Ample arms: Jamestown opens season with plenty of pitchers
With its top three starting pitchers back, Jamestown’s strength is easily defined.
In addition to the return of hurlers Joey Gebhardt, Brian Wenzel and Tyler Ukestad, the Blue Jay baseball team brings back six starters in the field that will fill up the lineup card as well.
They open up at 4:30 p.m., today against Bismarck St. Mary’s at Jack Brown Stadium.
“I’m optimistic about our pitching depth,” said Jamestown coach Kelley Kessler, who was named Class A coach of the year at the state tournament in Jamestown last June. “We have a lot of kids back that threw a lot of meaningful innings. If we stay healthy, that should be one of our strong suits.”
Seniors Gebhardt (3-3), and Ukestad (3-1), and the junior Wenzel (4-1) combined for 10 of the team’s 14 wins last season. They logged a combined 97 innings and pitched all but one inning at the state tournament.
Senior Shaun Hogan and juniors Nick Fuchs and Peyton Walker also have varsity pitching experience, giving the Blue Jays a quality bullpen as well as spot-start capabilities.
Gebhardt, an all-state catcher, returns behind the plate, as does Ukestad at first base and Fuchs at shortstop. Brian Wenzel (third base) and outfielders Scott Nelson (center) and Landon Weiser (right) are also returning starters. Nelson’s a junior, while Weiser is a senior.
Hogan returns to his utility role, capable of playing third when Wenzel pitches, catcher when Gebhardt throws or otherwise, in the outfield.
“We’ve talked to him about that and he likes the challenge of it,” Kessler said of moving Hogan around. “He’s an overlooked guy for us. We count on him to be a solid defender and mainstay in our lineup.”
Sophomore Tanner Lunzman is the likely starter at second base. Junior Nate Soulis is capable of playing first or outfield and Kessler said he’ll compete with sophomore Andrew Hornung for playing time out there.
At the plate, Jamestown returns plenty of at-bats.
Ukestad hit a team-best .412, while Gebhardt had a .333 average last year. Fuchs, Weiser and Hogan logged a full season of at-bats a year ago and Lunzman saw a lot of at-bats during the Legion season.
There may not be as much power as in years past, but Kessler said getting on base is what these guys do best.
“The three-run homer is not in our vocabulary,” he said. “The best thing last year is we had people get on base. If you have a high on-base percentage, you can score people.”