Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 16 Oconomowoc


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

The WIAA high school baseball season opens on March 26, the opening day for prep baseball in Wisconsin.

Leading up to the opening week of action, we’ll be rolling out team-by-team previews, counting down to our state’s preseason No. 1-ranked program for the 2019 season. We’re combing over all classifications and corners of the state to determine our top-25 ranked teams ahead of what’s sure to be an historic campaign, with the merging of the spring and summer divisions into one single WIAA season.

Perennially, we’ve submitted a Preseason Questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our analysis.

Our 2019 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Oconomowoc
Preseason Rank: 16
2018 Record: 14-10
Conference: Classic Eight
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Arno Kirschenwitz
Playoff Run: Sectional Semifinal
2018 Final Rank: NR
Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers: 7

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment

Jacob Arndt

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

RHP

Madison JC

Nathan Platter

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

RHP

Winona State

Miller Wallace

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

3B/RHP

McHenry County JC

Hunter Olson

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

C

McHenry County JC

Ian Knuth

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

OF

Milw. School of Engin.

Gavin Daniel

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

INF

Lake County CC

Nick Brazelton

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

INF/RHP

Triton JC

Cole Ninnmann

WI

Oconomowoc

2019

OF


Patrick Kraemer

WI

Oconomowoc

2020

LHP



KEY PLAYERS LOST

Jackson Brown, RHP (Madison JC)
Steve Diderrich, C (Upper Iowa)
Karsen Rupnow, OF/RHP

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

With so many seniors set to fill the lineup day in and out, it’s hard to project which new faces are going to make a sizable impact for the Raccoons in 2019. Still, there are three sophomores to keep an eye on: Max Bredeson, Sam Ott, and Mauricio Villegas.

We’ve not yet seen Villegas, but it sounds like he has a chance to contribute on both sides of the ball. Our staff saw both Bredeson and Ott at two of our preseason showcases, and the two have some of the early offensive traits that could help them find the field a year early. Bredeson has an easy right-handed stroke that should lend itself to consistent contact, while Ott has showed some above-average bat strength from the left side.

It’s hard to forecast whether any of these three capture regular playing time, but if you’re looking for some underclass names to watch out for, circle this trio.

X-FACTOR

Nathan Platter, Oconomowoc’s incumbent ace, is set to miss the first chunk of the spring season on the shelf, as he heals and rehabs his way back from an ankle injury he suffered during basketball season. He’s a mid-80s righty with a hard-running fastball and a swing-and-miss changeup, so he’ll be tough to replace in the first half of the season.

But, this rotation was/is deep, and that’s going to help the Raccoons cover the loss of the Winona State commit at the top of it.

This is where Patrick Kraemer comes in. The 6-foot-2 lefty was a fixture on last year’s staff as a sophomore and should assume the No. 1 role until Platter returns. Kraemer has both the arsenal and pedigree to take over the top of the rotation, having maintained a 3.60 ERA as an underclassman in 2018. His steady presence from the mound should help the Raccoons hold down the rotation until Platter’s back.

Patrick Kraemer (3/10/19)


OUTLOOK

Last year’s Raccoons were excused from the postseason in the sectional semis by an Arrowhead team that finished last season as the Division-1 runners-up. But even then, Oconomowoc never quite got in rhythm. They started the spring as the state’s No. 7-ranked team in the preseason, maintained momentum into mid-May, but the grueling Classic Eight schedule caught up with them. It looked like they regained the form they had most spring in regionals, defeating Sheboygan South and a talented Beaver Dam squad, before suffering that Arrowhead defeat.

Anyway you look at it, Oconomowoc’s 2018 campaign was a season of lessons learned. While last spring’s staff was led by Madison College commit Jackson Brown, who’s graduated, the lineup was almost entirely filled with juniors. That experience garnered in last year’s sectional team could be instrumental for this year’s senior class and their expectations for an even deeper playoff run this spring.

Here’s a list of all of the returning starters to this lineup: Miller Wallace, Gavin Daniel, Ian Knuth, Hunter Olson, Nick Brazelton, and Cole Ninnmann. All six prospects hit over .300 as juniors and it wouldn’t be crazy to expect a little bit more out of this group in the final prep seasons of their high school careers.

Wallace and Olson, namely, are two McHenry Community College-bound players who hit .423 and .440 last spring, and should operate as the primary run-producers from the middle of this order. Wallace isn’t limited to third base, either. His arm strength plays on the mound, where he was up to 87 mph over the summer. He’s probably more of a high-leverage, late-inning weapon (a similar role he took on last spring), but is nonetheless a perfect bullpen piece for head coach Arno Kirschenwitz to have in mind – especially during the exhausting Classic Eight campaign.

As for Olson, he’s an above-average defender from behind the plate with premium catch-and-throw skills. He also has some real bat strength from the right-handed batter’s box.

Daniel, Knuth, and Brazelton are all college-committed prospects, too. Knuth, an MSOE commit, was the third member of this team who returns a .400-plus batting average. He’s a loose and athletic outfielder, and an example of how deep Oconomowoc is on offense. They won’t give opposing pitchers any breaks throughout the order.

While the offense is probably this team’s calling card, it’s similarly deep in the rotation, too. Platter’s absence could hurt some at the start of the season, but Kraemer will help pick up the slack and the aforementioned Brazelton is bringing back his 2.47 ERA from the mound as well.

This staff also has another No. 1-caliber arm: Madison College commit Jacob Arndt. The long-limbed righty is highly projectable, but just hasn’t totally put it all together on the mound in high school ball. He showed glimpses of being that guy when we saw him in September, giving this staff an additional starting option this spring. He’s able to live in the mid-80s with ease and has been up to 87 mph in front of our staff before. If Arndt’s able to sync up and throw more strikes and polish up his offspeed, it’ll make the Raccoons a tough play throughout the playoffs.

Jacob Arndt (9/23/18)

With Kraemer, Arndt, Brazelton, and Wallace, Oconomowoc has the pitching to make a state title run possible. The midseason re-addition of Platter is intriguing, considering he’ll be well-rested and poised to help the Raccoons make a legitimate run to the Fox Cities in June.

BOTTOM LINE

This season feels a little make-or-break for the Raccoons. With so many returning faces on a team that made it to the sectional semis in 2018, this loaded senior class has a real chance to end their prep careers on the highest possible note.

Oconomowoc is going to win games this season because of its noted depth. The everyday lineup is nine bats deep, the rotation, when healthy, is going to be sound. There are reliable defenders that occupy most spots in the infield and outfield. The time is right for the Raccoons to make a play at the D-1 title, which would be the program’s first state title since winning back-to-back championships in 1980 and 1981.

Make sure to follow @PBRWisconsin on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the season.

Find more information on the 2019 Raccoons below:

+ Full Schedule
+ Team Website

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN