PREVIEW: Hitting, infield experience are positives for Panthers

The Monticello High School varsity baseball team, first row from left: Gavin Cooper, Jon Mootz, Jacob Manternach, Kyle Sperfslage, Tyler Hospodarsky, Alex Kremer and Andrew Wall. Second row: Hunter Kramer, Mason Kraus, Kegan Arduser, Andrew Mescher, Connor Lambert, Wesley Henderson and Ryan Manternach. Third row: Justin Recker, Avery Martensen, Alex Nealson, Andrew Tjaden, Kirklen Kiburz and head coach Josh Soper. (Photo by Pete Temple)

     This is the last of the Monticello High School boys’ sports teams that might feel the effects of losing a senior-dominated class a year ago.

     Despite that, the Panther baseball team has some positive signs as they head into their sixth season under head coach Josh Soper.

     Among those are the fact that seven letter-winners are back, that the team has varsity experience at every infield position, and that it has strong hitting and athletic ability.

     “After a successful JV and varsity season last year, I think the kids are eager for the opportunity to compete at the varsity level,” Soper said. “They have worked hard during the first three weeks of practice. They want to get better every day and have a shot to compete for something in the post-season.”

     Among the returning players are junior catcher Jacob Manternach, junior infielder/pitchers Ryan Manternach and Kyle Sperfslage, sophomore first baseman Avery Manternach, sophomore shortstop/pitcher Andrew Mescher, senior outfielder Alex Kremer, and junior pitcher Kegan Arduser.

     Jacob Manternach batted .256 with two home runs and 23 runs batted in a year ago. Martensen had 11 RBIs and six stolen bases. Ryan Manternach posted a 3-1 record with a 2.50 earned run average over 28 innings. Arduser appeared in just three games, but was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA over 10 innings.

     The Panthers are in the River Valley Conference, and will face several tough foes led by Wilton, Iowa City Regina, Cascade and Northeast.

     “We need to stay healthy,” Soper said. “We play a very difficult schedule with games against a ton of ranked opponents, so we will need to remain positive through the ups and downs of the season.

     “Our pitching depth will be challenged with the new pitch count rules, too.”

     Those rules require teams to keep track of number of pitches in a day or week as opposed to innings pitched.

     Soper is assisted by Dale Sperfslage and Tyler Felton.




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