Bulldogs ready for big things this spring

Erik Kaiser pitches in practice for the Bulldogs. (Kermit Constantine photo)

Erik Kaiser pitches in practice for the Bulldogs. (Kermit Constantine photo)

The sky’s the limit for the 2016 Waterloo High School baseball team, which is loaded with talent, experience and the desire to achieve greatness.

“We’re embracing the high expectations,” longtime Waterloo head baseball coach Mark Vogel told the Republic-Times. “There’s no reason to shy away from it. We want to win the conference and make a run at the state title. The talent is definitely there.”

The Bulldogs feature 11 seniors on this year’s squad — including 10 from the 2015 team that finished 24-13 with co-conference and regional titles.

The other senior is highly touted Gibault transfer Jordan McFarland, who hit .427 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs for the Hawks last year and was named National 17U Perfect Game USA All-American Player of the Year for his success while playing for the St. Louis Pirates summer travel team. McFarland has signed to play at the University of Arkansas, but is also a potential high round Major League Baseball draft pick.

Key seniors joining McFarland include pitcher-first baseman Tyler McAlister, shortstop Kane Osterhage, pitchers Noah Thaggard, Cole Milam, Cole Kaiping and Aaron Laskowski, outfielders Chase Rubemeyer and Max Jennings, and infielders Aaron Rahn and Nate Albers.

McAlister, who has signed to play at Missouri State University, joins McFarland in the middle of the Waterloo lineup to form a powerful one-two punch. He hit .458 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs last year.

“It’s not often you have two guys in the middle of the lineup with that kind of power,” Vogel said.

And there’s speed at the top of the lineup with Osterhage, who hit .391 last season with 21 stolen bases and 45 runs scored.

Third baseman Hayden Bender, a junior, and Quinn Albrecht, a sophomore catcher, will also be counted on for some key hits, Vogel said, as will Rubemeyer, Jennings and junior Ben Maurer.

But pitching is the key to winning championships, and the Bulldogs have plenty of it. Thaggard, McAlister, Kaiping, Milam and Laskowski, along with juniors Maurer and Vanderbilt recruit Erik Kaiser, should all see mound duty. Thaggard went 5-3 with a 3.04 ERA last season. Laskowski went 5-0 last year with a 2.22 ERA. McAlister posted three wins on the mound.

“They will determine our season,” Vogel said. “If we stay healthy, we should be really good in that department.”

A challenge for the coaching staff will be trying to schedule the deep pitching rotation to achieve maximum results.

Another challenge for the Bulldogs will be to stay grounded and focus on winning as a team with so much early excitement surrounding the program.

“We need to manage our expectations,” Vogel said.

Waterloo lost to Mississippi Valley Conference rival and eventual state champion Highland in the sectional last season and is hoping to turn the table on their nemesis in 2016.

Let the games begin.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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