WHS baseball: Trojans hoping to make it count
WORTHINGTON -- If the game of baseball were played on paper, with dice and read-out cards, the Worthington Trojans' 2017 potential might appear assured. But of course, baseball is played on real grass, by real people. Dice rolls don't count.On a ...
WORTHINGTON -- If the game of baseball were played on paper, with dice and read-out cards, the Worthington Trojans’ 2017 potential might appear assured. But of course, baseball is played on real grass, by real people. Dice rolls don’t count.
On a warm afternoon this week at Junior High Field, where the Trojans will play out their spring season, it was hoped that the team can improve on its 14-10 performance from 2016.
Fourteen-and-ten. “It should have been better,” said WHS head coach Stacy Sauerbrei, remembering.
Indeed. Last year’s Trojans had good hitting, some good arms, and good speed. But too many mental mistakes kept them from finishing better than four games over .500.
As a new season takes shape, Sauerbrei is confident that with fewer throws to the wrong base, fewer times having to get four outs instead of three, the Trojans can enjoy more consistent success.
“Our goal is just to be as good as we can be. And to do that through effort,” said the coach.
The team’s personality is sound.
“They’ll practice forever. I have to almost tell them to go home sometimes,” Sauerbrei said, “I think we’ll have a dynamite hitting team. Hitting has always been a bright spot.”
A new high school pitch count rule will put a premium on the arms race, but Worthington appears in good shape there, with several pitchers in camp who’ve experienced success.
“We’ve always worked on depth with our pitchers,” Sauerbrei said. “We call it our ‘rainy-day pitchers.’ We look at that as an advantage. Other teams may have the big gun that we don’t have, but we do have guys who have thrown a lot.”
Six experienced players -- five who pitch -- headline the 2017 Trojans, who are scheduled to open the non-conference season Thursday at home against Heron Lake-Okabena in a 5 p.m. start.
Senior left-handed pitcher-outfielder Tucker Sorenson was perhaps the most polished pitcher on the staff late last spring. He has good velocity and a good curve.
All-Big South Conference pick Easton Sauerbrei wields a big bat. He led the team in runs batted in last year and will play shortstop when he’s not pitching.
Another All-Big South performer, pitcher-outfielder Shawn Hurley, has outstanding speed at the top of the batting order. He’s also an excellent defensive outfielder.
Eli Gaul catches and plays second base. Logan Huisman pitches and plays middle infield. And pitcher-first baseman Tyler Linder, perhaps the hardest thrower on the team, will be a big-muscled option in the middle of the batting order.
Others angling for positions include senior pitcher-outfielder-catcher Mason Ellenbecker, senior outfielder-second baseman Edgar Avila, senior infielder Tanner Nordseth and senior third baseman Manny Dominguez.
Sorenson says that, as a pitcher, he will rely more on his slider this year. Partly because of the pitch count rule, he expects to mix it up more and refrain from banking too heavily on his fastball.
“I want to do better than I did last year. There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I feel that my fastball is still going to be there. And my slider, I’ve been working on it in the offseason, so I feel that’s going to be an improvement.”
Sorenson agrees that he and his teammates need to keep their heads up this spring, minimize the mistakes, and take advantage of all their strengths.
“Everybody on the team, we play more for the team,” he said. “I feel like this time, we care more about each other. We get along, so I think it’s going to be a good season. I think we’re going to go far.”
Coach Sauerbrei believes his team has what it takes -- on paper, at least -- to make good things happen this spring. He also points out that several other programs appear to be on the rise. So consistency matters.
“Consistency would be good. And it all starts with pitching,” said the veteran mentor. “We’ve got some depth. Our depth is good. These kids have been competitive all the way up. And they like each other.”