Janesville Craig looks to defend title
The defending Big Eight Conference co-champion Cougars won’t overpower anybody, but coach Dan Bayreuther believes his team has the talent and athleticism to keep scoreboard operators busy.
Craig High will open the season Saturday with nonconference games against Milton and Fort Atkinson. Both games will be played at Schilberg Park in Milton.
“I’m very optimistic heading into the season,” Bayreuther said. “It may take us some time because we’re still a pretty young team, but if we keep working hard, we’ve got a chance to be a pretty decent team.
“The improvement I’ve already seen from week one to week two tells me we’re headed in the right direction.”
Fueling Bayreuther’s optimism is the return of All-Big Eight Conference first-team selections Erica Mortensen, along with his daughter, Haley Bayreuther.
Mortensen, a senior, will anchor the outfield in center. She batted .352 a year ago, and was tied for the team lead in triples.
Haley Bayreuther will start at shortstop for the third straight season and lead off. She led the team in hits, runs and stolen bases a year ago.
“I’m really excited about our first three batters,” coach Bayreuther said of Haley, Stephanie Perleberg and Leigh Grall. “If we can get those three on base, they can do some damage because they all run well and can bunt.
“Hopefully, if we can get them on base, Erica and some others can drive them in.”
Grall, a sophomore, will start at first. Sophomore Kylie Clark is at second, and freshman Nicole Kelly at third.
Freshman Sarah Holford will handle the catching duties, with freshman Kaylee Rossing backing her up and likely serving as the extra player in the lineup.
Junior Stephanie Kalish in right will join Perleberg and Mortensen in the outfield.
Paige Weber, a second-team all-conference pick a year ago, is expected to be the No. 1 pitcher. The junior went 14-4 last season with three saves and finished with a sparkling 1.47 ERA. Senior Paige Owens and Kelly are also expected to log innings.
“I’ve got confidence in all three of those pitchers,” coach Bayreuther said. “Weber is battling a sore ankle right now, so we need to get her healthy.
“Our pitching kept us in a lot of games last season, and I’m hoping that’s the case this season, too.”
The Cougars finished 20-5 last season, including 10 straight wins to end the conference season.
(All home games at Janesville Youth Sports Complex)
April: 2—Milton and Fort Atkinson (at Schilberg Park in Milton), 10 a.m. and noon; 4—Waunakee, 4:30 p.m.; 5—Beloit Memorial, 4:30 p.m.; 7—At Madison La Follette, 4:30 p.m.; 11—Madison Memorial, 4:30 p.m.; 13—At Middleton, 5 p.m.; 15—Janesville Parker, 4:30 p.m.; 19—At Madison East, 4:30 p.m.; 21—Madison West, 4:30 p.m.; 23—At Verona (DH), 10 a.m. and noon; 26—At Sun Prairie, 4:30 p.m.; 28—At Beloit Memorial, 4:30 p.m.
May: 3—Madison La Follette, 4:30 p.m.; 6—At Madison Memorial, 5 p.m.; 10—Middleton, 4:30 p.m.; 13—At Janesville Parker, 4:30 p.m.; 17—Madison East, 4:30 p.m.; 19—At Madison West, 5 p.m.; 24—Sun Prairie, 4:30 p.m.; 26—At Fort Atkinson, 5 p.m.