’s in his 22nd season at the helm.

The Tigers won the CLC title the past two years and are now competing in the new Big East Conference. HG finished 16-2 in the CLC and 17-5 overall last season.

The returning starters are senior pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Brad Olson, senior third baseman/ pitcher Zac Stauss, junior pitcher/ first baseman/outfielder Matthew Bagnall and junior catcher Jake Fritz.

Olson was an all-state honorablemention and All-CLC first-team pitcher in 2015. He led the Tigers in ERA with an impressive 1.15 and shared the lead in wins with six. Olson is the top returning hitter after batting .298 as a junior.

Weber expects Olson, Stauss, Fritz and Bagnall to lead the squad this year.

“Our tradition and our program based on fundamentals are our strengths,” said the coach.

Among the varsity newcomers, Weber has been impressed with freshmen Nic Koenig (shortstop/ outfielder/pitcher) and Gavin Winter (outfielder/pitcher).

“Koenig and Winter are very talented freshmen and have earned a starting role,” said Weber.

He pointed out the keys for the team to have success.

“Communication is No. 1. We have the talent. Now we need experience and quality execution,” said the coach.

Weber sized up the BEC which includes the large-school division of Plymouth, Sheboygan Falls, Kiel and New Holstein (all former Eastern Wisconsin Conference teams) and the small-school division of former

CLC schools except Ozaukee which isn’t fielding a team this season. Kohler and Sheboygan Christian have a newly formed co-op team. Titles will be decided in both divisions.

“We have been picked to win the small-school division but Random Lake, Oostburg and Cedar Grove- Belgium will challenge,” said Weber.

“Plymouth is picked for the largeschool division but Sheboygan Falls, New Holstein and Kiel are very strong squads.

“On the pro side, the Big East divisional concept keeps the old CLC intact [sans Ozaukee]. Seeding for the sectional will be much easier since we face each other twice,” he said.

“On the con side, the EWC schools remain 2-3 times the smallschool sizes, therefore their talent pool and opportunities are signifi- cantly greater.”

Weber noted his top goals for the team:

“Continue to build good strong and virtuous student athletes while we journey toward winning our division, regional and sectional, and state.”

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