While some improvement was readily apparent, consistency pitch-to-pitch, inning-to-inning, game-to-game eluded the 2017 Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell Warriors baseball team on its way to a 5-16-1 campaign.
With eight returning varsity letterwinners back, seventh-year WFC head coach "Bubs" Hoffman is hoping those "one bad innings" of a year ago are indeed a thing of the past.
"We couldn't get past the one rough inning, it seemed like," said Hoffman. "Or on days our pitchers were good, our hitting or our defense wasn't there. And on days we hit, we didn't pitch as well.
"But I agree that we did compete better last year ... and No. 1 this year, we want to compete in the conference. We're going to be a mixture of experience and inexperience."
Senior pitcher/catcher/infielder Chandler Hillebrenner was a Times All-Area First team selection last spring after a season which saw the right-handed program cornerstone bat .333 with a .446 on-base percentage and post a 2.38 earned-run average on the bump.
Also back and expected to do big things are two other players who received Times All-Area honors — Second Team outfielder Kyle Voytko (.357, team-high 15 RBIs), who will resume his work in right field in addition to pitching, and Honorable Mention honoree Collin Hjerpe (3.31 ERA, .280 batting average), whose arm is troubling him and will be brought along slowly but has the potential to provide the Warriors staff with a potent 1-B on the mound alongside 1-A Hillebrenner, in addition to right-side infield duties.
"It's going to be odd this year, pitching-wise," said Hoffman. "With Hillebrenner coming back being a four-year starter, he'll be obviously our ace. Chandler competes every time he steps on the field. ... A lot of what we're going to be able to do this year will be (based on) where Collin Hjerpe sits. I think we're just going to take it real slow with him, and hopefully we can build with him as the year goes on.
"The rest of our pitchers are going to be young and inexperienced ... but I think our approach is going to be, 'Let's get all these young guys some experience (early) and build on that as the year goes on.' "
The team's other returning letterwinners include senior outfielders Brandon Wargo (.250 in 2017) and Alex Redd (.179); versatile juniors Tyler Jenkins (.214) and Clayton Sibert (.189), a catcher along with Hillebrenner as well as a pitching candidate; and sophomore Mason Ewing (.232), a dynamic presence in center field.
New regulars on the varsity include junior outfielder Jake Albertson, sophomore infielders/pitchers Christian Miller, Cody Dodge and Trevor Derossett, 10th-grade catcher Brad Simpson, and freshmen Aiden Boyles, Nolan Bressi, Shane Reynolds and Caden Price.
"We might be able to find niches for those younger guys," said Hoffman. "The theme is going to be compete. ... Let's play smart and play hard and go out and give 100 percent and do the best we can.
"So far, the attitudes of the kids have been great. I think there's a lot of familiarity ... with what we're trying to do and a comfort level that fits well. I've been very pleased with the attitudes so far."
Name Pos. Yr.
Chandler Hillebrenner C/P/IF Sr.
Alex Redd OF Sr.
Brandon Wargo OF Sr.
Jake Albertson OF Jr.
Collin Hjerpe IF/P Jr.
Tyler Jenkins IF/P Jr.
Clayton Sibert C/P Jr.
Kyle Voytko OF/P Jr.
Trevor Derossett IF/P So.
Cody Dodge IF/P So.
Mason Ewing OF/P So.
Christian Miller IF/P So.
Brad Simpson C So.
Aiden Boyles IF/P Fr.
Nolan Bressi IF/P Fr.
Caden Price OF Fr.
Shane Reynolds OF Fr.
Head coach: Todd "Bubs" Hoffman
Date Opponent/Event Time
3/17 at Streator 11 a.m.
3/21 E-L-PP 4:30 p.m.
3/22 GARDNER-S.-WILM. 4:30 p.m.
3/23 at Eureka 4:30 p.m.
3/27 ROANOKE-BENSON 4:30 p.m.
3/28 LEROY (at Flanagan) 4:30 p.m.
3/29 at Roanoke-Benson 4:30 p.m.
3/31 at Ridgeview (DH) 10 a.m.
4/3 MIDLAND 4:30 p.m.
4/4 at Lexington 4:30 p.m.
4/5 at Midland 4:30 p.m.
4/10 at Marquette 4:30 p.m.
4/12 MARQUETTE 4:30 p.m.
4/13 at St. Bede 4:30 p.m.
4/16 at Fieldcrest 4:30 p.m.
4/17 PEORIA CHRISTIAN 4:30 p.m.
4/19 at Peoria Christian 4:30 p.m.
4/24 at Henry-Senachwine 4:30 p.m.
4/26 HENRY-SENACH. 4:30 p.m.
4/28 at Serena (DH) 10 a.m.
5/1 at El Paso-Gridley 4:30 p.m.
5/3 RIDGEVIEW (at Flanagan) 4:30 p.m.
5/7 at Putnam County 4:30 p.m.
5/8 PUTNAM COUNTY 4:30 p.m.
5/11 DWIGHT 4:30 p.m.