190309_CRAIGBASEBALL

Janesville Craig baseball players Dan Blomgren (left to right), Ryan Herbst, Jacob Hesseling, Micah Overley and Mitchell Woelfle signed national letters of intent to play in college during a press conference Friday, March 8, 2019, at Athlete X Factory in Janesville.

JANESVILLE

The high school baseball season officially begins March 18.

Those interested in pitching or catching can get a head start this Monday by taking part in five two-hour sessions designed to maximize preseason conditioning.

Janesville Craig’s baseball team kicked off what figures to be another successful season Friday by recognizing five seniors that will play baseball at the collegiate level.

Led by Division I recruits Dan Blomgren and Mitchell Woelfle, five Cougars inked national letters of intent in a press conference at the Athlete X Factory, a training facility owned and operated by Brad Fitzke.

Blomgren signed with the University of Michigan, while Woelfle is headed to the United States Air Force Academy. Also signing Friday were Ryan Herbst (UW-Stout), Micah Overley (MSOE) and Jacob Hesseling (College of Lake County).

“This is a great day for Craig baseball,” Craig coach Victor Herbst said. “It’s quite an accomplishment for our program, but it also means expectations will be high for us this season.

“We look forward to the challenge and trying to meet those expectations.”

Blomgren, a steady infielder and ideal leadoff hitter, is following his older brother, Jack, to Ann Arbor. Jack is in the midst of his second season as the Wolverines’ starting shortstop. Dan said playing alongside his brother is a lifelong dream, but he hopes to carve out his own niche at Michigan.

“I’ve got a lot to live up to,” Dan said. “Jack’s become a great leader up there, and I’m looking forward to him teaching me a lot of stuff when I get there. I’m just proud to be able to say that I’m going to get a chance to play in college with my brother.”

Dan said that although he would prefer to play third base at Michigan, he said he might likely start out at second base.

“They’ve got a senior that plays second now, so that’s a spot that will be opening up. All I want to do is go up there, work my butt off and find a way to get on the field and contribute.”

Blomgren earned all-Big Eight first-team and all-District honors last season.

“Dan’s game translates really well to the next level,” coach Herbst said. “Big Ten schools don’t come calling unless you’re a very talented player, which he is.

“His job this season for us is to once again set the table, use his speed on the bases and play solid defense.”

Woelfle is a two-time all-Big Eight first-team selection as a pitcher. The right-hander has put on 15 pounds of muscle since last season thanks to a dedicated training regimen under Fitzke and expects his fastball to have a little more gitty-up this season. He’s also confident the Cougars can live up to what are surely going to be lofty expectations.

“The senior core has to lead by example—both on and off the field—and I think that’s what you’ll see from this team,” Woelfle said. “Some underclassmen are going to have to step up and produce, as well, but I don’t think there’s any question the talent is there.

“Everybody just has to take their game to the next level. I know for us seniors, it’s state title or bust.”

Herbst, whose father is Craig’s head coach, is a first baseman/third baseman that will join a Stout program that plays in one of the top Division III conference’s in the country in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Overley, a pitcher and third baseman, will play at Milwaukee School of Engineering for 2001 Craig graduate Steve Sanfilippo, who is now the head coach for the Raiders.

Hesseling is a middle infielder that will take his talents to the College of Lake County, in Grayslake, Illinois, one of the top junior college programs in the Midwest.

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