Expectations even higher this year after strong finish
BY DAVE PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Expectations have risen for the Rockford baseball team after exceeding them last year when advancing to the Section 5AA title game against Delano.
Much of last season was far from what was hoped when Rockford took a 5-13 record into the section playoffs, receiving the No. 7 seed. The Rockets got back on track to defeat Litchfield 5-3, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted 5-2 and Annandale 5-4. Delano won its third straight section title.
Coach Randy Griffith said if his team wants to compete for the conference and section titles it all comes down to pitching. Junior George Faue returns as the top returning starter. In the section tourney against HLWW, Faue pitched all seven innings, allowing just three hits with nine strikeouts.
“How Brock Deering and Nick Tully step up as the number two and three starters will go a long way towards determining how the other games go,” adds Griffith about his juniors. Tully batted .333 a year ago and can fill in at shortstop.
The other player who may have surpassed expectations was sophomore Drew VanDehey, who secured the starting spot at shortstop last year as a ninth-grade newcomer. He powered the offense with a .384 batting average. VanDehey will also pitch and work as a catcher this year.
The captains are senior Ben Arens at first base and Jordan Redepenning at second base. Arens batted .275 last season. Also back on varsity is junior center fielder Brendon Schumacher, who posted a .357 average.
Pitching help will come from senior left hander Zach Nelson and ninth-graders Kyle Bode and Grant Friedlein.
Battling for playing time at second base with Redepenning is senior Joey Richardt. Deering and sophomore newcomer Tommy Reinking work at third base. Other outfielders are Reinking, Deering, Nelson and juniors Joe Agre and Aaron Pietsch.
James Carr is the new junior varsity coach and Tyler Maher is the new C-squad coach.
“Our strength should be pitching, athletic defense and good contact hitting,” adds Griffith.
Rockford is scheduled to open the season at West Lutheran Friday, April 5, before going to face HLWW Thursday, April 11. The first home game is 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18 against Kimball.
The Rockets will enter the Watertown-Mayer tournament, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 20.