Sheboygan baseball coaches can only hope things aren’t as bad as the previous two seasons.
After COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 season, Kohler/Christian, South and Lutheran won a combined five games and North recorded its third straight losing season last year.
There are several factors why, including a “big time” decrease in the number of players in the last 10 years, according to South coach Tyler Zietz.
“South hasn’t had two teams since like 2018 or 2017 I think,” he said. “And the COVID year affected a lot. They missed a whole year of baseball. But with them not having two teams when they’re freshmen or sophomores, they don’t get to play those years because they’re on varsity and don’t see many innings.
“So having low numbers really affects them because they don’t get to compete throughout, they kind of have to sit and wait until they’re juniors before they actually get to start playing.”
From the feedback Kohler/Christian coach Brett Huisman says he’s received, declining numbers is a big reason why such dismal play last season.
“Now it seems like (his freshmen) class, and some of the ones moving forward, there’s a lot of depth and a lot of baseball players,” he said. “I don’t know what happened, but I think the whole area itself had a lull in youth programs and development.
“We lost players as we got to high school to other sports as well. So just the love of the game wasn’t there and I think it’s coming back.”
Three key seniors return, including top pitcher Henry Dierkes. Eli Johnson, who led the team a year ago in runs batted in and is slidinv over from second base to shortstop, and catcher Will Tipton, return as well. … The squad also has seven freshmen that are pretty solid ballplayers, according to coach Brett Huisman. … “We’re going to be loaded with youth that is coming in with all different skill levels and experience from other club teams and travel teams,” he said. “So I’m really excited to have their positive, kind of winning culture they’ve been used to, joining a team of returners that is starving to win some games.”
Ten players return, including as many as six starters, according to coach Tim Muth. Senior pitcher/outfielder Blake Allen and senior pitcher/third baseman Noah Conto will lead the squad, which also consists of several juniors. … “We’ve got a good pool of young kids, a good core of sophomores,” Muth said.
Three-year starters and seniors Nick Herzog (shortstop) and Ian Merry (catcher) not only return, five others are back who played regularly last year. … “Not many high school programs get the opportunity to return seven out of their top 10 players,” coach Steve Goes said. “We’ll be better defensively.
We’ll be better offensively. And what it’s going to come down to is do we have enough arms, can we throw enough strikes, to keep ourselves in the mix in arguably the best conference in the state.”
Junior outfielder Wyatt Hilbelink hit .444 in the Fox River Classic last year to earn all-conference second team. … “He puts in a lot of work in open gyms and he’s been working hard in the weight room,” coach Tyler Zietz said. “He’ll be more of a leader, too. The kind of season he had last year is hard to duplicate, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he did it again with all the work he put in the offseason.” … Two others are back after injuries kept them from playing their best last year. Senior pitcher Jake Leonhard was not able to take the mound (he was able to hit and play defense) but is healthy, as is sophomore catcher Kayden Bruggink.