PREVIEW: Panthers eye winning record in short season

The Monticello High School varsity baseball team, first row from left: Cael Sampson, Caleb Sauser, Tate Petersen, Tyler Luensman and Chesney Capron. Second row: Grahm Schneiter, Ty Jesenovec, Preston Ries, Dylan Roher and Gage Guilford. Third row: Brady Cleeton, Jeff Carlson, Caleb Gillmore, Justin Recker and Connor Lambert. Fourth row: assistant coaches Chance Manternach and Adam Szurkowski, head coach Kolby Harms, and volunteer coach Steve Rucker. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     With four starters returning, nine returning letter-winners overall, and new players looking to make big contributions, the Monticello High School baseball team is looking for a winning record in this summer’s shortened season.

     “With no (River Valley) Conference champion this year, our goal is to be playing our best ball by July,” said second-year coach Kolby Harms. “Our biggest strengths are going to be our athleticism and defense. We have a good core returning in the infield, and we have other guys that are ready to contribute in their roles.”

     There are 38 guys out for Monticello baseball, but it will still be a young team, with Jeff Carlson as the only returning senior. Other letter-winners returning are juniors Justin Recker, Tyler Luensman, Caleb Gillmore, Brayden Cleeton and Grahm Schneiter; sophomore Caleb Sauser, and freshmen Tate Petersen and Dylan Roher.

     Carlson and Roher logged the most pitching innings last year for the Panthers. Roher led the team in wins with seven and in strikeouts with 33 over 39 innings. Carlson pitched 45 1/3 innings, posting an earned run average of 4.32.

     Recker was among the team’s top hitters. Recker was second on the team in batting average at .354, led the team in runs batted in with 28, and was second on the team in slugging percentage with a .402 mark.

     Luensman led the team in stolen bases with 17, and in runs with 31. Petersen was second on the team in on-base percentage at .459, with his team-high 19 walks contributing to that figure. Sauser drove in 26 runs.

     “Guys that will be new or have a bigger role this year are Preston Ries, Connor Lambert, Grahm Schneiter and Brayden Cleeton,” Harms said. “I think these guys, along with some of our other younger players, are going to contribute to the season.”

     Competition will be tough, as the Panthers play only RVC opponents in a 13-game schedule. Harms said they will be facing good teams with good pitching, and some of the Panthers will be seeing varsity pitchers for the first time.

     “With limited practices to get ready, it may take some time to get adjusted,” Harms said. “The conference will be pretty tough from the top down. There are no easy ones this year.”

     The coach listed West Branch, Wilton, Iowa City Regina, Anamosa and Cascade among the strongest foes.

     “We need our returning guys to be leaders,” the coach concluded. “Some of them will have more responsibilities and be asked to do more in their roles than last year. I think they are ready for it.

     “Also we will need some new guys to step up and contribute. The other big thing is for our pitcher to throw more strikes this year and challenge hitters more.”

     Adam Szurkowski is the JV head coach and varsity assistant. Chance Manternach is the freshman-sophomore head coach and a varsity assistant. Steve Rucker serves as varsity volunteer assistant coach.



Subscriber Login