By Matt Haile —
With spring right around the corner, the University of Wisconsin–Stout men’s baseball team is ready to kick off their highly anticipated season.
The Blue Devils are coached by Toby Gardenhire, the son of former Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. Toby is in his fourth season as a coach at Stout.
The team returns many key players who are essential to the success of the Blue Devils.
All-conference center fielder Brady Burzynski (Jr, Eau Claire, Wis.) returns to help lead the team. Burzynski excels in stealing bases and is an above average hitter and outfielder. All-conference pitcher Zach Carlson (So, Indian Head Park, Ill.) also returns in only his second year. Carlson is projected to have a great season.
The Blue Devils also return three solid infielders, third baseman Jack Lunow (Sr, Princeton, Minn.), shortstop Nick Nalbach (Sr, Plover, Wis.) and infielder Jack Schneider (Sr, Minneapolis, Minn.).
The Blue Devils are coming off a 20-21 season where they showed great potential. The squad made the conference tournament for the first time in 7 years and is looking to not only make it back, but to go further.
“I think last year was a positive step in the right direction. Now it’s just a matter of keep building on that step,” said coach Gardenhire. “You can’t really be satisfied with making the state tournament. It’s all good and fun but we want more than that.”
The Blue Devils have some key match ups early in the season. They start off their season on March 6 against Bethel University (Minnesota).
“We play Bethel right away and we always match up well with them,” stated Gardenhire. “They finished second in the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) last year so there’ll be some close games.”
The baseball team has high hopes for the season. The Blue Devils are planning on letting their experience help them reach their goals.
“We have a bunch of guys returning who have been around for a bit so my expectations are pretty high for this group,” said Gardenhire. “I think we should be pretty good but you never really know what’s going to happen until the ball starts rolling.”
Alongside experience the team will also rely on their pitching and defense to fulfill the tall expectations they have.
“I think our pitching is better this year than it ever has been in the past; we have most of our guys back and a couple key additions. Defensively we should be as good as anybody in the league, or the country really,” said Gardenhire.
The team is looking to fill the hole of former number three hitter Ryan Freitag who led the team in homeruns with 15 and was one of the best hitters in the WIAC during the 2014 season.
“We’re going to kind of be looking for someone to step into that role. The batters are definitely going to have to step up,” said Coach Gardenhire.