Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 17 De Pere


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer, Associate Scout

On Tuesday, April 21, the WIAA Board of Control asserted to cancel all 2020 spring competitions, baseball included. While saddened for the graduating class of 2020, the PBR Wisconsin staff will do its best to highlight what could have been this spring, in what was set to be an exciting campaign filled with intriguing storylines to know and players to follow.

We published our ‘Watchlist Squads’ post on Monday, April 20, spotlighting almost 20 need-to-know programs that fell short of official ‘Bubble’ or Power 25 status for our preseason team rankings. We also declared 18 more programs official ‘On the Bubble’ teams, teams that earned sincere Power 25 consideration.

Today, we continue our countdown to No. 1, the top-ranked team on the PBR Wisconsin Preseason Power 25. We’ll be releasing a team a day in our lead-up to No. 1, and we’re onto No. 17 this evening.

Team: De Pere
Preseason Rank: No. 17
2019 Record: 18-7
Conference: Fox River Classic
WIAA Class: D-1
Head Coach: Bob Van Rens
Playoff Run: Sectional Semifinalists
2019 Final Rank: No. 16
Returning Starters: 7
Returning Pitchers: 3 

OUTLOOK

The 2020 Fox River Classic was set to be an epic battle for the conference championship. Beyond traditional and recent powerhouse programs like De Pere, Preble, and Bay Port, teams like Ashwaubenon and Manitowoc Lincoln, namely, looked like a couple more under-the-radar squads to know ahead of Opening Day, too.

It’s a shame we won’t get to see how this spring would have played out.

The De Pere Redbirds finished a game behind the Hornets and Pirates for the FRC crown, but still earned a regional title after downing a talented No. 5 seed Appleton West. They lost a heartbreaking back-and-forth contest between Kimberly a round later, but were hopeful in 2020 having returned many of the faces that helped them succeed the year prior.

Junior J.P. Gauthier, an Illinois State commit, would have likely been the team’s go-to bat and arm this season. With the uncertain status of Iowa commit Will Semb (2020), another two-way star, Gauthier would have been asked to take on an even greater responsibility in 2020, but he was capable of handling it. He hit .317 as a sophomore but his bat looked good in the summer and he could have greatly improved on that number in his junior year. He’d taken an especially big step from the rubber, which would have been critical to the success of the Redbirds.

Fellow junior OF Bennett Spaeth is a dark horse prospect to know in the state’s 2021 class. He swings a loose right-handed bat with excellent barrel feel, which allows him to spray line-drives all over the diamond. That skill helped him hit .346 in his sophomore spring, too. He was going to share the outfield with classmate Derek Weber, another athletic right-handed hitter with a loose swing. He, too, hit over .300 as a sophomore.

Bennett Spaeth (3/8/20)

Junior arms LHP Wyatt Fischer and RHP/OF Bailey Prevost would also help back Gauthier up in the rotation. Namely Fischer, an easy-going, strike-throwing left-hander with considerable upside. He was sitting 80-83 mph, up to 84, back in March and is one of the top uncommitted lefties in the state’s class. Prevost is a two-way talent with an overhand, steep fastball that was up to 83 mph back in October who can also hit a little bit while roaming the outfield.

Wyatt Fischer (3/8/20)

These three juniors are the silver lining to De Pere’s lost season. They’ll be back in 2021 to keep the Redbirds competitive in the FRC, though this year, with the seniors in tow, could have culminated in a bid for state.

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT

An elbow injury to Semb created a cloudy status surrounding his senior spring. When healthy, Semb has some of the state’s best arm strength and he swings an easy right-handed bat with more pop than his frame might suggest. With him, the Redbirds’ 2020 season outlook would have looked even brighter, but we’re not sure if this team would have even been able to see him DH. We’re hoping to see him thrive as a member of the Hawkeyes sooner than later.

There were still plenty of seniors in this dugout to help support the aforementioned junior trio this year, like RHP Sean Teitz. As a junior, Teitz maintained a 2.33 ERA and was credited with a pair of wins. We last saw him roughly a year ago when he was listed at 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, and he was up into the upper 70s. Given the projection he showed back then, there’s reason to suggest he’s made strides since and could have been another reliable arm in 2020. RHP Jake Kinziger was also effective last spring and could have earned more regular innings of work in 2020, too.

Sean Teitz (2/24/19)

Surrounding Gauthier, Spaeth, and Teitz in the lineup were seniors OF Ben Basten, UTL Tyler Blum (Marian, WI commit), and 1B Dane Meyer. Basten hit .365 as a junior last spring and is a multi-sport standout for his high school – and he’s committed to play basketball at Marian University in Fond du Lac, too. Blum will also be headed to Marian, only to continue his baseball career. He’s an overall athlete with some above-average tools that he’s putting together; he hit .274 as a junior. 

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