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State tournament remains the goal as Preble returns much of its 2018 team

Posted at 7:49 PM, Mar 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-26 16:25:25-04

GREEN BAY, Wis. — After making it to state for the third straight season, Preble fell to eventual Division 1 champion Waunakee in a thrilling 11-inning showdown in the semifinals, but 2019 is a blank slate for this year's promising Hornets squad.

"Each year is a new team. It's a different dynamic. It's a different chemistry," said coach Andy Conard. "I think our kids really enjoy being around each other. There's a good vibe around the group, and I just know that it's going to be a fun season."

"I don't think we have to change a lot," said senior Bryce Miller. "I think we had a good team, good season last year. Came down to a couple bad situations in the state tournament. Looking back, that was a really good Waunakee team we played, so I think we did a lot of good things last year. I think we can do a lot of good things this year, too."

Returning are junior stars on the mound, Ryan Stefiuk - a Vanderbilt recruit - and Max Wagner, a Clemson recruit.

Experience from the mound to its hitters is one of the Hornets’ strengths, but they said their base-running will be a big factor in 2019. It was even the first emphasis by Conard in an indoor practice at Preble Monday.

"I think this year, we bring in maybe a little bit more speed," said senior Logan Dorner. "We had a little bit of speed last year, but I think we've got a couple guys that are really going to be able to aggressive on the base paths this year. Our pitching is going to be really strong this year. We lost one starting pitcher last year, but we brought in a couple more this year. So I think we're going to be strong in about every area."

On Monday, April 1, Conard said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that Joannes Park will be ready for their first game, as the Hornets hope to avenge an opening day loss to Oshkosh West this time last year.

"There's always excitement going into a new year, regardless of how you did the year before," Conard said. "But I think when you do make a run, you're always looking to build on some momentum you maybe generated the year before, but each year is a new year, and our guys realize that. And we're just really excited to get started."

"The excitement level is very high," echoed Dorner. "We know we have a really good group to play with this year. We have a lot of returning guys this year, and we made a really deep run last year in the state playoffs. And we all think we could bring that back again this year with our good pitching corps. We have a lot of kids that have experience on varsity, so the excitement is really high and everyone's ready to get going."