Panthers reloading roster, counting on Sefcik as ace

Oconto Falls returning from sectional final campaign
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Times Herald Photo by Chris Caporale

Oconto Falls High School senior Dalton Curl works at first base during practice this week. Curl is one of just a few players returning for the Panthers, who advanced to the sectional final last year.

Just one year removed from making the sectional final for the first time in 11 years, the Oconto Falls baseball team is back to being overlooked in the difficult North Eastern Conference.

The Panthers lost several athletes to graduation, including pitcher Evan Sigmund, shortstop Sam Shroyer, catcher Mike Manns, Wes Brabant, Tyler Hagemeier, second baseman Kamin Vandenlangenberg and Christian Metzler.

The team finished just above .500 in the conference, but will have many fresh faces this spring.

“They are going to have to transition from JV to varsity, and it’s a big jump,” Oconto Falls head coach Charlie Rochon said. “And this is a very good baseball conference. It’s well-coached and teams do things mechanically correct. Hopefully we do things mechanically correct and buy in, and right now, they are.”

Returning are pitcher Mason Sefcik, first baseman Dalton Curl and center fielder Michael VerVelde. Kamdan Bloom, who was a designated hitter for part of last season, will likely take over behind the plate.

Sefcik, who started for Oconto Falls in the 8-3 sectional final loss to Waupaca last year, will take over as the ace. Waupaca won the Division 2 state title with a 2-0 victory over Milwaukee Lutheran.

“He’s a hard worker. He knows what things he has to work on, develop a change-up,” Rochon said. “He’s got a good breaking ball. He’s got a good mental makeup out there. He has the ability to play at the college level after he’s a senior.”

Curl, who cannot throw for three weeks because of an injury, will get back to first base but could DH for the Panthers in the meantime.

VerVelde, who Rochon called a great team leader, has been head and shoulders above the rest of the team when it comes to base running over his past two seasons at the varsity level. The speedster in center field is expected to continue doing more of the same in his final year with the Panthers.

“He chases everything down. He’s just solid,” Rochon said. “For him to make a huge jump, he’s going to become Superman.”

Oconto Falls ended last season 14-10 and 8-7 in the NEC, but with some solid pitching and defense, it could make another playoff run.

It wouldn’t surprise Rochon.

“I think if we do things that we are capable, and we fundamentally stay sound, I think we’re going to surprise some people,” Rochon said. “I think teams look past us, and I’m hoping they look past us, because if they look past us, then we plan on surprising some people. I think we have that capability.”

AT A GLANCE

Oconto Falls High School

Baseball Schedule

March 31 at Seymour

April 4 vs. Marinette

April 6 at Marinette

April 8 vs. Oconto

April 10 at Shawano

April 11 vs. Freedom

April 13 at Freedom

April 17 vs. Denmark

April 18 at Denmark

April 25 vs. Luxemburg-Casco

April 27 vs. Luxemburg-Casco

April 29 at Coleman

May 1 vs. Clintonville

May 2 at Clintonville

May 6 vs. Wrightstown (DH)

May 9 at Fox Valley Lutheran

May 11 vs. Fox Valley Lutheran

May 13 at Waupaca (DH)

May 16 at Little Chute

May 18 vs. Little Chute

May 19 vs. Peshtigo