Fighting Fish season opens Saturday
The River Falls Fighting Fish, fresh off last year's North Division championships and 20-13 overall record that took them to the doorstep of the Wisconsin Baseball Association state finals, will open the 2010 season Saturday in Plum City at 1 p.m.
Fish general manager Grant Miller said hopes are high again for this season.
"With almost everyone back, the next step for this group is to reach the state finals," he said. "We've really worked hard in the off-season to put together a group to make that run, and on paper this looks like the team to do it."
The team has made several key additions for 2010, including Nate Schurman, a veteran pitcher and outfielder formerly of the Eau Claire Bears, who should help both offensively and defensively.
Two players join the team from the River Falls High School graduation class of 2009 -- pitcher Greg Cheever and infielder Tyler Hunter. Cheever is on the roster at UW-Superior while Hunter is playing second base at Rochester (Minn.) Community and Technical College this spring. Current Wildcat Mary Herum, who will graduate from this spring, will join the Fish but play mostly American Legion ball this summer.
"We're very excited to have Tyler full time this summer after seeing what he could do in a couple games with us last year," Miller said about Hunter. "Marty will have limited availability this summer, but we know he's a very talented ballplayer that's capable of stepping up a level. He'll have to earn it of course, but we'd love to see him hold down our shortstop position full-time starting in 2011.
This year also marks the return of former Wildcat Adam Stuessel, back from a shoulder injury, and he'll see time in both the middle infield and at designated hitter. He's currently hitting a robust .379 through 11 games at UW-Stout this spring.
"We really missed Steese offensively last year," Miller said. "He can hit for average, hit for power, and runs the bases well. He's also a positive influence in the dugout, keeps the guys in stitches most of the time, and that's important too."
The 2010 team looks to be led offensively by Brian Giebel and Ryan Gilbertson, two River Falls High School graduates who are both serving as captains on the UW-Stout roster this spring. Giebel is hitting a smoldering .423 for Stout while Gilbertson is hitting .261.
Joe Paatalo, Nathan Brom, Josh Eidem, Sam Giliuson, Clint Kempf, Dan Kretovics and Adam Brathol will all return.
The bulk of the pitching staff returns for 2010 as well. Dan Morgan, Rick Wells, Luke Meier, and former Wildcats Brandon Gilbertson and Seth Bugar are projected to fill the starting rotation while another RFHS grad, Trevor Gutting, will serve as the setup man and Ryan Gilbertson as closer. Cheever, Schurman and Justin Peterson will likely work out of the bullpen.
"With 40 games on the schedule this year, we'll need all of those arms," Miller said. "As usual, the success of our pitchers will be the key to the season."
The Fighting Fish home opener is Sunday, May 2, at 1 p.m. at the high school field against Sharrow Lifting Products, a team from St. Paul. The first 30 fans will receive a Fighting Fish baseball stocking cap courtesy of Shooter's Pub.
For the complete 2010 Fighting Fish Schedule, visit www.fishbaseball.org/.