MHS nine eager to show prognosticators error of ways

Coaches- Brian Artac (14th head, 37th overall), Shawn Schultz (17th); JV1 Rob Klug (8th), Mitch Osness (2nd); JV2 Al Tetzloff (8th); Bill Helmuth (44th), Pat Bonneville (12th).
Last season’s accomplishments- 4-8 WVC, tie 5th; 12-12 overall, L 5-2 at SPASH in reg final.
Major losses- Alex Cordova (2x 1st Team All-State, 2x 1st WVC), OF/P Ray Paul (HM WVC), 1B/DH Alex Ruge; sr. P/1B Kevin Bolder (moved to Tomahawk).
Key returnees- srs. C Garrett Pagel, P Coleton Bloch; jrs. IF Ty Grunenwald, P/OF David Pophal, 1B Alex Klug, 3B/OF Brian Stockowitz.
Promising newcomers- srs. Randall Cruz, P/OF Tristan Schultz, OF Tom Zuelsdorff; jrs. P/IF/OF Brad Juhlke, IF Cole Gustke, OF Alex Zettler; sophs. P/IF Mason Reinhardt, IF Eric Zengeler, P Justin Payn, P Jimmy Gabler, P Seth Collins.
Artac quotable- “My expectations for us are probably higher than the other coaches in the conference. They picked us to finish sixth out of seven. I think we’re better than they think we are. I’ll eat hay or choke to death. Hopefully I don’t choke to death.
“These boys represent this community. They’ve got to buy into that and take ownership of it.
“We’ve got a strong junior class and a pretty strong sophomore class. We’ve had a couple of years that are down by Merrill standards. We had a good team for 10-11 years in a row; now we’ve had two years of .500 teams.
“We have four seniors. We have eight juniors and we lost three. We do have two foreign exchange kids and one (Randall Cruz) will start for us. He’s been a real bright spot.
“We’ve got better speed this year than I thought we would. I’m just hoping we can get good pitching and solid defense. I think we’re going to hit better than we did last year.
“We have some dedicated kids. Every Tuesday since January before school we had open throwing in the fieldhouse. A number of kids have been using the (old Fox Point) batting cages. Ty Grunenwald and Brad Juhlke have been hitting regularly since it opened.
“Our attitude has been great. They’ve been through two weeks of practice and I haven’t had to yell yet. We’re going to be inside for another two weeks, so we might as well get used to it. It’s just the reality. For a lot of years, this is how it used to be.
“Our numbers are down, but we’ve got the boys we want. We may not have the big quantity this year, but I think our quality is pretty good, I really do.
“It’s nice to have our receiver back behind the plate in Garrett Pagel. Mason Reinhardt is going to catch, too, but he can play other spots. For pitchers, senior Coleton Bloch returns a lot of experience. He’s throwing pretty hard and he’s got that quirky motion. Senior Tristan Schultz is a 6-5 lefty we hope can throw strikes. Cruz, the foreign exchange student, has a live arm. Junior lefties Brad Juhlke and David Pophal, there’s some pitchers. Brad’s a crafty guy and Pophal is one of our hardest throwers, although Coleton is throwing 80 (mph) and Randall can throw pretty hard, too. Brian Stockowitz has a long arm action. He’s lean muscle. Alex Klug won’t pitch this year because of a shoulder injury.
“The sophomore class, these guys are all pitchers-Justin Pyan, Jimmy Gabler, Reinhardt, Seth Collins. They’re all righties.
“Coleton has played first base and we’re turning Klug into a first-baseman. Brad is versatile and can pitch, and play outfield or first. We’re looking at Ty at shortstop, and Randall can play there, too. Those are our two leading candidates for the middle right there. Others are Cole Gustke and Eric Zengeler. At third, Brian is back, but I like him as an outfielder, too. Mason could play third. Jacob Sabey can play infield.
“Davey (Pophal) is back in center, and other outfielders include Tom Zuelsdorff, Tristan, Juhlke and Alex Zettler.
“D.C. Everest is going to be loaded. I always think Stevens Point is a team to consider because they’ve been so strong forever and they’ve got so many kids. After that, Marshfield has got a couple of really good kids back. They’ve got East picked behind us, but I don’t think they’re that bad.”

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