Division 1 Team Of The Week: Week 4 - Rockford


Bruce Hefflinger and Dylan Hefflinger
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Division 1 Team Of The Week: Week 4 - Rockford

ROCKFORD - While Rockford has just three seniors on the team, the Rams have played like a veteran squad in getting off to a 9-0 start and with it accolades as the Prep Baseball Report Division 1 Team of the Week.

“We’ve hit the ball well this year and played great defense,” pointed out head coach Matt Vriesenga, who has one freshman, four sophomores and 10 juniors on the squad in addition to the three seniors. “Our pitching has the ability to be really good but we have given up too many free passes this year.”

There were two big wins on Saturday with 3-1 and 18-3 victories over Lakeshore, last year’s Division 2 state runners-up.

“Senior Luke Johnson had a great week for us this past weekend with two doubles and two home runs,” Vriesenga said. “Sophomore Andrew Landis went 8-13 at the plate with three doubles this week, played a great shortstop and also got the win on the mound over Caledonia. Junior Jake Brown pitched 4 2/3 innings versus Caledonia and struck out 11 while walking two and giving up two hits and zero runs in his last start.”

Landis, Johnson and Brown have been standouts all year with Landis hitting .500, Johnson  .467 and Brown .467 with three homers and three doubles. Landis is also 2-0 pitching while Brown, the 14th-rated 2023 right-handed pitcher in Michigan, is 2-0 with 25 strikeouts in 10.1 innings.

“I knew we had the ability to hit it a bit but we are hitting it better than I thought at this point,” Vriesenga related. “But I also realize it’s a long season.

“Our pitching, which I thought would be our strength, needs to keep getting better. We are walking and hitting too many guys and relying a lot on getting strikeouts. Against some good hitting teams we will need to do a better job of keeping the free passes down.”

Three games with Jenison and a doubleheader Saturday with Grand Rapids, where Vriesenga’s oldest son plays, adds up to a big week ahead for the Rams and their head coach.

“Pitching, defense and putting the ball in play on offense are keys to keeping up our success,” said Vriesenga, whose Rams made it to the regional finals a year ago. “We have a deep bench with really good players who are interchangeable, so it's going to be me keeping everyone engaged and ready for their opportunity. We have 18 players on our team and on Saturday we had all 18 guys start a game, so nine different players in each game and both games we played very well.”

It has Vriesenga excited about the future of the program.

“This is the deepest team I have ever coached as far as hitting and playing defense and just overall baseball knowledge,” Vriesenga concluded. “It has been a great team to coach and nice knowing most of this team will be around next year as well.”

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