Despite graduation losses, Grafton has plenty of hitting, motivation for diamond wars
One year removed from a senior-led season, the Grafton High School baseball team is poised to reload with a younger but no-less-determined array of talent.
“We’ve got a good portion of our batting lineup coming back. We really like where we’re at,” said Grafton coach Brian Durst, whose squad is looking to improve on an 8-10 finish in the North Shore Conference last year.
“We lost some good players to graduation, but we have a lot of talent returning.”
The Black Hawks’ biggest losses were three players who earned All-NSC second-team honors last year as seniors — outfielder B.J. Weisflog, utility player C.J. Koehler and designated hitter/infielder Ryan Donahue.
However, back in the fold are several starters who provided leadership and plate production. Heading the list are shortstop/pitcher Robbie Doring and outfielder Kevin Scholz, both seniors.
Doring, a four-year varsity starter, hit .320 with two homers, drove in 19 runs and scored 21 on his way to all-league second-team recognition.
“Robbie’s coming off a real solid season, and he’s looking to finish his career on a great note,” Durst said.
Scholz, a three-year starter, is the Hawks’ top returning hitter with a .420 average and .525 on-base percentage. He will be the team’s leadoff hitter.
Grafton’s other key returnees are juniors Alex Nennig (outfield) and Tim Grams (catcher) and sophomores Beau Benzschawel (third base/first base), Choo Weisflog (second base), Will Birch (catcher/third base) and Nate Lukas (pitcher/first base).
Nennig, who will play center field, hit .368 and had a .500 slugging average last year. He led the Hawks with 22 RBI, scored 15 runs and had seven doubles and a homer.
Benzschawel, who received honorable mention in all-conference voting, hit .324 with six doubles and two triples, had 17 RBI and scored 17 runs. He will also contribute as a pitcher.
Weisflog hit .288 and will again help anchor the right side of the Hawks’ infield.
Grams batted .500 in a limited role as a back-up catcher and is ready to move into a starting role.
Lukas, a left-hander, got his first taste of varsity ball late last season and showed his pitching potential with a 2-1 record and 3.21 earned-run average in 24 innings.
“We’re expecting Nate to have a big year on the mound,” Durst said. “He could be our most consistent pitcher.”
Durst is also looking for contributions from juniors Brett Rasmussen (pitcher) and Zach Michalowski-Cline (outfield).
“This is a real versatile group with guys who can play a lot of positions,” Durst said of his team. “A lot of these young players were waiting for their turn, and now it’s here.”
Grafton placed eighth in the North Shore in 2011 and has an excellent chance to move up the standings this season, Durst believes. Defending league champion West Bend West lost a number of its best players to graduation, as did Nicolet and several other top teams.
“The conference is wide, wide open this year, and we should be able to hold our own,” Durst said. “It will come down to how well our pitchers will perform.”
The Hawks were scheduled to open the season with four games in as many days, starting with a 5 p.m. road game Wednesday, May 23, against Wauwatosa West.
Their nonconference run will continue with games at 6 p.m. Thursday at Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah, 5:30 p.m. Friday at Kiel and 11 a.m. at home Saturday against Greendale.
On May 29, Grafton opens conference play by hosting West Bend East at 5:30 p.m.
Image Information: JUNIOR ALEX NENNIG is back this season with the Grafton High School baseball team after batting .368 and leading the Black Hawks with 22 RBI last year. Photo by Sam Arendt