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.