Cards hope experience turns into wins
PRESCOTT - For Jeff Ryan, experience comes down to the simple matter of transferring what one learns into what one does.
"We as coaches teach the game of baseball and we say a lot about what you need to do at the plate, in the field and on the mound in every situation," Prescott High School's 13th-year head baseball coach said. "Experience is when the individual players take this instruction does it fast enough to where it becomes automatic to where his natural talents and abilities take over."
When this experience takes over the junior-dominated Cardinals, the Ryan says he will know he'll have a clubs as good as the one's he coached in the past. So far good in 2011 as PHS is 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Middle Border Conference coming off a big 10-5 win over New Richmond.
Last year's squad was as young a group Ryan has ever coached and really only once did the lessons learned click together and that was the upset win over MBC champ and Highway 10 rival Ellsworth in the regional semifinals. The win at least assured a .500 season for the Cards at 11-11 (7-7 in the MBC) but you have to go back to at least the late 1970s/early 1980s to find a mark that was worse.
But Ryan is confident the teams has taken well to what they learned last season and will be much better in 2011.
"They grew up a lot and at least were playing better ball in the second half of the season which is what we at least wanted to see," Ryan said. "Now we have to bring this improvement to a new season."
PHS will have to do so without All-MBC performer Zak Charette along with honorable mention graduates Jake Hei and Garrett Choate along with Dylan Gutting. Prescott has eight returning letterwinners starting with All-MBC infielder Billy Brookshaw.
" I thought he was one of the top three players in the league last season and there were a lot of good ones," Ryan said. "We have high expectations he will be so again."
Brookshaw will play shortstop and pitch for the Cardinals. Prescott also returns two, three-year varsity players in juniors Mike Lytle and Jake Hinz. Hintz is slated for third base and Lytle for the outfield when he's not pitching. Junior letterman Aric Sandvig is another returning outfielder who was one of the Cardinals' best hitters last season at over .300. Another quality hitter is fellow junior letterman Derrick Munsen, who will be at second base. PHS also returns junior catcher Bryan Early, senior first baseman Todd Reis and senior outfielder Tyler Keiper.
There's plenty of returnees around the infield and outfield but not so much in pitching experience. Ryan says the Cards have at least six pitchers in Brookshaw, Keiper, Lytle, Hintz, junior Connor Loutsch and Reis, who is a left hander, who can consistently throw strikes and they'll see action as much as they can be used.
"We have a lot of kids who can throw strikes but no one dominate pitcher," Ryan said. "They're six guys we need to get innings out of and be able to use in variety of situations. And they're going to need good defense to back them up."
Ryan tabs Ellsworth, Somerset and New Richmond as the favorites in the MBC this season.
"I tell you what, whoever wins the league title will certainly earn it," Ryan said. "It will be a well-earned award given how tough it will be to do so."