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Wapsie Valley baseball team on a mission

Front row left to right: Garret Barnes, Ethan Oltrogge, Dallas Wittenburg, Michael Mann, Brody Blaylock, Brody Stark, Blayde Bellis, Connor Franzen, Kobe Risse and Jordan Rubner. Back row left to right: Head coach Tom Joecken, coach Blake Buhr, Jayce Gray, Reece Welcher, Brady Sauerbrei, Trevor Sauerbrei, Tanner Blaylock, Ryan Schares, Tyler Ott, coach Austin Jeanes and coach Brent Sauerbrei.

The Wapsie Valley baseball team returns almost all of their team that advanced to the Class 1A substate playoff game last season.

Warriors head coach Tom Joecken enters his sixth season and is optimistic about the season.

“We have beefed up our schedule this season in hopes of a state tournament berth,” Joecken said. “We are the defending district champions. [It was] only the second district title in school history.”

Wapsie Valley will enter the season with a starting lineup of shortstop/center fielder/pitcher Trevor Sauerbrei, corner outfielder/catcher Jordan Rubner, catcher/pitcher/third baseman Connor Franzen, first baseman/pitcher/third baseman Tanner Blaylock, center fielder/pitcher Blayde Bellis, right fielder/pitcher/first baseman Tyler Ott, middle infielder Kobe Risse and pitcher/first baseman Brady Sauerbrei. Junior Reese Welcher will also bat ninth at times and play shortstop and pitcher.

Some of the Warriors top hitters include Trevor Sauerbrei (.406 average in 2018), Franzen (.364), Ott (.333), Blaylock (.290) and Rubner (.300).

Blaylock was the top starter for Wapsie Valley last year after going 3-7 with a 3.21 ERA, .247 opponents’ batting average and 56 strikeouts in 56.2 innings pitched. Other returning pitchers include Bellis (3.20 in 30.2 innings pitched in 2018), Franzen (4.20 in 26.2 IP), Ott (4.97 ERA in 25.1 IP), Trevor Sauerbrei (5.49 in 21.2 IP), Brady Sauerbrei (2.28 in 15.1 IP) and Welcher (8.40 in 1.2 IP).

Joecken has had his team work on pitcher’s arm strength, hitting and defense in practice.

“Every pitcher and catcher are back,” Joecken said. “We have 10 of our top 12 returning players back with lots of experience. Only one senior and two juniors are in that top 10. [We don’t have many concerns], but with a 40-game max schedule, every coach is a little concerned about pitch counts and walks. If we limit those two things, the sky is the limit for this team.”

Joecken said he will rely on his veteran players for leadership this season.

“Leaders of the team are captain and five-year varsity player, senior catcher Connor Franzen, and captain, four-year varsity player, junior pitcher Tanner Blaylock,” Joecken said.