With 12 seniors gone from last year’s team, the Waterloo Bulldogs are counting on new faces to step in and take charge in 2015.
The strength of this year’s Waterloo baseball squad, according to longtime head coach Mark Vogel, will be its balanced roster with depth at many key positions.
“This team has a couple of players who can push each other at each position,” Vogel said. “I look for that to make us competitive. We do have options.”
Returning players who saw action last season include Kane Osterhage, Tyler McAlister, Christian Schmidt, Ryan Aycock and Brett Degener, and they will be looked upon to lead the team.
Osterhage hit .405 with five stolen bases after being called up to the varsity level midway through last season.
Aycock hit .303 last season and led the team with 22 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.
Schmidt hit .279 last season and showed some pop with two home runs.
Degener hit .275 last season and drew a team-high 14 walks.
A signature of last year’s team was pitching, and the Bulldogs appear be strong in that department once again.
Vogel will look to McAlister to bolster the Bulldogs pitching staff this spring. The 6-foot-4 junior is a Missouri State commit with an array of pitches in his arsenal to keep hitters guessing.
Another pitcher with potential to contribute solid innings this season is Noah Thaggard, who missed last season to recover from an off-field injury.
Aaron Laskowski, a junior who was the starting quarterback on Waterloo’s football team this past fall, is also expected to see some mound duty.
Corey Vogel and Cole Kaiping give the team two strong left-handed pitching options as well, the coach said. Vogel started two games last season.
Cole Milam will most likely assume closer duties for the Bulldogs, Vogel said, and others expected to see time on the mound include Ben Maurer, who posted a 1.08 ERA in limited action last spring, and Eric Kaiser.
“We do have some arms that should keep us in most of our games,” Vogel said.
The Bulldogs expect to compete for a Mississippi Valley Conference title again this season. Vogel said the MVC is well-balanced this season, meaning anyone can emerge as the victor.
“I think just about every team thinks they can win it this year,” Vogel said.
He expects Civic Memorial and Jerseyville to be especially tough this season, and Triad should be much improved from last season.
As for his team, Vogel is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“As the year goes on, we have a chance to be a competitive team,” Vogel said. “There’s definitely some potential. You just really don’t know what you’re going to get until the games get going.”
The Bulldogs open at Mt. Vernon on Wednesday before hosting Wesclin on Friday and New Athens on Saturday.