Clayton Ridge-Central baseball team welcomes new coach

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By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


When an opportunity presents itself, you take a shot. That’s what new Clayton Ridge-Central baseball coach Casey Zarr did, and now he gets to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle—role models, coaching inspiration and a wealth of knowledge to assist the youthful Zarr in his role as the head guy. 


While Zarr admitted he will likely “make mistakes,” it’s what he does with those mistakes, the learning process from them, and how he applies that to “future challenges for positive outcomes,” that matters. 


As a new coach, Zarr has set some lofty goals for the squad, like making a run at conference and state, but he has also created smaller goals in an effort to build the team up. He is a firm believer in the “little things,” like rounding the bag hard, making routine plays, hustling out of the box and being engaged for seven innings of baseball. It’s also about creating a team philosophy that rests on wanting to “play fast and big.”


“I like putting pressure on opponents by speeding the game up with stealing, hit and runs and defensively throwing strikes and letting your fielders support you. On and off the field in 13 seconds,” Zarr explained. “Motivating athletes comes in all shapes and sizes, but I think our guys feed off of energy and enthusiasm. Offensively, we are looking for a double or better swing with less than two strikes and be a tough out. I am looking to set new team records for stolen bases every year.”


But playing fast and big requires overcoming some of last seasons concerns, starting with pitching that finished with a 5.88 ERA, 138 walks, 37 batters hit by pitch and a .277 opponent batting average. 


Addressing this issue will remain problematic, as Zarr admitted the War Eagles are “shallow in pitching depth.” As a result, there is a renewed focus on defense and generating trust between the pitching staff and the fielders, as the younger arms coming out of the bullpen develop and gain experience. 


Despite the lack of depth, “I feel great with the arms we have,” Zarr stated.


The issue of confidence stems from last season’s revolving door at third base and the 84 defensive errors. This year, Zarr hopes Caden Helle can hold down the hot corner and provide much-needed reliability the team missed last year. 


As far as errors go, Zarr simply stated, “Errors are going to happen. We just need to eliminate throwing errors.”


The offense also struggled last season, finishing with a batting average of .229 and five hitters batting less than .200, along with 211 strikeouts. The War Eagles were outscored by over 100 runs. 


The team returns only two seniors this summer, so a lot of the pressure falls on younger players like freshmen Max Nuehring and Kahne Bolsinger and eighth grader Braxton Bormann, who have “really stepped up” in practice, according to the coach. 


“I can’t wait to see the impact they can make stepping into bigger roles for us, [and] always keep an eye on Caleb Helle and Drake Ostrander up the middle at shortstop and second base. They are five-year starters with a great connection and solid contact at the plate,” Zarr said. “Another power bat in the lineup, Caden Helle, looks to make some noise with a new approach at the plate and be a big part of the pitching rotation.”


Regardless, Zarr is not short on confidence, stating, “With some ‘new school’ style I have been teaching, it will be interesting to see how these guys can apply this into games [and] I will bet on us every night with our new philosophy of loud contact with a double or better approach.”

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