The Westby Area High School baseball team has an experienced group of returning players this season, including 12 seniors.
“We have six starters returning from last season,” coach John Hamilton said. “We have several athletes that have put in quality time last summer and during the offseason to prepare themselves for this season. With the loss of some key contributors from last year, we are looking for others to step in and fill those roles.”
The key positions lost to graduation were Carter Bergdahl, first team all-conference, and Alec Meurer, second team all-conference.
Top returning players for the season are Nolan Rux (shortstop), second team all-conference, .406 batting average; Gunnar Hanson (catcher), honorable mention all-conference, .353 batting average; Alex Gluch (outfield), .373 batting average; Kenny Berg (first base), .365 batting average; Hunter Ward (second base/pitcher), 2-0 pitching record, 1.87 ERA; and Sam Strangstalien (pitcher/outfield), 3-2 pitching record, 2.75 ERA.
Experience will be a key strength, said Hamilton, who has coached Norse baseball for 23 years.
“We return six starters from last season, including four players who will be three-year varsity players. We hope the experience will lead to solid consistent defense. We should be strong up the middle with solid middle infield and outfield play. We also return two to three quality starting pitchers.”
Hamilton said filling the corner outfield positions will be one of the early challenges for the team. “We will also need to have some players step up offensively to replace some key offensive production lost to graduation as we lost our No. 3 and No. 4 hitters from last season.”
The team, which had a 15-8 record last year, has the motto “One Pitch at a Time.”
“We work to improve each and every day, building on our successes, with the ultimate goal being to compete for a conference championship, and to be playing our best at the end of the season,” Hamilton said. “We always focus on attitude and effort as being key to any success we may have. Those are two things that we are always in complete control of.”
Hamilton said the Coulee has been a very balanced and competitive conference and it should be again this year.
“Viroqua returns several key contributors from last year, and is likely the early favorite,” he said. “There are multiple teams that will most certainly compete. We hope to be in the mix for the conference race as the season goes. Getting off to a fast start and getting consistent offensive productions will be important for us.”
Assistant coaches are Roger Mathison (varsity assistant), Dan Dwyer (JV/varsity reserve) and Jeff Raasch (C team).