By Dan Truttschel/Sports Correspondent

The 2013 Wilmot baseball team made a run at the WIAA State Tournament but fell short in the sectional final by just one run.

This year’s team plans to take the next step.

Led by seven returning seniors, the Panthers have high hopes as the 2014 campaign gets under way. Wilmot, ranked 17th in the preseason poll by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association, split a nonconference doubleheader Saturday.

“We have a promising outlook for the 2014 season,” Wilmot coach Josh Pye said. “We return seven seniors and one junior (who) all contributed to a successful 2013 season that ended with a sectional runner-up finish.”

Seniors back on the roster for one final season are James Alexander (first base), Garrett Bogucki (catcher), Evan Ketterhagen (second base), Kyle Nixon (shortstop), Dustin McFarlane (third base), Cameron Loveless (centerfield) and Colin Barry (right field).

Bogucki is a two-year starter at catcher for Wilmot, which posted a 14-10 overall record and an 8-6 mark in the Southern Lakes Conference last year.

“I look to all of our seniors to lead this team,” Pye said. “They have great team chemistry, are not afraid to work hard and have fun, and I think they will do a great job leading our juniors to where they want to get to.”

Having those veterans in the lineup every day is a nice plus to have, Pye said.

“The strengths will be our experience that is returning,” Pye said. “This includes the sticks we will have in our lineup and our defense.”

Top newcomers include the Panthers’ junior pitching duo of Tyler Hickey and Austin Brewer and junior outfielder Nick VanKampen.

How those juniors and the other new faces adjust to varsity competition will go a long way in determining the success Wilmot has this year, Pye said.

“Our weaknesses are more of our unknowns at this point of the season,” he said. “We have talented junior pitchers joining the rotation, and they need time to grow and adjust to varsity play.

“Once they get some innings on the mound, they will be great additions to the varsity.”

Pye said another key will be meshing the seniors with those juniors to create one cohesive unit.

And the sooner that happens the quicker the Panthers can get to work on knocking their season goals off their list.

“My expectations for this team are to come in and work to get better every day at practice,” Pye said. “This group has the potential to win ballgames and compete for a conference championship.”

Eyes focused on SLC

Wilmot finished third behind co-champions Badger and Union Grove a year ago, and Pye knows the race to the SLC crown again will be a tough one.

That seems to be the standard year-in, year-out.

“Our conference is always tough to win,” Pye said. “It usually comes down to a ballgame. This team has the potential to finish on top of the conference, but will have to compete with some other talented teams.”

Pye said he’s fully confident in his team’s hitting and defense, and knows at the end of the season, how the Wilmot pitching staff develops will be a big key.

The Panthers have to replace standout Chaz Schmidt, who is now pitching for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“We need to perform on a consistent basis offensively,” Pye said. “We have some sticks in the lineup and some players defensively. The key will be the development of our pitching staff.”

“Our goals are the same as always, to compete for a conference title and make a run in the post-season.”




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