Entering their second season in charge of the Three Rivers baseball program, head coach Ryan Kane and assistant Anthony Moreno are looking for the team to “take the next step.”
The Wildcats finished 2013 a game under .500 after losing to Coldwater in the Division 2 district finals. They also lost standouts Sam Shutes and Brady Reeves to graduation. Shutes is currently pitching for the University of Toledo. But seven players are back for a team that should see marked improvement.
Success this season hinges on how well the Wildcats’ pitching staff performs. And Moreno believes he has a pretty good one to go with veteran catcher Shawn Brew (senior).
“We have five-six pitchers that any high school program would love to have, giving us depth at the most important position that’s rarely seen in high school,” he said.
Three Rivers beat White Pigeon April 1 by using a platoon of hurlers.
“This should give us a good shot at competing for a [Wolverine] Conference title and put us in a great predicament going into the postseason trying to decide who our top-two starting pitchers are. We fully expect all of the guys to push each other and compete to get the ball in Game 1 of the districts and every game from then out.”
Junior Ben VanScoik earned all-conference honors last season and the right-hander is primed for an even bigger year. Of the eight pitchers on Three Rivers’ roster, Chris Balog is the only senior.
Seven players are battling for time in the infield, Moreno explained, and five are competing for the outfield spots.
Winning a conference crown won’t be easy. In the West Division alone, two of the six schools won district championships and three others finished runner-up. The East Division featured district champ Otsego.
Moreno said that caliber of competition only bolsters league members when it comes time for tournament play and that the Wildcats will be ready for a long run.
“This is a very talented baseball team and one we expect to win a significant number of games and make a long run in the postseason,” Moreno said.
A look at the Wildcats
Coach: Ryan Kane (second year)
Last year: 12-13 overall, lost to Coldwater in Division 2 district finals.
Returning letterwinners: Ben VanScoik (Jr., P/INF); Austin Pond (Jr., P/INF); Chris Balog (Sr., P/INF); Shawn Brew (Sr., C); Andrew Bowers (Jr., P/OF); Kyle Walczak (Sr., OF).
Newcomers: Alex Minger (Fr., P/INF); Tate Ellifritz (So., INF/OF); Josh Hill (Jr., P/INF); Payton Krause (Jr., P/OF); Andrew Coney (Jr., INF); Ryan Pedersen (Jr., P/INF); Zach Turner (Jr., OF); Gage Roberts (Jr., INF/C).