|Volume 107, Issue 7||Sports|
Boys of summer return to shining diamonds of springtime
By Emily Bauer
posted April 18, 2011
Days until the start of baseball season are carefully counted down on the white board above Coach Tony Gerharz�s room. The countdown begins in the hundreds and works its way down to March 21, the first day of practice. Baseball players and fans keep a close eye on the countdown as they anxiously await the start of the baseball season. The Wildcats finally took the field on April 8 for their season opener against Appleton East at home, where they proved victorious in the first FVA conference match. The boys then split a double-header against Wausau West the following day.
�This game was an all around victory because different players stepped up to get the win,� said senior Tyler Willman.
The Wildcats were unable to secure a win during the first tilt and Wausau West pulled out a 7-1 victory. The team was trailing in the second game, but in the sixth, they came from behind to win.
�It was nice to finally play outside since we had been stuck in the gym from the time our open gyms started in January,� senior Nate Kirchenwitz stated.
The weather had a negative influence on the start of the season and wouldn�t cooperate with the excitement and eagerness of the team. The squad was forced inside the gym for the first two and a half weeks of practice. Gerharz refused to let this be an excuse.
�Two weeks in the gym is good so we can take care of the fundamentals,� he said. �After that it is much better getting outside since you can�t really simulate fly balls in a gym.�
With the snow still lingering on the field, the coaches and players became increasingly frustrated.
�Practicing inside is especially hard for pitchers because we have to throw off of a fake mound, and we are unable to get used to the feel of a real mound,� said Willman.
After having three contests postponed due to snow, team members were relieved to have games under their belt.
�Our main goal this year is just to win and take one game at a time,� said senior Matt Boeder. �We definitely have the potential to be at the top of our conference.�
The team started off strong with their FVA win against Appleton East, followed by another FVA victory against cross town rival, Oshkosh North on April 13. Gerharz sees the potential that this season holds.
�Every team in our conference is tough; we have a strong conference from top to bottom, and each year we pride ourselves on being strong competitors,� stated Gerharz. �There are no weak links in the conference, anyone can beat anyone.�
The coaches as well as the players are aware of the parity and they are doing everything they can to achieve their quest of claiming the conference title as well as other individual goals. Many returning players are aiming to improve their batting average and stats from last year and the new members have aspirations of their own. Willman, who will be playing at Western Illinois University next year, has an additional ambition.
�I know I will have a target on my back, but I won�t let it get to me; my goal is to still get better and help the team win. I want to prove to people that I deserve the scholarship, and the best way to do that is to just win,� he said.
Other members share Willman�s winning mentality.
�Practices and games do include a lot of hard work and effort. There�s not one moment where we aren�t going 100%,� said Boeder.
The efforts of the players and coaches during training sessions translate to performances on the diamond.
�During practices we like to put players in uncomfortable situations so when game time comes they are able to perform,� Gerharz revealed.
The boys feel that they have an advantage because they have the best of both worlds: returning seniors with experience and new, up and coming talent from the juniors.
�Even though we have six seniors returning, all of whom are extremely capable of playing, we do have a lot of juniors that will make a positive impact on the team,� stated senior Michael Jarocki.
Positive attitudes reflect in pre-game rituals. In preparation for a game, the team relies on humor to take the pressure off. Many players have a set of superstitions to get them geared up for a big game, including Gerharz.
�I have to have my same sugarless Bubble Yum, it can�t be anything else and I have my winning t �shirt on under my uniform� he said.
The team member�s constant customs include more than just clothing.
�We have a few superstitions especially about what�s in the dugout, ranging from random toys, an ice scraper, to some lucky hair of a friend,� Jarocki established.
Other superstitions include kissing statues, slapping each other�s faces, and making sure they consume the right snacks. As strange as these superstitions and jokes might seem, they are successful in keeping the nerves down and the excitement up in order to make the team perform to its best.
�As a team we like to joke around,� Willman said. �But we all know when to concentrate and be serious.�
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