Head coach: Dave Lane
Assistant coaches: Dave Tuttle, Ryan Lane and Tim Masters
The Mayer Lutheran baseball team became a force last season, going toe-to-toe with any and all opponents. The Crusaders quadrupled their win total from the previous year, leaping from three wins to 12.
“I believe we did progress, although we still had a bit too much inconsistency,” Lane said last summer. “Record wise, we went from three wins to 12 wins – that alone indicates progress. We had six players with over 20 hits – we had no one over 20 hits in 2015.”
Mayer Lutheran was led by a strong core of seniors who excelled on the diamond.
“The seniors were definitely key for us,” Lane said. “Jack Chmielewski, Zach Thole and Sam Schlueter were our one, two and four hitters. They were three of the six players with over 20 hits. Jack led us in runs scored and stolen bases, Sam led us in most other hitting categories. Karrington Boelke, our fourth senior, did a consistently solid job defensively, and especially on the mound.”
And while the Crusaders showed glimpses of a glowing potential in the regular season, they began to really put it together in the postseason. Mayer Lutheran piled up four wins in the section tournament, coming up one game shy of the section final.
While the season ended a bit earlier than the Crusaders hoped, they have the pieces to return stronger this year.
“We are very excited [about next year],” Lane said. “Although [we are] replacing our grads, we return nine players who either started all of the year (Nick Pallas, Alex Baumann, Matt Menth, Branden Carlson and Nick Voelker), or saw significant starts (Mitch Johnson, Brandon Jilek, Brock Hoese and Aaron Gustafson). Should be an exciting year.”
Mayer Lutheran also returns a valuable weapon next year that most teams don’t have – the arm of Branden Carlson.
“Branden has such a quick release, that he can catch runners ‘sleeping’ on the bases,” Lane said. “He had 28 assists as a catcher this year. That’s phenomenal for a catcher. I’d say that’s about half-and-half runners stealing and runners getting back-picked off the bases. We’re definitely excited that he’s back for two more years.”
Team strengths: “We have multiple 2 and 3 year starters returning,” Lane said. “Small numbers forced some players into varsity starting roles their ninth grade year. We’re hoping that pays some dividends for us this year. We should be solid defensively, good team speed, and should have a few solid hitters. Pitching remains the issue. We have our top pitcher back in Nic Voelker, and hope that a couple more rise to the top. Juniors Alex Baumann, and Brock Hoese, as well as sophomore Baden Noennig appear to be the top contenders in this category.”
Top returning players: Junior Matt Menth – 2 year starter at third base, .270 avg and 11 RBI
Junior Nick Pallas – 2 year starter in CF but moving to SS, .289 avg. and 9 RBI
Junior Alex Baumann – 2 year starter at 2B, .333 avg. and 9 RBI
Junior Branden Carlson – 2 year starter at C and 28 assists at catcher
Senior Mitch Johnson -More than 2 years starter at utility
Senior Brandon Jilek – started last year at DH, .297 avg. and 8 RBI
Senior Nic Voelker – 3 year starter at P/1B, .269 avg. and 8 RBI