Local Sports Journal

A seventh-place finish in the West Michigan Conference baseball race isn’t going to cut it this year for the Montague Wildcats.

The Wildcats struggled to an 8-15-1 record, 3-10-1 in the league. That resulted in a disappointing seventh-place finish.

By the looks of it, at least in the eyes of Coach Kevin Buchberger, things are looking up. The goal is to finish in the upper half of the tough conference race.

“Early-season practices have been going pretty good despite the fact we have to practice inside,” Buchberger said. “The tone we are setting is to perform drills correctly, losing the bad habits, correcting mistakes, instructing and coaching the little things of baseball.”

The Wildcats’ core of returning players includes three-year varsity starters Brandon Stine (catcher), Zachary Gaule (infield, pitcher), Tristen Schultz (pitcher, outfield) and Jacob Marsh (outfield). Add in two-year varsity players Chase Casebolt (first base, pitcher) and the team’s lone returning sophomore starter from last year, Chayce Lohman (infield, outfield, pitcher).

Up from year’s junior varsity team are juniors Cody Gjertsen (infield, pitcher), Ben Rupert (outfield, catcher) and David Rogers (outfield, pitcher).

There also are a trio of new players in the program in juniors Bryce Raeth (first base, pitcher), Ryan Loudermilk (outfield, pitcher) and Jimmy Belanger (infield, outfield, catcher, pitcher).

On top of that, the Wildcats welcome two freshmen, who are expected to make an impact: infielder Cameron Brayman and infielder/pitcher Jacob Buchberger.

“The minor details of the game is what wins and loses ballgames,” Buchberger said. “We want our players to be mentally strong. We have the physical tools, now we just have to put it all together.”