Herbst optimistic about Craig baseball
Vic Herbst is taking a cautiously optimistic approach to the 2014 baseball season.
The Janesville Craig coach welcomes back five starters from last year's 15-13 team, but pitching is a big question mark.
The Cougars hope to open the season tomorrow afternoon at Riverside Park against Oconomowoc.
“It's a really good senior core coming back,” Herbst said. “And those kids that will be making the jump from junior varsity to varsity, I think, are ready for it.
“We're 2-deep talent-wise at every spot in the lineup, and if the pitching comes around like I expect it to, we're going to put a very competitive team on the field each and every game.”
Defensively, Craig's strength is on the leftside of the infield. Senior Justin Graham is back at third, with junior and three-year starter Nick Blomgren at short.
“Justin probably had the best all-around season of anybody on our team last year, and Nick is a kid that is getting looks from a lot scouts and college programs,” Herbst said.
“Those two, along with Wyatt (Olson), are also real solid defensively. Wyatt is as good a centerfielder as I've seen. I don't know how many extra-base hits he took away last year.”
Olson, a senior, starts in center, with senior Charlie Platts getting the nod in left, and either sophomore Chase Nyborg or senior Brett Kindelsperger in right. Juniors Justin Filter and Trayton Christianson provide depth in the outfield, along with seniors Sam Quinn and Kellen Stearns.
Herbst said either junior McCauley Cox or junior Connor Perkins will get the nod at second base, with junior Kevin Brandt, Nyborg or junior Zach Caley battling at first.
Junior JT Smithback and junior Jarod Hoffarth are both great utility players, according to Herbst, who can fill in on the infield or outfield. Junior Adam Carlson will see playing time at third when Graham moves to short.
Junior Alex Marro will catch and serve a prominent role in relief pitching, along with Blomgren.
Craig lost its top three pitchers to graduation. Senior righthander Alex Faust saw limited varsity action a year ago and will start the opener tomorrow. Brandt, a lefthander, and Perkins are also expected to be part of the starting rotation, along with lefthanded Nyborg and Stearns.
“We don't need our starters to give us six or seven innings,” Herbst said. “All we need is for them to get us through four or so, and then we take it one inning at a time after that.
“We're not going to wow you, by any means, pitching-wise, but we've got four or five guys I'm very comfortable with putting out there that are going to keep us in games.”
(All home games at Riverside Park)
4—Oconomowoc, 5 p.m.; 5—At Milton, 1 p.m.; 8—At Madison East, 5 p.m.; 10—Madiosn West, 5 p.m.; 15—At Verona, 5 p.m.; 17—Sun Prairie, 5 p.m.; 19—Beloit Memorial, 11 a.m.; 22—At Madison La Follette, 5 p.m.; 24—Madison Memorial, 5 p.m.; 26—At Waunakee (Beaver Dam), 12:30 p.m.; at Beaver Dam, 3 p.m.; 29—At Middleton, 5 p.m.
1—Janesville Parker, 7:15 p.m.; 5—Stoughton, 4:30 p.m.; 6—Madison East, 5 p.m.; 8—At Madison West, 5 p.m.; 10—Verona, 11 a.m.; 13—At Sun Prairie, 5 p.m.; 15—At Beloit Memorial, 5 p.m.; 19—Lake Geneva Badger, 4:30 p.m.; 20—Madison La Follette, 5 p.m.; 22—At Madison Memorial, 5 p.m.; 24—At Fort Atkinson (DH), 11 a.m.; 27—Middleton, 5 p.m.; 29—At Janesville Parker (Riverside), 7:15 p.m.