By Tim Wester
There’s no middle ground with the Union Grove baseball team.
The Broncos return six talented seniors that were key contributors on last year’s state championship tournament team.
Union Grove, which finished 25-4 overall in 2021, saw its season end in a WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal on a 5-1 decision to Eau Claire Memorial.
Additionally, Union Grove produced an unbeaten Southern Lakes Conference record, capturing the league title at 14-0.
Meanwhile, along with six seniors from last year’s team, the rest of the Broncos’ squad for 2022 is filled with first-time varsity players tasked with learning on the job.
Through four games, the results have reflected the severe dichotomy in experience, with Broncos holding a 3-1 record.
The Broncos have three wins, including a 10-4 route of conference opponent Waterford on Tuesday, by a combined score of 46-9.
On the flip side, Union Grove’s only loss was 11-0 to Monona Grove in 5 innings.
“We are a mix of young and old,” Union Grove coach Nate Meyer said. “We are trying to get new guys an understanding of how varsity baseball should be played so we can figure out how to put together the pieces of the puzzle.”
Leading the returning group is junior Owen Nowak and senior Remmi Sweet.
The Broncos’ middle of the order combined to hit four homers and drive in 12 runs in their first two victories over St. Mary Springs (24-5) and Random Lake (12-0).
“Remmi, Owen, and Josh (DeGroot) have plenty of varsity experience and know they are doing with the bat,” Meyer said. “They’ve come out and did what we expected. We expected these three plus senior Ethan Horon to make our lineup strong.”
The talented Bronco offense will be challenged frequently by a remarkably talented group of pitchers in the SLC.
“The Lakes is going to be a haul this year,” Meyer said. “The conference stacked with pitching and good athletes to there will be no easy guys. I forgot how many D1 pitchers there are in our conference. We’re hoping that we can continue to hit to match up with the pitchers.”
The Bronco pitching, meanwhile, features returning hurlers Eric Williamson and AJ Hansche that will anchor the staff. The rest of the group is still taking shape.
“We have a couple more guys that are learning to throw strikes and staying around the plate,” Meyer said. “We have plenty of arms, but they need learn and gain experience. I think we can figure it out.”
The group of young pitchers includes Marshall Loch, Landon Dessart, and Robert Barrera.
Leading the way for the young position players are middle infielder Bo Bloxdorf and catcher Hayden Jamison. Junior outfielder Ty Geschke will also see time in the starting lineup.
Despite some inexperience and tough conference, the Broncos figure to be competitive again this season. If the young players develop quickly, Union Grove could once again be a formidable opponent.