NORTH CRAWFORD - The North Crawford baseball team returns to the field slowly like every other team in the state this season—a victim of harsh weather.
However, hope springs eternal and the Trojans’ second-year coach, Ryan Pedretti, is optimistic about the team’s chances this season.
Pedretti, a fifth grade teacher at the school, has plenty of baseball experience although coaching this team is his first experience at the high school level. Pedretti has coached the Prairie du Chien Legion Team in the past and helped with coaching the North Crawford football program this past season.
Tyler Dornink, a high school social studies teacher, is in his second year as an assistant coach of the team.
Last year, North Crawford had an overall record of 4-15-1 and a conference record of 3-10-1.
In the post-season tournament seeded fifth, they lost to the Kickapoo Panthers, who were seeded fourth.
The Trojans lost four players to graduation last year, including their leading hitter, team captain, pitcher and shortstop, Tyler Martin. His offensive production was near the top of the conference, according to Pedretti.
Also lost to graduation were Chandler Martin, Tye Schafer and Rocky Bartelt. Chandler Martin played shortstop and pitcher and was a good hitter, Tye Schafer played third base and Rocky Bartelt was an outfielder.
“Those are some big positions to fill,” coach Pedretti said. However, the coach has some personnel to address the problem—there are 15 players out for the team this year.
Some of the returning players include senior Johnathan Volden, a starting pitcher and infielder; senior Collin McBride, an outfielder; junior Brent Jelinek, a catcher and pitcher; and junior Grant Smith, who played first base last year and will move to shortstop. Smith received all-conference honorable mention last year.
Junior Dylan Finnell returns and will play second base and catcher.
Sophomore Greg Brown also returns to the team this season and coach Pedretti is looking to have him pitch more. Another sophomore, Grady Stovey, will play first base and is currently recovering from a knee injury.
Junior Sandon McClurg will play third base. Pedretti said that he is encouraged by the variety of things the talented junior can do.
Junior Dylan Troester is out for the first time this season and the coach is encouraged by the nice job he’s doing in the early going.
Freshman Jake Olson is playing catcher and outfield. Three other freshmen, Quentin Lathrop, Cameron Johnson and Ben Benson will play as outfielders or where needed. Sophomores Hayden Clark and Damian Mack are also looking to play in the outfield or elsewhere as needed.
Pedretti sees all the young players as the future of the team, and is ready for them to develop this year.
“Last year, we were handcuffed in moving people around,” Pedretti explained. “Now with some depth, we can move people around more.”
The coach noted that in many cases this is the third sport these players have played together this year, so there is a familiarity amongst the team.
Another unique feature of this team is that all 15 players are really ready to pitch if called upon. Pedretti and Dornink are teaching every player on the team to pitch out of the stretch and the windup.
Creating as many pitchers as possible is the way to combat the 100-pitch rule instituted by the WIAA last year.
The rule says any player throwing 80 to 100 pitches must take three days off. Pitch counts of 50 to 80 require two days rest and pitch counts of 30 to 50 require one day of rest. However, pitch counts below 30 allow the pitcher to pitch again the next day.
Plagued by weather related cancellations this season the young Trojan coach said that he’s ready for the season to commence.
This team’s strength is its depth and the teamwork the players have already developed working with each other in other sports. Pedretti also believes pitching can be a strength for this team
The challenges for the team will be to play consistently on defense and have quality at bats. Pedretti is stressing less strikeouts and putting the ball into play more.
The team’s goal is to go out and compete every day, according to the coach. The Trojans want to be competitive in the conference.
The teams to watch in the conference are Ithaca, Wauzeka-Steuben, DeSoto and Kickapoo, according to Pedretti.
The coach noted that Ithaca lost just one starter from last year’s team. Wauzeka-Steuben consistently produces good teams, while DeSoto-although usually tough-lost its nine starters from last year. Kickapoo also has a nice team this year, Pedretti observed.