Eight of the nine played for Weber during the last five years, while one graduated in 1991. The players (and the year they finished playing at Lakeland) include Steve Goes (2003), Isaac Hart (2002), Chris Thousand (2002), P.J. Weber (2002), Chris Menart (2001), Brian Bengtson (2000), Jake Klossner (2000), Ryan Shaw (2000) and Mark Holzman (1991).
The AC's are 20-6 overall and finished Shoreland play with a 14-4 record, the same as the Algoma Penguins and the Casco Athletics. But Howards Grove won the tie-breakers based on head-to-head outcomes. The top four teams make the playoffs, which should get underway tonight after a delay due to weather. Howards Grove opens at home against the #4 seeded Kewaunee Chiefs (7-10), while #2 Algoma faces #3 Casco. The winner of each three-game series advances to the finals for another three-game series.
The impact the former Muskies have had has been immeasurable. Shaw leads the league (league games only) in wins (5), is third is ERA (4.78), second in complete games (4), second in strikeouts (49), and second in innings pitched (52.2).
On the offensive side, Klossner is third in the league in hitting at .468 (22 for 47), Bengtson is tenth at .348 (16 of 46) and has an amazing 41 game hitting streak over the course of two seasons, while P.J. Weber is 19th in batting average at .333 (19 of 57). Every time they need a clutch hit it seems another former Lakeland player is literally stepping to the plate.
But the real story isn't the wins or the statistics, it's the fact these guys are playing for the camaraderie and for the love of the game. They all juggle their jobs and other activities in order to make the games.
For example, Holzman, known to his teammates as "Old School," came out of retirement when the team needed a catcher. They needed a catcher because Klossner got a job in pharmaceutical sales in Wausau and couldn't commit to every game anymore.
At age 34 Holzman looks like he hasn't missed a beat as he still drives the ball hard and goes from first to third like a young Rickey Henderson. Holzman seems to do it all as he balances baseball with his wife Shawn and two active sons Ashton and Caleb, while maintaining his job as a grade school principal in Fond du Lac.
Menart continues to hit homeruns at an amazing pace (7 so far), while working an internship in town during the summer months as he finishes his degree in mechanical engineering from UW-Stout. P.J. Weber works in Sheboygan and is also planning for his wedding this fall. Shaw and Bengston have jobs at the American Club in Kohler while Bengtson prepares for his second season as the head varsity women's basketball coach at Kohler High School.
Goes has a semester left of student teaching at Lakeland and also successfully coached the Sheboygan JV Legion team again this past summer. Hart works for Sears at Sheboygan Memorial Mall, and Thousand coaches at Lakeland while working towards his Master's of Education degree. He works at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms to make some extra money during the summer months.
It's no coincidence that the AC's are doing well as the players who just finished up at Lakeland helped rebuild the program. The Muskies have had the best four year stretch in the history of the program with three straight conference titles, the school first two NCAA tournament bids, and a 2002 College World series appearance (5th place). In making the World Series the Muskies became the smallest college ever to appear in a CWS with an enrollment of 715 at the time.
It all started with the 2000 team that set the Lakeland school wins record with 24 wins, which the Muskies have now surpassed the last three seasons.
As expected, all of the players had individual success for Lakeland during their tenure. Thousand was all-conference four times at Lakeland and was a Second Team All-Midwest Region player his senior year when he was the number two pitcher and number three hitter for the Muskies CWS team. He will forever be known as the player who propelled the Muskies to the World Series by hitting a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the tenth inning verses UW-Stevens Point. Thousand ranks in the top five of 14 different individual pitching and hitting records at Lakeland.
Holzman and Klossner were all-conference three times each, and Shaw was 5-2 in his senior year with 38 strikeouts in 52 innings. Weber was 4-1 and struck out 34 batters while just walking 6 in 2002. Menart hit .324 in 2001 before transferring to UW-Stout (Lakeland does not offer engineering). Hart hit .314 in 2002 and Goes hit .408 this past season. Finally Bengtson hit .309 in 2000 and got what Coach Weber said "is the biggest hit in the program's recent history" with a game-winning hit over then #3 UW-Oshkosh.
"It was the turning point in our program when our guys really started to believe we could win," said Weber. "It propelled us to the success we've had the past three seasons. That's why those guys are so special to me. They paved the way for the future and helped our current guys know that when they put the uniform on they're not just playing for themselves, but represent Lakeland College both past, present and future."
Coach Weber is also glad the former Muskie players are still involved in the game.
"These are the type of players we like to have at Lakeland the guys who love to play," said Weber. Most of our former student-athletes continue playing after their careers are finished at Lakeland, but having nine guys that came together on the same team is truly unique."
"It seems that no matter if you're a current Muskie or a former Muskie,
there will always be that link," added Weber. It pleases me to see that
the friendships formed in the Lakeland College community continue for life."