By Becky Walz,
Graduating just one senior from last year’s team, the Turkey Valley baseball team returns quality experience up and down the line-up this season.
Leading the team for his 20th season is Dan Stepan with a pair of new assistants — Alex Gisleson and Steve Busta.
With one senior — Kalvin Langreck — the 2021 Trojans were a young squad, looking for ways to put tallies in the win column for a winning season.
Despite their best intentions, Turkey Valley went 8-10 in the Upper Iowa Conference.
The postseason started — and ended — with Saint Ansgar in the first round as the Trojans lost 10-0 to end the year 9-20.
As a team, the Trojans hit .256 with a .375 on-base percentage and .316 slugging mark. They had 24 doubles and scored 166 runs. The pitching staff struggled with a 5.33 earned run average (ERA).
Ready to go
Fifteen letter winners return with experience.
“We have several players with varsity experience, and we hope that the playing time they have had will turn into a success on the field,” said Coach Dan Stepan. “I think our pitching has a chance to be better than the past few years as well. We also have several three or four-sport athletes that know how to compete.”
Back for their senior campaigns are Garrett Kurtenbach and Dylan Reicks.
A second team all-UIC selection last year, G. Kurtenbach had a .303 batting average and .449 on-base percentage with a team-high five doubles, 20 RBI and scored 24 runs. Reicks was second for the Trojans, hitting .346 last season, with a .470 on-base percentage. He drove in 11 runs and stole 18 bases, earning himself honorable mention in the UIC.
Junior Noah Hanson led Turkey Valley at the plate a year ago, hitting .355 to go with a .419 on-base percentage. He had 33 hits, including four doubles and drove in five runs, crossing home plate himself 24 times. Earning a second team all-UIC nod, Hanson had 16 stolen bases. He made seven appearances on the mound with a 3.92 ERA with 32 strikeouts for the season.
Other key members returning to the diamond for the Trojans are seniors Rolin Schmitt, Lance Schmitt; juniors Carson Busta, Calvin Bodensteiner, Chase Hayek, Garrett Dietzenbach, Brennan Drilling, Treyton Hulbert; sophomores Caleb Kurtenbach, Oliver Schmitt, Russell Nieman and Braylen Byrne.
Those looking to provide more depth to the team are newcomers Troy Schmitt, Aidan Holthaus and Tanner Tlusty.
Coach Stepan believes his team has a chance to be as competitive as everyone in the conference, depending on the Trojan pitching staff. He noted that in order to beat the top teams they will have to play their best to have a chance against those squads.
“I think with the pitching rules, a coach is always worried about that aspect of the game every night. We look to be a little more explosive on offense as well. Our schedule doesn’t allow for any breaks, so every night we have to be focused to play our best baseball,” added Coach Stepan.
As for the race for the Upper Iowa Conference title, the veteran skipper believes Kee, the Class 1A runner-up from last year, is the forerunner. Stepan also believes South Winn, MFL MarMac, North Fayette Valley and Clayton Ridge-Central to be contention for the crown.
“I can guarantee that our line-up both offensively and defensively will look different this year. It will be fun to see who has improved since last year and see where they can help us in the line-up. One of the great things about coaching is seeing how the puzzle pieces fit together each and every year,” concluded Coach Stepan.