Oconto Falls baseball has deep pitching staff

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Panthers lost 3 to graduation
By: 

Greg Bates, Times Herald Correspondent


Oconto Falls High School senior Mason Sefcik, who is in his third season on the mound, will serve as the team’s ace again this spring. (Times Herald file photo)

With just three seniors on last year’s Oconto Falls baseball team, coach Charlie Rochon was forced to play younger players.

By the end of the season, he had a freshman, Mitchell Manns, and a sophomore, Dylan Nelson, in his everyday lineup.

The Panthers took their lumps, finishing 7-16, but the young players gained plenty of time on the diamond. This year, the players and the team will reap the benefits.

Oconto Falls — which lost Michael Vervelde, Michael Leveille and Dalton Curl to graduation — returns the majority of its starting lineup and all its pitchers. That formula could translate into the program’s third winning season in the last four years.

“We will be stronger than we were last year,” Rochon said. “Last year, we were young and we didn’t have a lot of seniors.”

The heart of the team could be pitching. It’s an all-senior staff that will work by committee to get the job done.

“For the first time, I’ve got plenty of pitchers,” Rochon said. “I’ve got more guys I feel confident in putting out there this year, which with the pitching restrictions is a great thing.”

Mason Sefcik is in his third season on the bump. He got stronger as the season wore on last year. Sefcik isn’t overpowering but has a good breaking ball and keeps hitters off balanced. His coach said he relishes being the ace of the staff.

Cliff Yuma logged some innings last year and has some strong off-speed pitches. Sam Virtues is the hardest thrower of the bunch. Lefthander Jason Moeller and Tyler Mielke each improved on the mound last season.

“They’re all good; they’re all striving to be the best they can be,” Sefcik said. “They’re all trying to get better, and they’re all looking pretty good.”

Oconto Falls returns virtually its entire infield. Bryce Peterson, who got hurt the second game of last season, is back at shortstop. Manns did a great job in his place and will shift over to second base. Yuma will play third when he isn’t pitching and Virtues, who played mostly at third base a season ago, will be at first base. Kamdan Bloom, who has good repertoire with the pitchers, will start at catcher for the second straight year.

The Panthers’ outfield will consist of three juniors: Nelson in center field, Jacob Foster in left field and Connor Peetz in right field.

“We will be stronger defensively, we’ve got more options to move guys around,” Rochon said. “Pitching, they’ve all got another year under their belt, and they’ve looked good inside, but you can’t really tell a lot by that. That can be deceiving, you’ve got to see them out in game situations.”

Offensively, Oconto Falls averaged just 3.3 runs per game last year, getting shut out or scoring just one run in 11 contests.

Rochon feels like he has some good bats in the lineup to produce plenty of runs. Bloom was the team’s top hitter last year out of the No. 3 hole.

“He just can flat out hit,” Rochon said. “He works at it and he’s very consistent.”

After a rough start to his varsity career, Manns finished second on the team with a batting average slightly over .300.

Virtues will hit cleanup or fifth behind Bloom. Peetz, who is a good contact hitter, will follow.

“Those are three pretty big sticks in the middle, stronger type guys,” Rochon said. “The first six, eight, 10 guys, you’re trying to figure it out who’s going to fit in where. We’ll experiment (in the first game).”

Rochon is planning on having Nelson at the top of the order to be the table setter for his big hitters.

The North Eastern Conference will once again be tough. Oconto Falls is picked to finish second to last, which is where it actually finished last season at 5-13.

The Panthers aren’t getting any respect for having the majority of its lineup back.

“I think other coaches overlook us, and that’s fine,” Rochon said. “It gives our kids some ammunition; at least if it doesn’t, it should. It does for me.”

Luxemburg-Casco (15-3) won the conference crown last season and will challenge again for the top spot. Waupaca (14-4) was runner-up and Fox Valley Lutheran (12-6) was third. Both teams should be solid again.

Sefcik is hoping his team can have a good season because it’s a bunch of guys who are good friends.

“It helps the team chemistry,” Sefcik said. “It will be easier to have fun, we all get along and we play as a team and good things will happen.”

AT A GLANCE

Oconto Falls High School

Baseball Schedule

April 5 vs. Freedom

April 7 at Oconto

April 10 at Denmark

April 12 vs. Denmark

April 16 at Fox Valley Lutheran

April 17 vs. Fox Valley Lutheran

April 21 at Luxmburg-Casco

April 24 vs. Little Chute

April 26 at Little Chute

April 28 vs. Coleman

April 30 vs. Waupaca

May 1 at Waupaca

May 3 vs. Shawano

May 5 vs. Clintonville

May 8 at Wrightstown

May 10 vs. Wrightstown

May 15 at Marinette

May 17 vs. Marinette

May 21 at Peshtigo