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Spring Valley baseball looks to keep on winning in 2014

Catcher Bryan Bednarek is one of six returning lettermen for Spring Valley's baseball team in 2014.

SPRING VALLEY - When it comes to high school baseball in Pierce County, both Ellsworth and Prescott garner the lion-share of the attention and logically so given the success both programs have had in the past and in the present.

But Spring Valley shouldn't be forgotten when it comes to prep baseball. Two seasons ago SV clinched a tie for the Dunn-St. Croix Conference Small Division title and last season won the regional tournament championship. The Cardinals are ranked in the preseason top 20 by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association in Division 4.

Valley believes this spring will be just as successful in the regular season and the post season by returning six lettermen from last season's 9-7 squad, 4-4 in conference play.

"We have solid pitching. We're going to be solid in the outfield and our young players, I believe, are going to fill into their new roles on varsity very well," SV head coach Brad Baker said. 

So far so good for the Redbirds as they opened the 2014 season with 15-2, five-inning rout of St. Croix Central in Hammond Thursday. SV already led 6-2 after three innings and then added nine more runs in the fourth to win by ten-run rule.

Senior Zach Newton and junior Sam Green both had two hits for Spring Valley and both scored three runs. They're two of SV's returning lettermen along with seniors Joe Helmer and Bryan Bednarek and juniors Remington Schneider and Jake Helmer. Valley's only graduation losses were All D-SC players Troy Rudesill and Gabe Verges along with Jake Ninneman. Both Newton and Joe Helmer were first team all-league selections last season and Schneider made the second team.

Newton was the winning pitcher against Central. He tossed a three-hitter with six strike outs. He and Schneider will pitch this season for the Cardinals with Jake Helmer working in some innings as well according to Baker. Green, Schneider and Newton all return to the outfield and the infield will have Jake and Joe Helmer on the left side (Jake at third and Joe at shortstop) along with Bednarek back at catcher.

One of the younger players SV is counting on to step up to the varsity level is sophomore Jed Schlegel. He certainly took a big step in the season-opener leading the Cardinal with three hits while scoring a run.

"Jed is a very versitile player and (sophomore) Hank Larson will be too." Baker said. 

Spring Valley had 13 hits against Central and had two errors to SCC's seven, both stats strong leading indicators to what the Cards' need to do to have good 2014 campaign.

"We need to improve at the plate," Baker said. "We have to do more to get the ball in play and we do return some good hitters to help in that regard. We also need better mental toughness on defense to cut down on errors. And we need cut down on the walks we were giving up as well."

If all these areas improve SV shold be able to compete with defending D-SC Small champ Alma/Pepin along with an improved Plum City squad. SV turned around a 5-6 record just before the playoffs last season into a regional title.

"Once we started believing we could compete with Elmwood and Alma/Pepin we beat them in the playoffs to win the regional," Baker said. "We start off this season in a stronger position with our confidence and hopefully we can keep building on that with good play."

Spring Valley hosts Mondovi on Monday.