Eau Claire Memorial’s deep and talented pitching staff of a year ago is gone — shredded by injury and graduation.
In fact, the only returning arm with extended experience is a sophomore.
But don’t shed too many tears for the Old Abes.
Vince Trapani had a strong season as a freshman and Connor Stoik, Cooper Kapanke and Jack Piper also put in mound time but the loss of college recruits Jack Brown, Austin Selz, Tanner Kohlhepp and Zach Gustafson leaves a gap.
“Replacing them will be a challenge,” said Dan Roehl, entering his third season as coach. “Despite the lack of proven pitchers, we are confident that we have guys that will compete and throw strikes.”
There is no question Roehl will put a quality team on the field once again – but how far can this group go?
“We’d like to contend for the Big Rivers,” he said, “and get out of the sectional.”
Last year the Abes went 15-7 and wound up second to North in the Big Rivers and saw their tournament hopes go by the boards by a sectional loss to Stevens Point.
As a freshman, Trapani, a righthander who throws hard, had a 3-0 record with 36 strikeouts in 25 innings and a 1.12 earned run average.
“He throws in the high 80s and sniffs the 90s and will anchor our staff for the next three years,” Roehl said. “He’s working on the change and has to live down in the zone more.”
Roehl said he‘d like to see Stoik, who has good stuff and control, take over the No. 2 spot with Kapanke and Piper in the picture and Chase Bredl, Kaden Kohlhepp and Mitch Voller also in the mix.
“If we can throw strikes, we’ll be OK,” Roehl said. “We’ve got good arms and are deep. But not proven.”
Jack Fentress returns behind the plate with a season of experience under his belt and could also see some work on the mound which would put junior Bryce Kostman at catcher.
Around the infield, it’s Kapanke at first, Dalen Corn at second, Stoik and Alex Krajewski at short and Trapani at third along with Piper and Carson Soukup. Andrew Roberts takes over in center with Kaden Kohlhepp, Voller, Grant Gerber also in outfield spots. Jonah Wiggins, Chas Toman and Nick Barka are ready to step in at several spots.
Gerber, who also can play first, is a starter back from last year hoping to improve his batting.
After hitting .375 with 15 RBI last year, Kapanke is looked to to lead the hitting attack although coming off a knee injury.
“We should have decent hitting and good team speed,” Roehl said. “Kapanke is proven and Kohlhepp and Gerber have the tools. So does Trapani. We’re hoping Roberts will get on base with his speed.”
Overall, it’s a young team with just six seniors. But there is a lot of potential up from last year’s JV squad.
Seniors – Nick Barka, if; Jack Fentress, c\p; Cooper Kapanke, 1b; Kaden Kohlhepp, util; Andrew Roberts, of; Connor Stoik, p\util
Juniors – Chase Bredl, p\of; Dalen Corn, if; Bryce Kostman, c; Alex Krajewski, if; Jack Piper, if; Carson Soukup, util; Chas Toman, util; Mitch Voller, of\p; Jonah Wiggins, util.
Sophomores – Grant Gerber, of; Vince Trapani, p.
April 5, at Mauston tournament, Escanaba, 5:45 p.m.; Mauston, 8 p.m.; 6, Stoughton, 6 p.m., at Mauston; 9, at Menomonie, 4:30 p.m.; 12, Menomonie, 4:30 p.m.; 13, Lakeville North, 11 a.m.; 16, at Rice Lake, 4:30 p.m.; 18, Rice Lake, 4:30 p.m.; 23, at Holmen, 4:30 p.m.; 25, Onalaska, 4:30 p.m.; 26, New Richmond, 7 p.m.; 27, at La Crosse Central (2), 11 a.m.; 30, at Chippewa Falls, 6:30 p.m.
May 2, Chippewa Falls, 5 p.m.; 4, at Waunakee, 11 a.m.; 7, River Falls, 5 p.m.; 9, at River Falls, 5 p.m.; 11, at Superior (2), 12 noon; 14, EC North, 6 p.m.; 16, at EC North, 6 p.m.; 21, Hudson, 5 p.m.; 23, at Hudson, 5 p.m.; 25, Sun Prairie, 10 a.m.
(All home games at Carson Park).