Ace pitcher Hickey will lead Panthers
Team returns all pitching, looks to break .500 mark
By Jason Arndt
Last year, Wilmot Union High School fielded a youthful baseball team, which finished in the lower half of the Southern Lakes Conference.
However, entering this season, Panthers’ coach Josh Pye hopes his squad carries that experience with them.
“The core of this group has been varsity-tested for two years now,” said Pye, whose team finished 4-10 in the SLC and 11-14 overall. “They know what it takes to play varsity ball and be successful.”
“All of our pitching is returning along with a good percentage of our bats. Defensively, we are replacing one starter,” Pye added.
Among the three returners on the mound is left-hander Troy Hickey, an Oklahoma State University commit, who finished his junior season with a meager 0.54 ERA but came away with a 3-2 record.
Through 38 2/3 innings, Hickey struck out 51 hitters, walked 33 and allowed 19 hits.
“We are looking for Troy to have a big senior season for us. He has good stuff that I feel can shut down anyone,” said Pye. “As far as Troy staying focused, he knows he needs to concentrate on getting ahead of hitters and keeping his pitch count down.”
As Hickey pitched, he also contributed offensively last season, when he stole 10 bases and in 29 at-bats, had a .276 batting average.
Meanwhile, junior returning letter-winner Kyle Gendron offers Hickey support on the mound, where he held a 3.00 ERA through 30-1/3 innings pitched. In that span, Gendron struck out 27 while issuing 15 walks.
Pye said Gendron expects to log more innings, citing a new WIAA pitch count rule.
“With the new pitching rules from the WIAA, managing your pitching will be a little tougher and teams will be going into their pitching staff a little further,” he said. “I think Kyle will be a difference maker for us on the mound.”
Pye, however, said the team’s success on the mound hinges on keeping walks low this season.
Schattner dangerous at the plate
In the batter’s box, the Panthers expect to see senior Josh Schattner, juniors Gunner Peterson, A.J. Frisby and Justin Paasch along with sophomore Tanner Peterson make contributions.
Schattner, a Winona State University commit, batted .397 with six RBI as a Panthers’ infielder last year.
For the Petersons, both Illinois State University commitments, they look to build on their previous season.
Gunner, a junior outfielder, batted .378 with three home runs, 24 RBI, six doubles and scored 24 runs.
Tanner, a sophomore, tallied 10 RBI, collected two doubles and three triples and finished his freshman season with a .351 batting average.
“I think both Petersons are going to have solid seasons. Both have worked hard in the offseason to improve their games and they look really good to start the season,” said Pye. “They are both going to be big contributors to anything we do this season.”
Meanwhile, Paasch returns as the team’s leadoff hitter and infielder, where he batted .317 with 29 runs scored and collected four doubles as a sophomore.
Frisby, who split time between the mound and outfield last year, finished his sophomore season with 11 stolen bases and batted .325.
Additionally, the team returns seniors Ryley Orszula (infielder), Jack Grote (infielder), Jack Grote (catcher) and Evan Henry.
Rounding out the team is Niles O’Brien (sophomore infielder), Wyatt Owen (junior infielder), Jacob Curley (senior catcher), Cameron Wischnowski (junior outfielder) and Jarrett Lipstreuer (junior outfielder).
Along with key returners, the Panthers are relying on the speed of newcomer Jacob Gerzal in the outfield, said Pye.
Pye, who noted the challenging SLC, said the team has to stay focused and execute to succeed against state champion Burlington, Waterford and Westosha Central.
“I think this entire conference is going to be tough,” he said. “If you want to win conference, you better show up every night ready to compete and execute.”