The Bulldogs baseball team heads into this season with some question marks, knowing they are a younger squad with very little varsity experience. Despite this, head coach Scott Kowalski and the Bulldogs are preparing to make some noise in 2021.
After last year’s season was canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, and several of the Bulldogs’ seniors graduated last spring, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser is hoping to develop team chemistry quickly.
“Our expectations for this year is to compete; compete at every game and compete every day in practice. We have really broken down our success into a simple motto: ‘win this pitch’,” Kowalski stated. “We will need the first couple of weeks to find ourselves, since we don’t have any returning varsity players. Our goal is to be playing our best baseball by the middle of May, so we can prepare for the playoffs. We break down each game beyond the final score, looking at our quality at-bats each game and defensive efficiency. If we can be successful in those areas, then our chances of victory increase.”
Because all of C-W’s players will be seeing their first varsity action of their high school careers, the Bulldogs will rely heavily on their upperclassmen for leadership.
The ‘Dogs have four seniors on the team—Izaak Bohl, Aeden Jansen, Tyler Razim and Braden Nelson—along with a handful of juniors.
“Izaak, Aeden and Ryan Smith have done a great job in practice of being positive and picking up other players. That is something we will need them to do throughout the season,” Kowalski said.
The second-year coach stated that Bohl and Jansen will be C-W’s two main starting pitchers. However, they are developing some sophomores that have thrown well in practice. Now, the ‘Dogs need these young guns to keep improving and carry it forward into games.
“Pitching is somewhat of an unknown for us to start the year. We need to develop a pitching rotation that goes 6–8 guys deep. We have had some nice surprises this year in practice with some guys stepping up and throwing well. Now, the test is to be productive during games,” Kowalski explained.
A strength that Kowalski touched on is the fact that the coaches have seen constant improvement from the guys and a determination to get better with each repetition during the first week and a half of practice.
“I am really proud of how hard the guys have worked so far this season. They have hung together and been really positive with each other. We will have adversity as the season goes on and the key is to fight through that and stay together,” Kowalski discussed.
Assisting Kowalski on the coaching staff in 2021 are Matt Hamilton and Jon Lantz. Both are in their second year with the program.
Hamilton has been coaching in the C-W youth program for five years and Lantz spent 12 years as the head coach at Barron High School.
“Lantz works with our pitchers and Hamilton works with all aspects of the program,” Kowalski noted.
The Bulldogs understand they face somewhat of an uphill battle this spring, knowing this year’s Heart O’North Conference is stacked with some powerhouse teams and many highly skilled individuals.
“We have our work cut out for us, that is for sure. The conference is one of the toughest it has been in years. Cumberland is the preseason favorite and is ranked in state. Bloomer, Hayward and Northwestern will be right on their tails.”
The Bulldogs were supposed to open the season at home against Spooner on Tuesday, April 27. However, the game was postponed due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak on the Rails’ team. The game has been rescheduled to Saturday, May 1, at 11 a.m. C-W now opens the season with a doubleheader against Hayward on Thursday, April 29. Game No. 1 begins at 3 p.m. Following the game against Spooner on Saturday, C-W will host Flambeau on Monday, May 3, and then heads to Bloomer on Tuesday, May 4.
“We are building this program from the ground up. We are going to take some lumps this year, however I am confident we can make steps in the right direction,” Kowalski concluded.