Osterberg Earns Back-to-Back Player of the Year Awards
Paving the way once again for the M&O all-conference voting is the 12-0 conference champion Coleman Cougars. This year, the Cougars are well represented on the conference's first-team with five spots, including the M&O conference's Player of the Year, Matt Osterberg. In total, four different teams within the conference were represented on the first-team: Coleman, Niagara, Crivitz and Wausaukee.
Coleman coach Kent Casper helped lead his team to another deep playoff run. Coach Casper also knows this special group of seniors has left behind quite the legacy at Coleman High School.
"As far as the team overall, I am so proud of the boys for the success we had in these past three years. Not just record, but also in what these boys have accomplished, I couldn't be more proud. For two years, we were ranked number one right from the beginning and that's a lot of pressure. It's all about how you handle and conduct yourself. The way they handled that pressure was something else, we did everything we were supposed to do," said Coach Casper.
One large catalyst for the past few seasons was their southpaw ace Matt Osterberg. Osterberg was not only named as one of the three first-team pitchers, but also unanimously named the Player of the Year in the conference.
"Matty is not only an outstanding pitcher, but he's also an outstanding person. He is very competitive and overall a very physically talented pitcher." Coach Casper added, "What separates him from other pitchers is the fact that he truly is a student of the game. He also stepped up when we needed him to. The bigger the game he pitched in, the better he was on the mound."
This is Osterberg's third consecutive season on the M&O's first-team and his second straight season being named Player of the Year. Osterberg pitched 29 innings in conference, racking up 58 strikeouts while giving up just one earned run. His ERA this season in conference was 0.239 and his record was 5-0.
For nearly every great pitcher in baseball, there is a talented catcher behind the plate. Osterberg's batterymate was senior slugger Donovan Salewski. Salewski recorded the highest batting average in the conference with a .567 mark, helping him knock in 14 RBI. Coach Casper says it's not just at the dish that Salewski shined.
"Donovan did an outstanding job of handling our pitching staff. As our catcher, Donovan has a great arm behind the plate and did an outstanding job of gunning runners down. The best part is that he didn't shy away from the moment, he stepped up in the big games for us," said Coach Casper.
Junior infielder Jake Steeno had to show his versatility this season as he was asked to play both third base and short stop from time to time. The defensive prowess wasn't the only reason Steeno found himself on the first-team. Steeno raked at the plate for a .541 batting average including seven extra-base hits, while also delivering in the clutch for 18 RBI.
"Jake started as a freshman and has been with us since. He's an outstanding third baseman with a strong arm. Simply put, he flat out knows how to play and makes the plays he needs to make. This year, he played shortstop for us too and did a great job. He brings so much to the table and the fact that we can count on him for all of that is exceptional," Coach Casper said of his infielder.
Anytime a team has to replace a middle of the order batter and first-team player, the team can expect some decline. However, for the Cougars, Jordan Blanchard gave them every bit of what they could ask for, and more. Blanchard was named to the first-team with a .469 batting average that featured 11 extra-base hits.
"Jordan was able to take over for Blake Margis and fill quite a big role. He brought a big bat that was able to hit with power into the gaps. Jordan stepped in and did a great job of providing the middle of our order with strength," said Coach Casper.
Base hits were hard enough to come by when facing the Cougar pitching staff. Add in the speedster in center field, Austin Tachick, and hitters were often sent back to the dugout wonder how in the world their hit didn't drop. Tachick also connected for a .324 batting average and when he reached safely, he used that speed to steal 16 bases.
"Austin's speed allowed him to bring so much to the table for this team. Defensively he was able to cover the gaps in the outfield. Offensively, he could steal bases and go from first to third on base hits. He started as our leadoff hitter and was humble enough to move down to our number nine hitter. I want someone at the bottom as a second leadoff and Austin did an outstanding job of that," said Coach Casper.
For the Niagara Badgers, everything started with sophomore outfielder Landen Kaldor. From the leadoff spot, Kaldor posted a .429 batting average, .507 on-base percentage and .508 slugging percentage. These numbers helped him to 13 RBI. Kaldor also only struck out twice on the year and when he reached base safely, he stole 18 bases. Coach Dean Neveau knows his sophomore has a bright future.
"Landen is a sophomore who is a great baseball player that set the tone for our team this year. It seemed like every time he started a game or an inning off by getting on base, we would score. I'm really looking forward to seeing this special player the next two years."
Senior infielder Dylan Neuens took an unsuspecting role for the Badgers this season. Everyone knew Neuens had quite the bat and he didn't disappoint. His .408 batting average, .477 on-base percentage, 10 RBI and 15 stolen bases helped him to earn first-team all-conference. Coach Neveau explained how Neuens' defense stepped up as well.
"Dylan is a great baseball player who really stepped it up this year by playing shortstop for us, a position new to him. He has one of the sweetest swings I have ever seen and when he made contact, it was a sound you love to hear as a coach," said Coach Neveau.
With two standout, returning, four-year starters on his team, Coach Jeff Dorschner knew his Crivitz Wolverines had a shot in every contest. Tommy Sawinski earned first-team all-conference pitcher while Kershaw Stumbris received the first-team nod in one of the three outfield spots.
"Kershaw and Tommy have been a key part to our successes these last four years. Kershaw finished with a career .472 average and Tommy finished with 255 career strikeouts and only 56 walks over his four-year career." Coach Dorschner added, "I'm very proud of the young men these two have become since entering our program, having to start and hit in the middle of our lineup since their freshman year. They will definitely be missed."
Sawinski, this season, threw 44 and a third innings, struck out 52 batters and walked just eight. While giving up just 11 earned runs on the season, he finished with a 1.95 ERA. As Coach Dorschner pointed out, Sawinski also batted in the middle of the lineup and posted a .485 average and .590 on base percentage this season.
Stumbris also secured the middle of the Wolverines' lineup by recording a .388 batting average. In just 36 at bats this season, Stumbris recorded 14 hits including five doubles while knocking in 15 RBI. He reached safely over half the time with a .575 on base percentage.
Although two cornerstones for the Crivitz team will be gone from next year's squad, the future may be just as bright. Starting shortstop Jaden Werner, a freshman, also received first-team recognition.
"Jaden was one of our most consistent players offensively, defensively, and pitching this past season. Asking a freshman to lead off, play shortstop, and also carry a good portion of the load on the mound is a tough thing to do, but Jaden has a high baseball IQ and has played enough baseball leading up to this season to stay in the moment. He's going to be an exciting player to watch in the coming years," said Coach Dorschner.
In 36 opportunities at the plate this season, Werner smacked 15 hits, which were good for 10 RBI and a .416 batting average. Of those 15 hits, Werner had six doubles and one triple. Teams struggled to keep the leadoff hitter off the base paths as he recorded a .530 on base percentage.
There weren't many more intimidating pitchers in the area, let alone the M&O conference, than Wausaukee junior Matthew Delfosse. That's right, unfortunately for teams facing the Rangers next season, they can still expect to see the imposing figure for his senior campaign. With the new pitch count in place, Coach Paul Moser understood Delfosse's importance this season.
"Matthew really helped our team out because of the new pitch count rule. He was able to go late in all games because of his ability to throw strikes. He pounded the strike zone which also kept our defense in the game because they had to be ready. Matthew was able to command his fastball and really improved his off speed pitches this year." Coach Moser added about Delfosse, "When Matthew was on the mound, our team always had a chance to win. His win/loss record wasn't what he wanted it to be, but he had two losses by the score of 2-1 to Niagara and Peshtigo. Matt had big wins as well against Niagara and Peshtigo, pitching in dominant fashion."
Delfosse finished the season with 37 and two-thirds innings pitched. In that time, he only gave up 19 hits and five walks, while striking out 51 opposing batters. Delfosse surrendered just three earned runs all season in conference, which accounted for a .558 ERA.
Joining Delfosse on the first-team for the Rangers is senior shortstop Cody Renikow. As a leadoff batter, Renikow put the pressure on opponents early and often. On and off the field, Coach Moser says Renikow's importance was felt by everyone.
"Cody was one of three seniors on our team, and was a true leader. No one on our team out worked or out hustled Cody in practice or in games. Cody led our team in most statistical areas as a hitter including batting average, on base percentage, hits, runs scored, and walks." Coach Moser added, "Cody was our leadoff hitter and starting shortstop every game. Besides getting on base, he was also our best base runner. Cody's knowledge and instincts about baseball are second to none."
Renikow led the Rangers with a .450 batting average, a .542 on base percentage, 18 hits, 14 runs scored and eight walks drawn. M&O teams having to face Wausaukee next season will be happy not to have to face Renikow.
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