BASEBALL PREVIEW: Panthers looking for players to step up as season nears

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M&O squads hoping to improve after down years
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Oconto Falls baseball players work on pitching off a mound while practicing indoors on March 20. The Panthers enter the season hoping several players can step up with varsity experience being low. (Times Herald photo by Morgan Rode)

As teams around the state are forced to practice indoors because of the weather, the Oconto Falls High School baseball team continues to get ready for the season, hoping players will rise to the challenge that awaits.

The Panthers, coached by Charlie Rochon, will need at least a couple different players to up their play after the team graduated four impactful seniors, three of which were all-conference selections in the North Eastern Conference, from last year’s team.

Seniors Dylan Nelson (center field, pitcher), Jake Foster (left field, pitcher) and Connor Peetz (infield, pitcher) all return with starting experience for the Panthers. Junior Mitchell Manns started at second and shortstop for the team a season ago but will transition behind the plate this year.

Among the players that could take on larger roles this year are senior Trevor Pankratz, juniors Travis Zielinski, Jarod Parsons and Zach Parsons and sophomores Tucker Bouche, Logan Joachim and Braden Uelman.

“We will need to be solid on defense to help out our inexperienced pitchers,” Rochon said. “Improved hitting and solid baserunning will also be key factors for us to progress throughout the season.”

Rochon also said the NEC, “can be very unforgiving in baseball, so a lot will depend on how well we handle adversity.”

Oconto Falls is scheduled to open the year at Shawano on Thursday. The Panthers first home game is set for April 4 against Denmark.

Marinette & Oconto Conference

Coming off tough seasons last year, both the Gillett/Suring and Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas Academy co-ops are hoping to turn things around this spring while competing in the Marinette & Oconto Conference.

Gillett/Suring, which is coached by Joe Lojpersberger, lost some impactful seniors from last year’s team, but do return all-conference selections Josh Reed and Ethan Hischke.

Reed, a senior, will do the catching on most occasions while Hischke, a junior, toes the pitching rubber.

Senior Baldwin Framnes (outfield, pitcher), junior Jayden Geniesse (outfield) and freshman Taron Haak (infield, pitcher) will be other players looked to for production this season.

Gillett/Suring is set to open the season on April 8 at Niagara. The co-op’s first home game is scheduled for April 11 against Lena/STAA.

Lena/STAA will be looking to replace the production from a pair of all-conference selections from last year’s roster that graduated.

The co-op, which is coached by Terry Powers, will need several players to rise to the challenge as the season progresses.

Lena/STAA is scheduled to open its season hosting Goodman/Pembine on April 2. Just one of the team’s first five games will be on the road.