Eau Claire Cavaliers Season Preview

May 21, 2009

The Ledger-Telegram Online gives us a season preview of the 2009 Eau Claire Cavaliers. The "Cavs" finished with a 33-23 overall record in 2008, but fell to 14-18 in the Wisconsin State League after t

Wisconsin State League

Many of the names are familiar from last year.

Even more familiar are the names of some of the newcomers – including Ben Kincaid, Ben Sebesta, Brady Sand, Chevy Tollefson, Alex Burian and Ryan Iverson. They are a bumper crop of players from last year’s outstanding local high school and American Legion teams.

They are the 2009 Eau Claire Cavaliers.

“I like the Eau Claire kids,” second-year field manager Mark McHorney said. “About two-thirds of the team is made up of local and area players.”

He points out that the uniqueness of the team is that it is non-profit and run by volunteers led by club president Randy Millis and Bill Briggs in particular.

“Perennially, it is our goal to give the local guys a chance to compete at a high level,” McHorney said. “We want to give them the pro-style experience.”

McHorney, the former Eau Claire Regis coach, pointed out that the Cavaliers are not in competition with the Eau Claire Express team of the amateur Northwoods League.

“We respect what the Express do,” he said. “They put out a good product.”

The Cavaliers launch their 39th season on the road at 1 p.m. Saturday at Chaseburg/Coon Valley and then open at home Sunday and Monday with noon doubleheaders against the Melrose Indians of the Chicago area.

The busy 67-game schedule once again includes play in the highly competitive Wisconsin State League along with a strong non-league slate.

“Our goal is to finish in the top three in the league,” said McHorney, who saw last year’s team fashion a 33-23 overall record but fall to 14-18 in the league.

“We feel we’ve got some of the pieces in place but we haven’t seen much of some of the kids yet.”

Among the returnees are outfielder Soya “So” Aoki and pitcher Yoshinori “Machi” Machida, here from Japan to give the club an international flavor.

Joining Machida on the mound are Mark Shaver (3-1, 2.81 ERA last year), Justin Dorn (2-2, 3.45), Justin Cooper, Troy Peiffer (3-6), Dave Oestreich (2-4), Dale Kube, Tyler Lorenz, lone lefty Brent Mueller and Tollefson. Sand and Kincaid are available for help.

“We’ve got 12 or 13 pitchers and we want to boil it down to a group of four or five starters,” McHorney said. “We’ll know more after the first weekend.”

Cody Bunkelman (5-2, 2.94) and Tyler Graskewicz (8-3, 3.18) do not return.

Among the leading hitters returning are first baseman Lance Poppy (.354), outfielder Ty Fadness (.315), infielders Matt Miller and Ben Otto and outfielders Rob Rybicki and Burian.

Major losses include Nolan Fadness, last year’s leading hitter with a .362 average who is with the Express this year, and shortstop Cole Kraft, a .354 hitter who led the club in hits and extra-base hits a year ago. The Menomonie native is playing in Virginia this summer.

Behind the plate, McHorney is looking to Hudson prep star Chase Graskewicz, Kyle Trewyn – one of four Cardinal Stritch players – along with Sand, who played at St. Olaf, Mike Darley, here from UM-Duluth, Ty Fadness and Shaver.

Working on the infield are Poppy at first, Miller at second, Sebesta and Kincaid at third and Otto at short. Austin Sarauer is another candidate.

Outfielders are Rybicki, Ty Fadness, Aoki, Brad Archambeau – back from two years ago – Burian and Andrew Ambromaitis, another Cardinal Stritch product.

Iverson, who played at UW-Stevens Point, will be a handyman as a utility player.

“I’ll be platooning some,” McHorney said. “But the guys hitting the ball will be playing. We’re hoping for a little more power this year.”

Last year’s team hit only nine home runs.

“We’re hoping for some long balls from Ambromaitis, Ty and guys like Kincaid and Sebesta,” McHorney said.

Kincaid was the leading hitter at Division II UM-Mankato, and Sebesta saw extended action at UW-Oshkosh. Both were standouts on last year’s No. 1-ranked Eau Claire Memorial team.

“We’ve got a good group of athletes and will be very competitive,” said McHorney, who is again assisted by coaches John Nicolai and Steve Page.

The schedule includes 27 home dates at Carson Park and runs through Aug. 8.

The Cavaliers shared the 2006 Wisconsin State League title with Lombard, and placed second to Lombard in 2007. Other league members are Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Oshkosh, Kenosha, Addison, and Janesville.

Alex Burian, rf/1b, UW-Stout (North); Andrew Abromaitis, of/1b, Cardinal Stritch U.; Austin Sarauer, if, Cardinal Stritch U.; Ben Kincaid, 3b/p, UM-Mankato (Memorial); Ben Otto, if, UW-Oshkosh (Menomonie); Ben Sebesta, 3b/ss, UW-Oshkosh (Memorial); Brad Archambeau, of/1b, UW-Stevens Point; Brady Sand, p/c/if, St. Olaf (Memorial); Brent Mueller, lhp, UW-Oshkosh (Medford); Chase Graskewicz, c, Kansas State (Hudson).

Chevy Tollefson, p, Madison Area Technical College (Memorial); Dale Kube, p, Kansas State (Freedom); Dave Oestreich, p, UW-Stout (Chippewa Falls); Jason Dorn, p, Arcadia Justin Cooper, p, Cardinal Stritch U.; Kyle Trewyn, c, Cardinal Stritch U.; Lance Poppy, 1b, UW-LaCrosse (New London); Mark Shaver, p, UM-Duluth (Roberts); Matt Miller, if, Memorial; Mike Darley, util, UM-Duluth (Chippewa Falls).

Rob Rybicki, of, North; Ryan Iverson, util, UW-Stevens Point (North) Soya “So” Aoki, of, Japan; Troy Peiffer, p, UW-Superior (Memorial); Ty Fadness, of/dh, UM-Duluth (Memorial); Tyler Lorenz, p, UW-Stevens Point; Yoshinori “Machi” Machida, p, Japan.

May 23, at Coon Valley, 1 p.m.; 24, Melrose (2), 12 noon; 25, Melrose (2), 12 noon; 29, Everest Merchants, 7:30 p.m.; 30, at Manitowoc (2), 3 p.m.; 31, at Manitowoc (2), 12 noon.

June 2, at Lake City, Minn., 7:30 p.m.; 3, at Hastings, Minn., 7:30 p.m.; 6, at Lombard, Ill., (2) 3 p.m.; 7, at Lombard (2), 12 noon; 9, St. Paul Commanding Edge, 7:30 p,m.; 10, at Marshfield, 7:30 p.m.; 13, at Sheboygan (2), 5 p.m.; 14, at Sheboygan (2), 12 noon; 17, Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks at Casper Park, 7:30 p.m.; 18, Rochester Royals, 7:30 p.m.; 19, Rochester Blues, 7:30 p.m.; 20, La Crosse (2), 11 a.m.; 21, at Exeland, 1:30 p.m.; 23, at Red Wing, 7:30 p.m.; 24, Taylor County, 7:30 p.m.; 27, St. Paul Red Rooster, 4 p.m.; 27, St. Paul East Side Merchants, 7:30 p.m.; 28, Sparta, 1 p.m.

July 1, Eau Claire Bears, 7:30 p.m.; 2, Winona, 7:30 p.m.; 4, Kenosha Kings (2), 11 a.m.; 5, Kenosha (2), 1 p.m.; 8, Exeland, 7:30 p.m.; 9, East Side Merchants, 7:30 p.m.; 11, Beecher at Kenosha (2), 4 p.m.; 12, Oshwego at Kenosha (2), 11 a.m.; 14, at Winona, 7:30 p.m.; 18, Oshkosh (2), 5 p.m.; 19, Oshkosh (2), 12 noon; 21, Coon Valley, 7:30 p.m.; 22, at Sparta, 7:30 p.m.; 24, Plover, 7:30 p.m.; 25, Addison (2), 6 p.m.; 26, Addison (2), 1 p.m.; 28, Red Wing, 7:30 p.m.

August 1, at Janesville (2), 3 p.m.; 2, at Janesville (2), 1 p.m.; 4, Augusta, 7:30 p.m.; 5, Menomonie, 7:30 p.m.; 8, Marshfield, 1 p.m.

The Wisconsin State League is one of the premier semi-professional/amateur baseball leagues in the mid-west. In operation since 1970, the Wisconsin State League is a highly competitive league that features many of the midwest's top current and former collegiate athletes, as well as many former professional baseball players. Keep up to date on everything happening in the Wisconsin State League by following the league online on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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