Wildcats program continues climb

Saturday, May 22, 2021
Jake Stellwagen slings a ball to first base for an out during the Wildcats’ game against College Heights this season. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

Team disappointed with record but happy with growth

The Verona baseball team closed out its season a week ago with a 10-3 loss to Marionville in district play, and the Wildcats now look toward the future and continuing to build their program.

Brad Longley, Verona baseball coach, said the Wildcats started a pitcher that is a bit slower, aiming to throw off Marionville’s balance.

Alex Campbell connects on a pitch for the Wildcats this season in a game against College Heights, the first game Verona played under its newly installed lights. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“They did a great job putting the ball in play on us and scored 7 in the first inning, and we made a couple errors behind our guy,” he said. “But, in the last six innings, it was a 3-3 ballgame, so we did compete with them. Marionville is a good team, and I think we played our best game of the year against them.”

Colton Hillhouse came in relief and pitched a few innings, and senior Dillin Shrum closed out the game.

“Overall this season, the guys got a lot better,” Longley said. “Our win-loss record is disappointing, but if we’re looking at building a program, we are going in the right direction.”

The Wildcats are only in their sixth year as a varsity program, and outside of the 14-4 district championship season in 2019, this has been the team’s best.

“We have some good underclassmen that will be able to fill some spots, so we will be OK,” Longley said. “We showed a lot of growth this year, and I think we learned the most from our losses. We played really well in that district game, and we played well late in the season against a good Billings team. I think those games were highlights for us.”

Verona will lose five starters in Shrum, pitcher, left fielder and shortstop; Alex Campbell, center fielder; Ethan Downs, right fielder and hard-nosed player according to Longley; Sam Rees, first basemen and Longley’s most-improved player; and Lan Brisco, designated hitter and big bat for the Wildcats.

“Every one of those guys received MVP votes in our team award voting,” Longley said. “That just shows the great balance of leadership we have. They provided a lot of leadership and discipline for this team, and we will miss them.”

Looking forward, Longley said the team is expecting some incoming freshmen to contribute, as well as a host of Freiburger boys.

“There are four or five eighth-graders coming up that will be able to help us at the varsity level,” Longley said. “Then, we have Asher Freiburger, who was on the bench this year and will make contributions next year. Evan Freiburger will also be part of the plan, and Ian Freiburger will be a junior and everyday starter if he continues to improve like he has been. We’ll also look to Will Koehler, who provides a lot of enthusiasm and leadership from the bench, to continue to do that.”

The Wildcats finished the season at 6-12.

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