Year In Review: A’s Complete Satisfying Season
Posted: September 5, 2013
It was the kind of season a clichÃ©-driven high school or college coach would call “character building.”
But the Sheboygan A’s will look back on it as satisfying even though it was laden with uncashed opportunities.
The A’s made it to the best of three championship final series in both the Langsdorf League and the Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball Leagues losing both on the road by one run in the bottom of the ninth.
They walked in the winning run at Kenosha to loose the Langsdorf League title, 3-2. A two-out error cost them the Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball Leauge title in Menasha, 4-3.
Further, they lost 1-0 twice, 3-2 and 4-3 to Lombard, one of the Midwest’s best clubs (Lombard finished second in the recently completed AABC National Tournament in New York) and lost 5-3 in 11, 4-3 in 10 and 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth to Kenosha, arguably the best team in Wisconsin.
But, while disappointment was rampant, skipper Tyler Martin’s A’s finished 12 games over .500 and gained the playoff finals in two leagues. And they did it with a pieced together pitching staff, dinged up position players (some lost for the season) and a gutsy group of back-up players who became front-liners and delivered one big play after another.
“We got off to a rough start during one of the more difficult portions of our schedule,” Martin recalled. “I thought the low point of our season was definitely when we were around four games under .500. However after that I couldn’t have been more proud of the way our guys responded. We had a team meeting at that time before a Kenosha game. It wasn’t anything I said that turned things around, but some of the guys kind of took ownership of the team and took on leadership roles on the field. They certainly refocused and we started playing some good baseball.”
Indeed, on June 26 the A’s beat Kenosha 5-1. It started a 14 game winning streak that propelled the A’s to a 37-25 season and appearances in two championship playoffs.
If it was a grueling season, it was certainly a satisfying one. Sparked by enthusiastic fan support, the 2013 A’s delivered exciting baseball.
The Big Three – Harry Steldt, Cole Heili and Chad Langley – carried the club offensively, but Luke Maldonado, Trevor Theissen, Grant Evans, Frank Pietrantonio and Sam Mattheis all had game-winning contributions.
Taylor Schwarz, an infielder who was pressed into regular mound duty, Derek Loomans, Bryce Taylor, Max Kramsky and Sam Raff emerged as the pitching leaders.
Defensively the club set a record with a .962 team fielding percentage. It was the classy group of infielders – Maldonado, Theissen, Greg Rhude, Steldt and Langley – turning in one show-stopping play after another, including 52 double plays, third highest total in A’s history.
Steldt led the club in hitting with a .347 average. Heili, a first year player, hit .335 and led the club in runs scored (49), walks (36), hit by pitch (12), doubles (21), triples (6), home runs (3), total bases 128, on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.548). Langley, whose late-game hits and sacrifice flies resulted in a number of dramatic A’s wins, hit .306 and led the club in games played (all 62), plate appearances (261), at bats (229), hits (70), runs batted in (42) and sacrifice flies (7).
Frank Pietrantonio came on strong in the second half of the season to finish at .329. Theissen, who led the club in stolen bases (19) hit .295, Mattheis .279, Maldonado .277, and Evans .265.
Defensively, first baseman Langley handeled 472 chances and came in with .989 fielding average. Heili led outfielders .981; Ben Gordon led catchers, .972; and Maldonado, who had 153 assists and turned 34 double plays, led infielders, .969.
Figuring out who was going to pitch was Martin’s biggest headache.
After losing a number of pitchers to injury, increased family commitments and the Northwoods League, page two of the pitching roster was turned. Its names did a remarkable job.
Schwarz finished 5-2 with a 2.77 earned run average and a pair of shutouts. The durable Loomans went 6-5 and 3.11, Kramsky went 4-2 and 3.71. Taylor was 3-0 and 2.53, Raff, who got some tough assignments late in the season, was 2-1 and 4.57; and Mitch Gardner, 2-3 and 4.02.
After they lost Taylor Ditter, Lucas Wilsing, Brandon Magee, Ben Stanczyk, Gunnar Eastman and Trevor Nicholson, the club rustled up additional pitching just prior to the roster deadline and added Jake Schaefer 1-1, 2.75; Nolan Peterson 3-0, 2.53, Jordan DeBoer 1-0, 4.27 and Peter Sommerfeld 0-0, 8.43.
Those newly added pitchers quickly adapted to short rest on-demand calls to the mound that their teammates had endured for most of the season and played an important role in the A’s late season playoff run and in the playoffs.
“We had a perseverant group of guys. There were times when we could have cashed it in, but we didn’t. I didn’t know how we would come back and play in the NEW playoffs after losing the heartbreaker to Kenosha in the Langsdorf championship two nights earlier, but we came right back and gave ourselves an opportunity to play for another championship,” Martin said.
“I am proud of the season and the players that we had. Everyone contributed and we had a different guy step up almost every night with a big play or a big hit. That made it a lot of fun. And we had great crowds this summer and the players really fed off that energy in big games.
“I truly enjoyed working with all our players. They are all great kids and became a pretty close-knit group. They deserve credit for the successes that we had,” said Martin, who is now gearing up for his duties as graduate assistant coach at Cardinal Stritch.
A’s fans are asked to mark the date, Saturday, Jan. 4, when the Sheboygan Athletic Club will hold its Awards Dinner at Breaking Bread. All A’s fans are encouraged to attend. Details will be posted at a later date.
Dan Barwick, Ryan Schilter and Cole Heili all suffered season-ending injuries. Barwick, a UW-Milwaukee player, had successful surgery on his hand. Heili, a redshirt freshman at the University of Evansville, injured his shoulder in the second-last game of the season. Reportedly, surgery is not required and with dedicated rehab, he should be ready for the spring season. Schilter, played at UW-Stevens Point, but is out of eligibility.
The Sheboygan A's are members of the Wisconsin State League and Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball League. The A's have helped develop more than 43 players that have reached professional baseball, including 2002 World Series Champion Jarrod Washburn (Anaheim Angels). All Sheboygan A's home games are played at Wildwood Baseball Park in Sheboygan. Connect with the A's on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.