Craig baseball gets 'A' in chemistry
He hopes unity in the dugout translates to wins on the field.
Herbst will get his answer starting Saturday as the Cougars open the season with a nonconference doubleheader against Oconomowoc at Riverside Park.
"Our team chemistry is outstanding," Herbst said. "And because we've got a number of players competing for the same positions, the competition in practice has been very good. I think that's going to make us a better team.'
Craig, which finished 12-15 a year ago, returns three starters. Heading the list is senior second baseman Riley Quinn, an all-Big Eight Conference first-team selection last year.
"Riley's a leader on this team who has worked hard to get ready for his senior season," Herbst said.
Seniors Cameron Wright and Dylan Hoskins also return. Wright will play centerfield and likely be the leadoff hitter, while Hoskins will play third.
"Cameron's got a strong arm and good speed," Herbst said. "He can make things happen if he get on base.
"Dylan's got good tools and will also be looked upon for his leadership, on and off the field."
Nick Blomgren will get the rare opportunity to start at shortstop as a freshman. Blomgren was the star of Janesville's 14-year-old Babe Ruth tournament team that advanced to the World Series.
"Nick's got great skills and deserves the opportunity he's getting," Herbst said. "The last time a freshman started at short for us was Steve Sanfilippo in 1998, and we won the state title that year."
Seniors Brett Pickarts or Brandon Luebke are competing for the job at first base, while junior Ryan Marro will catch.
Seniors Devin Feggestad and Dalton Johns are battling to start in left, while juniors Nate Hoag, Tyler Campbell, Ryne McKee and Keaton Eichman are vying a chance to start in right.
"I think everyone in our lineup knows, even our
returning starters, that if they're not getting the job done, there is going to be somebody right behind them to step in," Herbst said. "That's why our practices have gone so well because everybody is pushing everybody else."
Junior Brandon Hughes opens as the team's clear-cut No. 1 pitcher. The righthander had an outstanding summer pitching for the Janesville American Legion team.
"Brandon's looked very good so far," Herbst said. "He throws strikes and has great command of every one of his pitches."
Other pitching candidates are Luebke, Blomgren, and juniors Troy Malmanger and Collin Frey.
Malmanger and Frey will also provide depth in the infield, along with juniors Braden Perkins and Tucker Hoskins.
"We're a lot more inexperienced than we have been in years past, but I like the way we're approaching things," Herbst. "I know everybody is excited to get going."
All home games at Riverside Park
(5 p.m. starting time unless indicated)
MARCH: 31—Oconomowoc, DH, noon.
APRIL: 3—Madison West; 5—At Verona; 10—Sun Prairie; 12—Beloit Memorial; 14—At Madison La Follette, 2 p.m.; 17—Madison Memorial; 19—At Middleton; 23—Lake Geneva Badger, 4:30 p.m.; 24—Janesville Parker; 26—At Madison East; 28—Waunakee (At Beaver Dam), 12:30 p.m.; Beaver Dam, 3 p.m.
MAY: 1—At Madison West; 3—Verona; 5—At Sun Prairie, 11 a.m.; 9—At Beloit Memorial; 10—Madison La Follette; 15—At Madison Memorial; 17—Middleton; 19—At Fort Atkinson, DH, 10 a.m.; 22—At Janesville Parker; 24—Madison East.