2006 Baseball Season Preview
Athletics - posted on 3/6/2006
The 2005 season marked the first time since 2000 that the Lakeland baseball team failed to win the regular season conference title. With a tighter nucleus and a host of talented freshmen, the Muskies have hopes of closing out the final season of the Lake Michigan Conference as the top team.
Five seniors make up the nucleus of this group: catcher Matt Andrews (Appleton, Wis./Appleton West), centerfielder Paul Daniels (Miami Lakes, Fla./Miami Lakes), utility man Josh Henschel (Elkhart Lake, Wis./Elkhart Lake), pitcher Doug Mogensen (Appleton, Wis./Appleton West) and first baseman Nick Steudel (Hortonville, Wis./Hortonville)
They have been given the responsibility of leading the 14 incoming freshman back to the top of the LMC.
"We are going to get some great leadership out of our seniors this year," says second-year head coach John Govek. "Steudel leads by example, Andrews is a vocal leader and Daniels and Henschel are fiery, emotional guys."
Andrews, who spent time on the mound as well as behind the plate last year, gains the highest praise from Govek.
"(Andrews) is probably one of the top two catchers in the state, and one of the top 10 catchers in the country as far as catching and throwing," Govek says.
Andrews anchors a defensive unit that Govek says is the strongest part of this year's team. The infield will have a completely new look, with three of the four starters graduating and the other, Mogensen, rehabbing a strained rotator cuff.
Steudel, who missed 14 games last season but still managed to finish first on the team in home runs (3) and second in runs batted in (19), will get the nod at first base and will most likely bat third in the lineup. Last year, his .358 batting average was tops on the team for anyone with over 50 at bats.
"(Steudel) is our best hitter," says Govek. "Right now he's just mashing the ball, and he's strong, so the ball just jumps off the bat."
Junior Mitch Heinemeyer (Shiocton, Wis./Shiocton), who returns to Lakeland this year after transferring to UW-Oshkosh last season, is slated to start at third base and lead off.
The middle infield positions will be given to a pair of freshmen, redshirt transfer Adam Brown (Green Bay, Wis./UW-Stevens Point) and shortstop Matt Ambriz (Wausau, Wis./Wausau East).
"No coach in the country would go out of his way to start a freshman middle infield," says Govek, "but I think they're mature freshman, and they won their starting spots."
Daniels, the last player left from the 2002 team that took fifth in the NCAA Division III College World Series, will lead an outfield that also has Govek confident. Freshman Shawn Loch (Green Bay, Wis./Bayport) and either junior Brett Nelson (Shawano, Wis./Shawano) or transfer Zach Hilbert (Green Bay, Wis./University of Minnesota) will start in the other two outfield positions.
As for pitching, the ace role has fallen into the hands of All-LMC junior Adam Hablewitz (Manitowoc, Wis./Lincoln). Despite his 2-4 record last season, Hablewitz showed consistency, leading the team in strikeouts (39) in just 44.2 innings pitched.
For the remainder of the pitching staff, the rotation is still up in the air, but Govek expects Daniels and Steudel to fill innings. Sophomore Nate Brusewitz (Green Bay, Wis./Green Bay Southwest) are also expected to eat up innings in the starting rotation.
Govek expects Nelson and freshman Dan Rhodes (Oakfield, Wis./Oakfield) to compete for the closer role.
"(Rhodes) has some electric stuff," Govek says of the young pitcher. "When he's ahead in the count he's a tough pitcher because of his arm angle."
Despite this team's youth, Govek is confident the Muskies can compete for a fifth LMC title in six years and derail conference champion Edgewood.
"I enjoy coming to work every day because of their attitude," says Govek. "This team's work ethic is phenomenal. Coming off the disappointing season we had last year, it's refreshing to come to work with this team."
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