2014 Preview: Kenosha Kings

May 26, 2014

King's Manager Tim Pulizzano previews the 2014 season for the Kenosha Kings.

Wisconsin State League

King’s Manager Tim Pulizzano previews the 2014 season for the Kenosha Kings.

The Kings are riding an 8 year span of championships coming into the 2014 season. Much has changed and much has stayed the same. The one constant is that we are going to continue to stress unselfishness and being in the moment on every pitch of every at bat, knowing your role and how to execute every time the ball is in play. The challenge is simply this, life happens. Some players move on, some cannot commit to the levels of the past. A quick realization is that we will seldom have the ability to put the same lineup on the field back to back nights. Although this creates ambiguity of this year’s outlook, it also presents an opportunity to really see where the future of our club will be over the next several years.

On the hill, the top of the rotation will be anchored by familiar faces: Randy Johnson, Jon Olson, Jason Bunton, Travis Vanderwall, John Snelten and Kyle Cibrario. There is no doubt that these guys have been the glue to our success over the past decade. We lean on our starters heavily to get us deep into games and carry us when our bats are slumping. That will not change this year. Simmons is a large ballpark and very conducive to the pitchers we have. As long as they continue to put the work in, in the offseason, there is no reason for them not to repeat past year successes. First year pitchers that will compete for those top spots in the rotation will be Kevin Tibor (Freshmen UWM) and Kyle Kutlzer (Freshmen at William Penn). Both these kids have the potential to make some noise for us this year. Both are competing at a very high level in college, and may just be the key ingredients to this year’s success.

One of our greatest assets year after year is our bullpen. Not many amateur teams carry a bullpen as deep as us. Returning relievers Branden Jeffery and lefty Logan Hartnell both have their first season under their belt and we look to them to take the ball late in games, throw strikes and let our defense play behind them. We are also excited to see what newcomer, lefty, Garrett Arnold (Freshmen at UW Whitewater) can bring to the table out of the pen. We are playing more 9 innings games than ever before, so what they do, will be a huge part of this year’s final result.

On the corners, will be familiar faces in Mark Cibrario (3B), Jason Dennis (1B/3B) and Travis Vanderwall (3B/1B). All 3 of these guys will be in the heart of our lineup and our top run producers. Mark and JD have a proven track record and are the hardest working guys I know in the offseason, so expectations will remain high in that capacity. Trav came on like a house of fire during the second half of last year. We always knew he can hit, but being one of our top pitchers presents some interesting challenges to get his bat in the lineup as much as we like to. If he can prove himself out of the gates this year, we will find a way to get his bat in the lineup night after night and it would be no surprise if he ends up being one of our top RBI guys.

As odd as this is to say, we really do not know what to expect up the middle this year. With life commitments, fan favorite Joe Ferro (SS) will be missing a large chunk of games early on the season. With that said, second year player Derek Idstein made the transition to shortstop this year at Illinois Wesleyan, so I expect we will have a nice option there, with him. Veteran JT Schneider (2B) will likely hold down second base to start the season, but with his speed and versatility, he could also find himself in the outfield as the season moves on. Rookie Zach Wade brings another key dimension to our team. Zach was a starting shortstop in high school and now starting at third base for Carthage College. What this tells me, is that he can play just about anywhere on the infield. With a bit of a revolving door at these positions early in the season, it will be interesting to see who steps up and takes the lead up the middle. Either way, all of these guys are proven, so we expect little to no drop off from years before.

The outfield, once again, will be highlighted by returning starters Paul Pulera, Tyler Eickmeyer and Andrew Highland. All 3 of these guys possess excellent speed, and are a joy to watch steal hits away from the opposition. Although, Like Ferro, Eick is facing life straight in the eyes and will also be missing a large portion of the season. This opens up the door for a rookie that comes in very high regards in Mike Dickerson (Senior at Carthage College). What we know, is this kid loves the game and can flat out run. He has the potential to be one of those game changers that comes around every couple years, so we are excited to see what he brings to the table. Offensively, we need these guys on base. Either at the top, or the bottom of the order, they are going to be the table setters for us. With these guys on base, good things happen.

Behind the dish will once again be long-time veteran Billy Johnson and third year player Joe Balestreri. Billy controls the game behind the dish as good as any catcher in the Midwest, and has also been one of our more clutch hitters in the past decade. Joe B. is a guy everyone on the team likes, and respects. Joe is one of the hardest working, most dedicated kid’s night in and night out, and we have seen continued improvement year after year, both offensively and defensively. We are extremely confident in both of these guys are expect no drop off between them, which is a nice luxury to have as a coach.

The potential to make some noise is there in 2014. Consistency, adapting to change and making adjustments is just an actuality we are going to have to deal with this upcoming season. We have some fresh new talent that can really light a spark under guys around them, and that makes for an exciting 2014 and years to come. If we can stay healthy and find continuity as the season progresses, the sky is the limit for the Kings.

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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