By Dan Truttschel Sports Correspondent

The unexpected early return of warm weather to Wisconsin left most of us with an extra bounce in our step.

That certainly has been the case for area baseball and softball teams – and Westosha Central is no exception.

Now the Falcons need to turn that optimism into real success on the field, and even though it’s just a week into the season, fourth-year Central head coach Randy Appleby likes what he has seen.

Central enters the new season after a 2011 campaign that saw it finish 8-6 in the Southern Lakes Conference, good for a fourth-place tie with Waterford. The Falcons were 12-13 overall.

“I can never remember being out on our field the first day of practice taking ground balls,” Appleby said. “That was nice. Practice has been going well.”

While it’s too early to pinpoint a strength, team chemistry appears to be near or at the top of the list so far, Appleby said.

A solid group of seniors will lead the way, Appleby said. Among those he will count on are Dalton Sjong (first base-pitcher), Anthony Anichini (second base), Luke Podella (outfield), Corey Muhlenbeck (first base), Sam Shelton (outfield), Mike Sorensen (shortstop-second base), Casey Joerndt (catcher), Jake Ludwig (catcher), Tom Neave (second base) and Jason Gackowski (first base).

“We could have eight seniors starting,” Appelby said. “There are a couple guys coming back who played extensively last year. Those guys have some varsity experience, which is going to be helpful.

“And they’ve been good leaders so far for the juniors, sophomore and freshmen that we have coming through the program.”

That core group will be joined by top juniors Anthony Muscarello (outfield-pitcher) and Travis Knudsvig (catcher), along with sophomore newcomer Brooks Gahart (pitcher-third base).

Appleby doesn’t see his team as dominant in one specific area – however, he feels the Falcons are above average across the board, and that balance could be a key to success.

“Unlike other teams that we knew we could hit or that we had depth at pitching, I can’t put my thumb on (what we’re good) right now,” he said.

“Maybe that’s a good thing, because I think we’re hopefully average to above average in a lot of areas.”

Finding that level of consistency will go a long way in determining how the season goes, Appleby said.

In the always difficult SLC, Appleby said he expects Burlington to be among the teams leading the chase to this year’s title. Union Grove won the crown a year ago at 12-2, followed by Wilmot at 11-3 and Burlington at 10-4.

Any of those teams, along with both Waterford and Central, could make a run to the crown this time around, Appleby said. Possible darkhorse teams are Delavan-Darien and Badger.

Like many of his fellow coaches, Appleby enters the new season with similar goals as years past.

“(A) conference championship, sectional berth, get to state, those have always been the goals,” he said. “I think it’s possible. It’s always possible at the beginning of the year. If we can put it all together and stay consistent, this group will be a special group.

Central Baseball Schedule

Conference games in bold

All games 4:30

Unless indicated

3-30, Johnsburg (Ill.); 4-2, at Grant (Ill.), DH; 4-3, vs. Waterford; 4-5, at Waterford; 4-11, vs. Racine Park; 4-14, vs. Antioch (Ill.), DH, 10 a.m.; 4-17, at Badger; 4-20, vs. Racine Case; 4-24, vs. Union Grove; 4-26, at Union Grove; 4-27, vs. Shoreland Lutheran; 5-1, vs. Wilmot; 5-3, at Wilmot; 5-5, at Hartford, 11 a.m.; 5-8, at Elkhorn; 5-10, vs. Elkhorn; 5-12, vs. Kenosha Tremper, 11 a.m.; 5-14, at Delavan-Darien; 5-15, vs. Delavan-Darien; 5-18, at Burlington; 5-19, vs. Madison Memorial, DH, 11 a.m.; 5-22, vs. Burlington.



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