2011 Kenosha Kings Preview
April 24, 2011
The 2011 Kings are coming off an historic 2010 season. The Kings, not only wrapped up their 5th consecutive title, but they are also returning 7 Wisconsin State League, All-League players.
The 2011 Kings are coming off an historic 2010 season. The Kings, not only wrapped up their 5th consecutive title (2006 WI State League Championship, 2007-2010 Langsdorf League Championships), but they are also returning 7 WI State League, All-League players. Among these players, the Kings grabbed 2 of the major awards. 2007 WI State League MVP, Mark Cibrario, brought home the honors again in 2010, accumulating an amazing .433 batting average and a .549 on base percentage. On the mound, Jon Olson won his second consecutive WI State League, Pitcher of the Year award, leading the league with a 1.00 ERA. Others grabbing WI State League, All-League honors were: Jason Acevedo (1st Team DH)-.427 Batting Average-Second in League MVP votes, Billy Johnson (1st Team Catcher)-.403 Batting Average-Fourth in League MVP Votes, John Hasser (1st Team 1B)-.372 batting Average, Jason Dennis (2nd Team OF)-.344 Batting Average, and Joe Ferro (2nd Team SS)-.333 Batting Average.
As the old adage states, “with great success, comes great expectations”, that will never reign more true than in 2011.
On the mound, the Kings will again return one of the best 1-2 punches, at the top of any teams’ rotation. Anchoring the staff again will be Jon Olson and Randy Johnson (1.04 ERA). There is no doubt that Jon and Randy will be the “go to” guys in the big games. But as every season unravels, the team measuring stick often relies in those that follow in the rotation. Others that will be competing for the 3-5 spots in the rotation will be Andrew Paulauskas, Jason Bunton, Sean Kennedy, Ryan Kennedy, Jon Kleinmeyer, Travis Vanderwall, and John Snelten. “Paulauskas, Bunton and Kleinmeyer are veteran players that have shown signs of brilliance in the past, and any one of them could step up to have break-out years in 2011.” The Kings welcome back left handed Sean Kennedy who is coming off a 2010 injury. “Sean is consistently around the strike zone with 3 pitches and if he stays healthy, has the potential for a very successful season.” John Snelten, Travis Vanderwall and Ryan Kennedy are the rookie class of the 2011 rotation. “We know all 3 of these guys are competitors and will do whatever it takes to get on the field. One of the weaknesses in 2010, was walks. We got a heck of a defense behind them and if these 3 guys do what they already know how to do, and keep pitch counts to a minimum, there is no reason that they will not win a lot of games for us this summer. It is always fun to see what new guys will take the biggest step at this level.” Others rounding out the 2011 Kings staff will be reliever Kyle Stone and position players: Jason Dennis (OF), Ross Conwell (2B/3B), Joe Ferro (SS), Jason Acevedo (DH/1B) and Billy Johnson (C).
The corners make up the heart of the 2011 lineup. Mark Cibrario will lead the way at 3B, while John Hasser and Jason Acevedo will share most of the duties at 1B. Hasser will also see time in the OF. Catcher, Brad Medina, Ross Conwell and pitcher, Travis Vanderwall will also see time at 3B and 1B. “Cibby, Hass and Ace are going to do their thing with the bat, and we expect a lot of run production coming from those 3, but we also know that Brad has a lot of pop in his bat and with more consistent AB’s, could be a guy to drive in a lot of runs as well. Trav could potentially be our “X” factor. He’s mostly handled the pitching duties, this year, in his first year in college (North Central). But this kid has an explosive left-handed bat and he wants to play every day. We want to put our best team on the field. That may mean leaning on defense in close games, but it sure is nice to know we have the scoring potential to make a late game push when we need to, or put a game out of reach.”
Up the middle, as always, there will be a lot of excitement for the Kings. Joe Ferro will handle the majority of the duties at SS, and Robert Bellish, JT Schneider (1st year), Ross Conwell (also 3B), and Rob Novotny (also C) will all compete for time at 2B. “That seems like a log jam at 2B, but in all reality, it may be our most improved situation from last year. Bellish is coming off of a major knee surgery and should be nearly 100% by the time summer hits, and we know he can swing the bat along with a very solid glove in the field. Everything we have heard about JT has me really excited. He is a grinder at the dish. He does whatever it takes to get on base at the top of the order and that is something we have been missing for quite some time. He is also athletic enough to give us some quality time at SS and in the OF, that will give us some flexibility to give guys at other spots a rest when needed. Having a veteran like Ferro to really be a leader for the other guys will also increase the overall level of play up the middle.”
Jason Dennis, Kyle Frye, Andrew Highland and Paul Pulera will all rotate time in the OF. “In all honesty, these were the guys that were the driving force behind our run to the championship last year. All of them came up with huge hits and big defensive plays somewhere down the stretch in 2010. JD’s defense in the OF has improved year after year and we know that when he is hot at the plate, he can be a game changer. Frye was our biggest surprise in 2010. He led us in RBI’s (43), 3B’s (2), HR’s (3) and SB’s (17). This kid carried us for a good portion of our season. If he can add a bit more consistency and patience at the plate, the sky’s the limit for him. When you’re using wood bats, speed and defense is the key. Frye, Highland and Pulera are just that. If we want to move into that upper echelon in the WSL, these guys need to simply get on base. We got the horses behind them to drive them in. And what’s even better, is that all of these guys are just eager to be on the field in any capacity asked of them, and that shows the way they approach the game.”
Behind the dish, Billy Johnson, will again, shoulder the bulk of the innings. Brad Medina and long time King Rob Novotny will also see plenty of action throughout the summer. “Billy is Mr. Consistency at the plate. It seems like we are saying the same thing year after year. We know he is going to hit in the mid to upper .300’s, be among the team leaders in slugging % and he is going to drive in a lot of runs. He will be right in the heart of the lineup in 2011. Billy has experienced a lot through baseball and can be a huge impact for us in a leadership role. He is doing some coaching in the offseason, and if he brings that same leadership mentality to the Kings, his value will rise more than ever for us. Brad is still raw as a catcher, but no one works harder or is more reliable. With Rob and Billy around him, I expect him to really solidify his skill as a catcher. Rob has been with the Kings since we can remember. He has always been a leader and is really looking forward to working with some of the young pitchers in their development. Rob gives us that intangible that you just don’t see in summer baseball.”
“2011 can be a special year for us. I think we have a core group of guys that are mature, reliable, and as talented as any team in the Midwest. We are going to hit the ball! It will all come down to throwing strikes and bringing our ‘A’ game to every pitch of every at bat, of every game, on offense and defense. This game is played, 90% from the shoulders up, and I think that will be the tell-tale sign of our outcomes.”
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