The gate is open for new and young candidates on the Eau Claire Regis baseball team.
The reason: the roster lists only one senior and three starters back from last year’s Cloverbelt co-championship team.
Another: several hopefuls will miss the first couple weeks due to spring break.
“It’s been four years since our young kids had this opportunity for playing time,” said Andy Niese, heading into his 12th season as coach with a 152-111 record. “We lost two good classes of accomplished baseball players so we will go through a transitional period early.
“We’ll be handcuffed for three to six games before we become full strength.”
That could put the Rambler string of six straight winning seasons in jeopardy.
On the bright side, the senior is Cade Osborn, a pitcher/shortstop who also offers leadership as one of the top players in the conference.
The other veterans are catcher Tristan Root and pitcher-infielder Luke Rooney. Mason Bauer and Matthew Klink return with valuable experience.
“Our goal is to get all the parts together at some time and be competitive,” Niese said.
Last spring, Osborn batted .438 with 32 hits and 28 runs scored at the bat and posted a 4-2 mound record with a 1.17 earned run average and 33 strikeouts in 36 innings.
He is listed at No. 1 in the mound rotation followed by Rooney (4-2), Klink (2-0), Bauer and young prospects Ben Boda and 6-3 lefthander Andrew Milner.
“If we can come up with four or five arms, it will give us a chance,” Niese said.
“Cade and Rooney have shutdown stuff. They throw hard with breaking stuff. Cade can play anywhere and Rooney (.300 last year) is athletic and will also play on the infield.”
Niese is working with Klink and Robbie Burhop at first, Bauer and Drew Goettl at second with Osborn, Rooney and Klink manning spots on the right side of the infield.
Root, who batted .309 last year, stands out as a clutch hitter and strong backstop.
Among those battling for outfield spots are Joe Edge, Blayde Lecher and Boda.
As far as hitting goes, Niese says, “We’re farther along on the mound than we are with the bats.”
He looks to Osborn, Rooney and Bauer to lead the way with Root hitting cleanup.
“We’ve got three or four regulars back and several weeks to work it out,” Niese said.
Regis posted a 17-5 season last year and is 55-16 over the past three seasons. The Ramblers won the outright title in 2017 and went 10-4 last year to share it with Altoona. After two tournament wins, they lost to Elk Mound in the regional finals last spring.
Senior – Cade Osborn, Ut/p.
Juniors – Mason Bauer, inf/p; Robbie Burhop, 1b/of; Joe Edge, of; Evan Flak, Ut; Matthew Klink, inf/p; Vincent Riccardi, of; Luke Rooney, p/inf; Tristan Root, c/of.
Sophomores – Jeremia Belden, of; Ben Boda, p/inf; Devin Dykes, 1b/of; Drew Goettl, cf/ss; Payton Kostka, of; Blayde Lecher, of/p.
Freshmen – Mason Kostka, ut; Alex Leis, ss/p; Andrew Milner, p/1b; Ben Salonek, c.
March 30, Webster, 2:15 p.m., at Mauston.
April 2, at Luck, 5 pm.; 5, Cumberland, 11 a.m., at Mauston; 6, Little Chute, 1:30 p.m., at Mauston; 9, Cadott, 5 p.m., at UWEC Bollinger Field; 11, at Stanley-Boyd, 5 p.m.; 12, Altoona, 5 p.m., Bollinger; 15, at La Crosse Aquinas, 5 p.m.; 16, Thorp, 5 p.m., at Carson Park; 23, at McDonell, 5 p.m.; 25, Fall Creek, 5 p.m., at Bollinger; 26, at Osseo-Fairchild, 5 p.m.; 30, at Cadott, 4:30 p.m.
May 2, at Thorp, 5 p.m.; 3, at Altoona, 5 p.m.; 7, Stanley-Boyd, 4:30 p.m., at Bollinger; 9, McDonell, 5 p.m., at Bollinger; 10, at Fall Creek, 5 p.m.; 11, at Independence tournament, Independence, 9:30 a.m.; 14, Osseo-Fairchild, 5 p.m., at Bollinger; 16, at Elk Mound, 5 p.m.; 17, Ellsworth, 4 p.m., at Bollinger; 20, Bloomer, 5 p.m., Carson; 21, Prescott, 4 p.m., Bollinger; 23, tournaments begin.