By Craig Marx, Editor
Antigo baseball had an incredible season in 2016, setting records while finishing 17-6 overall in a year marked by prolific scoring and Great Northern Conference dominance. As the 2017 season gets underway, the Red Robins will see some slightly new looks from different players.
The Robins graduated nine players in the spring of last year, including two of their starting pitchers (Alex Nagel and Nick Greening), while also losing five +.300 hitters due to graduation. Power returns at the plate, however, as the top two batters from 2016 return to the order.
GNC Player of the Year Hunter Kirsch, entering this season as a senior, strung together an amazing ’16 year, finishing with a .446 average and eight home runs. Kirsch also batted in 25 runs while scoring 24 himself, proving to the rest of the GNC that he was a force to be reckoned with his .516 average when playing against conference opponents.
Brady Tatro, now a junior, also returns having posted the second-highest average on the team with .397, leading Antigo in two batting categories including hits (32) and RBIs (26), warranting him an honorable mention accolade in the GNC. Colin Meinert, usually batting in a clean-up role, will also bolster the Robin offense this season after batting .327 last year.
Meinert, a senior now, was also recognized with dual honors by the GNC, being named a first team all-conference utility player and second team infielder last season.
The 2016 team repeated as the conference champion, scoring the most runs in a season in AHS baseball history at 241, averaging over 10 runs per game. Although the numbers were inflated thanks to a 41-1 blowout of Northland Pines, the Robins handily defeated their foes collectively 248-95 on the year. In each of Antigo’s three losses on the year, the margin was only one run.
With the loss of Nick Greening, the conference’s lowest ERA starter last year (0.54 in 26 innings pitched), pitching may see some shake ups. With Greening and Arin VerHagen coming back after graduation to help work with the current pitching staff, Tatro has seen the most reps on the mound in the early going of the abridged preseason.
“Our pitchers have looked good so far. It is tough to replace good leadership. We just have to make sure that these younger guys are ready physically as well as mentally,” head coach Scott Farmer said.
Tatro compiled a .072 ERA last season, but pitched just 9.2 innings. Kirsch did most of mound work from the closer position in ’16, allowing the Robins to hold out for wins in three save opportunities. Coach Farmer is looking to give Kirsch more reps on the mound this year, but is also worried about losing one of his best third basemen as a result.
The Robins are supported by a strong junior varsity class from the past season that has gained experience over the years playing not only high school ball but also work in Legion leagues. The JV team finished the year 14-2, but the difficulty factor rises exponentially at the varsity level, as the GNC is becoming consistently more competitive at the top.
Mosinee finished 18-6 overall and 9-3 in the conference during 2016, while Rhinelander (15-11, 8-4) and Tomahawk (14-7, 7-5) also proved worthy competitors.
“Rhinelander will be good this season, as well as Mosinee. Mosinee has three solid pitchers, while Tomahawk always plays teams tough in the conference,” Coach Farmer said about the outlook of the GNC.
Farmer and his staff of assistants have done a great job with the Antigo program and will continue to lead the Robins to greatness as Opening Week gets underway.
“I just want to continue with the tradition of the last four years,” Farmer stated. “I look forward to every game on our schedule and I just hope that with the drop to Division II now that that gives our players a boost. I hope that doesn’t make them think it will be any easier.”
2017 AHS Baseball Schedule
Friday, March 31 – at Sun Prairie – Sun Prairie High School (4:30 PM)
Saturday, April 1 – at Madison La Follette – Warner Park (1 PM)
Tuesday, April 4 – vs. Pulaski – Kretz Field (4:30 PM)
Thursday, April 6 – at Tomahawk – Tyler Kahle Memorial Park (5 PM)
Saturday, April 8 – vs. Ashland – Kretz Field (10 AM)
Saturday, April 8 – vs. Ashland – Kretz Field (12 PM)
Saturday, April 8 – vs. Merrill – Kretz Field (2:30 PM)
Tuesday, April 11 – vs. Lakeland – Kretz Field (5 PM)
Thursday, April 13 – at Northland Pines – Northland Pines High School (5 PM)
Tuesday, April 18 – vs. Medford – Kretz Field (5 PM)
Thursday, April 20 – at Rhinelander – Hodag Park/Stafford Field (5 PM)
Friday, April 21 – vs. Waupaca – Kretz Field (4:30 PM)
Tuesday, April 25 – vs. Mosinee – Kretz Field (5 PM)
Friday, April 28 – at Stevens Point – Bukolt Park (4:30 PM)
Tuesday, May 2 – vs. Tomahawk – Kretz Field (5 PM)
Thursday, May 4 – at Lakeland – Lakeland Union High School (5 PM)
Friday, May 5 – at Wausau East – Wausau East High School (5 PM)
Monday, May 8 – at Wausau West – Wausau West High School (5 PM)
Tuesday, May 9 – vs. Northland Pines – Kretz Field (5 PM)
Thursday, May 11 – at Medford – Medford Area High School (5 PM)
Friday, May 12 – Marshfield Tournament – Hackman Field (5 PM)
Saturday, May 13 – Marshfield Tournament – Hackman Field (10:30 AM)
Tuesday, May 16 – vs. Rhinelander – Kretz Field (5 PM)
Thursday, May 18 – at Mosinee – Mosinee High School (5 PM)