Season Preview: Veterans, New Faces Hope to Send D1 to Holly Springs

A year after falling in the semifinal game of the regional tournament, Wisconsin’s D1 team is looking for more.

The Badgers graduated five players from that team, including ace pitcher Alex Noel. But they reloaded on the hill this year, as sophomore Ryan Gassner, an all-state pitcher in high school joined the squad.

Gassner is a hard-throwing lefty who figures to play a prominent role in Wisconsin’s rotation.

Along with Gassner, Joe Fahning, who comes up to the D1 team after two years with the D2 squad, brings another powerful arm to the pitching staff. Freshman Nolan DeGreef is another newcomer for the Badgers and like Gassner and Fahning, throws hard with a nasty breaking ball. A final rookie, freshman Trey Mohr, will add much-needed depth for UW.

Wisconsin returns plenty of arms as well. Nick Newburg is back for his fourth year of service with the club and junior Colin Schrof enters his second year on the D1 squad after a strong sophomore campaign.

Senior Austin Mullins, who has proven to be a shutdown reliever in three seasons with UW, also returns, as well as senior James Oelke, a consistent strike-thrower.

Offensively, the Badgers will have just as much firepower as usual.

Ed Olson, the team’s offensive MVP in 2017, returns for his senior season and moves from the outfield to the infield — his natural position.

Also returning in the infield is senior Brian Mariska, a slick defender who consistently hits for a high average.

Junior Tyler Safgren takes over starting catching duties upon John Raff’s departure and will provide a serious power threat in the middle of the lineup.

The Badgers’ outfield will have an entire new look to it in 2018. Austin Grover, Jared Eichorst and Gus Turner-Zick will man the grass, giving the Badgers an all-Wisconsin raised outfield.

Grover, a Beloit Memorial product, will provide spectacular defense in centerfield.

Eichorst, who played his high school ball at Madison Memorial with Newburg, will join Safgren as a legitimate home-run threat every time he steps to the plate.

Freshman Turner-Zick, who attended Stevens Point high school, was an all-state outfielder last year and brings stellar defense and an excellent bat.

In addition to those rookies, freshmen Chase Zernich and Will Strauss are both talented middle infielders who will make an immediate impact for UW.

After falling just short of its goal of reaching the World Series last season, Wisconsin has reloaded and has the talent, depth and experience to make a deep postseason run in 2018.

Season Preview: Hungry D2 Squad Ready to Feast

Wisconsin came up just shy of reaching the World Series in 2017, falling in the regional championship game to eventual national runner-up Windsor University. 

This year, the Badgers are hungry for a World Series berth — and have the personnel to get there.

On the mound, senior Alec Nelson returns for his final season after throwing 24 straight scoreless innings his junior year, along with a no-hitter against UW-La Crosse. 

Fifth-year senior Andrew Wolfe is back for another campaign. The tall righty has lost just one game in his club baseball career.

Sophomore Ryan Molini, a hard-throwing righty, is expected to play a more prominent role in the rotation this year.

Senior Drew Rust, another fireballer, hopes to continue the success he’s seen in his career and figures to be the squad’s closer.  

The Badgers also hope to get quality innings from the LA boys. Freshman Ryan Winters and sophomore Charlie Goldring are two newcomers who both hail from Los Angeles and will take their first shot at battling the bitterly cold Wisconsin spring this year.

Offensively, seniors Chris Trafton and Bobby Ehrlich return and are looking to have big seasons at the plate.

2017 offensive MVP Jake Gain returns looking to build on his impressive rookie campaign.

Junior Tyler Behle is finally fully healthy after an injury-riddled 2017 and will provide a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup. Leadoff hitter and second baseman Alexis Quintero also returns for the Badgers. Junior right fielder Ryan Wenzel, who may just be the toughest out in the NCBA, comes back as well. 

Newcomer first basemen Karson Krueger brings serious power to the Badgers’ lineup and will look to make an impact right away, along with freshmen Jackson Preschler, a smooth outfielder, and Tony Spence and Cam Polce, both slick infielders.

The Badgers most valuable asset is their depth. The aforementioned names represent just the beginning of this deep and talented team, which will be a serious advantage for Wisconsin when it enters its jam-packed conference schedule.

With 19 returning players and a strong cast of new faces, the D2 squad looks poised to make a run in 2018.