Eau Claire, Altoona (WQOW) -- Eau Claire Regis and Altoona are both hoping to contend this season in the Western Cloverbelt Conference.
The Ramblers tied for the conference title in 2014, but then lost in a WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal. For 2015, Regis head coach Andy Niese says the team will rely a lot on its experienced pitching staff.
"I would say the strength coming in to the season would be our pitching," Niese says, "in terms of the depth and the quality of what we present on the staff. You know, I know there has been some discussion on the amount of offense we lost last year but like I said, we have six returning starters from last year, we did start five freshmen from last year."
"We do have a good pitching staff this year, it is young, but it was young last year," says Ramblers senior pitcher/outfielder Richie Misischia, "three-quarters of our crew is coming back, and so I have a lot of faith in them."
"We have three very good pitchers coming back," says Niese, "three above-average high school throwers, of our sixteen wins last season, twelve of those wins are returning from our pitching staff.
Regis is scheduled to play at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, Friday.
Altoona got its season going Monday, but Bloomer beat the Railroaders 3-2. The Railroaders return a solid class of juniors from the team that finished 10-10, losing out in a WIAA regional semifinal to eventual Division 2 sectional runner-up Ellsworth. Altoona head coach Jay Johnson says that experience from last year will help the younger players this season.
"We had seven sophomores start last year," says Johnson, "they got a lot of varsity at bats. We struggled at first last year but they have never seen varsity pitching as sophomores but we won ten out of our last fifteen games, so a light bulb came on and defensively they are real strong. It's just that experience, you know, helps you a lot."
"We've got some great, solid pitching on the team," says Altoona senior pitcher/outfielder Mason Hegenbart, "we got good defense, you know, and if we get, if we hit the way we can when it's warm out, it could get, it could get scary pretty quick."
"We have five pitchers that are returning that all saw varsity action last year," says Johnson, "it's not like in year past where you have to sit there and go, well, we'll have to save our best pitcher for this team and you know, we've got a Cloverbelt Conference game, the best team in the Cloverbelt, better throw this guy, you know what, all five of these guys are about the same, and I'd put them against anybody from our conference."
Altoona's got another tough non-conference matchup Friday, when the Railroaders are scheduled to play at Prescott.
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