Q&A with head coach Ben Smejkal
By Erik Buchinger
Number of years as head coach: Second.
Returning varsity athletes: Colton Kluth (12), Riley Yaeger (12), Jacob Viergutz (12), Jack Klein (12), Nick Schoen (12), Kyle Finger (12), Keenan Doornink (12), Logan Liesenfelder (12).
Athletes to watch: Nick Schoen (12), Kyle Finger (12), Keenan Doornink (12), Logan Liesenfelder (12), Colton Kluth (12).
Team goals/expectations: Closing the gap and winning more of those close games we lost last year. We lost some major talent in regards to pitching and hitting due to graduation. I feel there will be less off-field distractions this season compared to last, and that will help build team unity. With that said, we hope to surprise a few teams with our pitching this year. And the addition of some young bats may allow us to compete with many of the teams in the conference.
Team’s strengths: Senior leadership is abundant this year. Senior captain Kyle Finger is our field general behind the plate. The senior catcher will provide guidance to two other senior pitchers Logan Liesenfelder and Kolton Kluth, both whom are looking to have standout years this season.
Team’s weaknesses: With younger players in the lineup, we hope the new bats can produce much-needed hits and run production.
Team(s) to beat in conference: The North Eastern Conference is a very tough conference with any team being able to beat anybody on any given night. Teams like Waupaca, FVL, Luxemburg Casco and Marinette are all solid contenders for a run at the conference title.
Biggest games on the schedule: We didn’t have many non-conference opportunities last year, but this year we have several matchups on the schedule with teams like New London, Iola, Rhinelander, Ripon and Pacelli to name a few. I feel this will help us grow and better ourselves for conference play.
What you want your athletes to get out of this season: I want them to do their best this year. And with many senior players, I hope we make the plays when we need to. And I hope we earn the respect these boys deserve in the conference.
Why fans should be excited for this year’s team: We have a popular group of players this year, good talent and cohesive friendships. This team is fun and talented. It is fun to be around them. Our field has actual dugouts this year too as 2017 the field was under construction most of the season. We also have a field to be proud of.