This story is sponsored by Dental Clinic of Marshfield
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – The Marshfield baseball team is coming off a second-place finish in the Wisconsin Valley Conference and a trip to the WIAA Division 1 sectionals.
With six starters returning, including four that earned all-WVC honors last year, the 2012 version of the Tigers is looking for even more success.
Marshfield will begin its season with a trip to DisneyWorld in Florida where it will play four games and a scrimmage in five days beginning Monday, before returning home and playing four home games in eight days starting April 9 against Tomah.
The trip to Disney is a regular affair for the Marshfield baseball program, which last went in 2009. The Tigers will play a doubleheader Monday and single games on Tuesday and Thursday. Marshfield will also play a non-official scrimmage on Friday.
“One of the things there is the caliber of ball you play,” Marshfield coach Mark Zee said. “We’ve had some good practices outside already and built our arm strength up. You see some good quality pitching down there and hopefully we adjust to that level and continue at that level when we return to Marshfield.”
Among those returning from last year are Bradley University recruit and senior Elliot Ashbeck, who was a second-team all-Wisconsin Valley Conference pitcher last year and will also play catcher and third base this season.
First-team outfielder Bo Howard, the conference’s leading hitter last season with a .467 average as a sophomore, along with second-team senior infielder Austin Littmann and honorable mention sophomore catcher Daulton Varsho (.382 batting average) are back to give the Tigers a punch in their lineup and a solid nucleus to build around.
Also back are first baseman Nick Treankler and outfielder Nate Saverda, both seniors.
“I’m really confident in our team this year,” Littmann said. “We didn’t lose a lot of people. We should have a pretty good team.
“We’re going to have some high-scoring games and we’re going to have to put points up on the board.”
Ashbeck will head up the pitching staff after serving as the Tigers’ workhorse a year ago. He pitched in six of the team’s 12 conference games, going 4-2 with a 3.07 earned-run average and 43 strikeouts in 41 innings.
Littmann, who will also play shortstop, Howard, and junior Tanner Dennis-Brown are among the other pitching candidates.
“We’ve got about four guys after Elliot that can be effective,” Zee said. “I think Tanner is going to surprise some people. Bo Howard was the No. 1 as a freshman on the JV (two years ago) and he didn’t have to pitch for us last year, but I think he’s going to do well. Austin is probably going to be a reliever for us and we have some juniors that will give us some depth.”
Senior outfielder Seth Karl and juniors Jeron Hiller (second base), Cole Irish (outfield), Aaron Schwecke (outfield), Alex Steines (outfield) and Luke Wirtz (third base) round out the active roster.
Senior Jordan Litwaitis is expected to return to the team in late April as he recovers from a broken arm, and the team’s top RBI man a year ago, Sean Koran, will not play this season because of a knee injury suffered during the basketball season.
“With Sean Koran going down in basketball that hurts,” Zee said. “Our top five hitters – a lot of experience, a couple of lefties in the mix – and we some guys that are going to be down in the order and can just sit down there and have some fun.”
Ashbeck is excited to get the season started, and he said he expects big things from this year’s team.
“I think this is probably, from top to bottom, is the most talented team we’ve had,” Ashbeck said. “We’ve been playing together for a long time and I think if we put it all together, we can string together a lot of wins. A lot of it is just confidence. I think we’re going to be ahead of where we have been in the past and that will help going to Florida and getting those early reps.”