Strong pitching means MBC baseball race should be a battle

When, or if, the winter weather ever subsides, there should be an outstanding race for the 2014 Middle Border Conference baseball title.
Ellsworth, New Richmond and Prescott were the top three teams in the MBC in 2013 and they all return a solid nucleus of players. That doesn’t preclude other teams from making a run at the title.
Ellsworth has reached the WIAA Division 2 state tournament each of the past two seasons and Prescott was the Division 3 state champion in 2012. That’s an accurate reflection of the quality of ball played in the MBC in recent years.
Ellsworth has to replace all-state pitcher James Georgakas. The Panthers return four All-MBC players, including first team infielder Nick Taranto and first team outfielder Dennis Schutz. Isaac Hines and Logan Armstrong give the Panthers a pair of experienced pitchers to build around.
No team returns more seasoned players than Prescott. One year out from a state title, the Cardinals could be a state threat again. First team All-MBC pitcher Matt Holman returns, as does first team infielder Michael Brookshaw and first team outfielder Alex Helmer. With Clay Seifert, Marty Harris, Brady Schommer and others also returning, there shouldn’t be an easy out in the Redbird lineup this season.
New Richmond relied on young arms last year and sophomores Cam Hausman and Drake Durham lead a young pitching staff this season. Senior Hayden Nelson will contribute on the mound when he’s not catching. The Tigers also return All-MBC infielders Jeremy Leavens and Josh Kizer to lead the offense.
Amery returns Broden Schock and Jordan Luehman, among others. Whether the Warriors can find the pitching to compete in a pitching-deep conference will determine whether they can challenge this season.
Osceola graduated some key offensive pieces in Bryce Byl, Logan Hatella and Alex Freese. The Chieftains will lean heavily on returning pitchers Victor Lowney and Tyler Maxon.
Somerset’s main returning strength is also pitching, in the persons of senior Zac Waalen and junior Tyler Lueck. There’s been a change at the helm for the Spartans, with long-time New Richmond coach John Ball leading the Spartan varsity team this season.
Durand returns a top flight pitcher in Tyler Gruber. If the Panthers can build around him, they could surprise. Jake Bauer and Jacob Biesterveld will be keys for Durand’s hopes.
Baldwin-Woodville was one of the youngest teams in the conference last year. The Hawks will have to replace Coleman Roskam, the anchor of last year’s pitching staff.