Bulldogs will rely on pitching depth, experienced lineup to vie for UIC title

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Members of the MFL MarMac baseball team are (front, left to right) Jaron Wille, Brent Roe, Carter Lightfoot, Cayden Pester, Landon Johnson, Austin Evanson, Austin Schlee, Parker Kuehl, Koda Warrington, Brady Welsh; (back) head coach Paul Gordon, Dustin Larson, Kade Humble, Ben Krambeer, Cayl Anderson, Nick Krambeer, Carver Blietz-Bentien, Jaxon Millage, Jacob Schellhorn, Bryce Radloff, Elias Hatt and Brayden Gordon. Not pictured is assistant coach Lary Walter. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


New head coach Paul Gordon expects the MFL MarMac baseball team to vie for the Upper Iowa Conference championship this season.


“For the last few years, it’s been Kee High and South Winn at the top. We’ve been in third place. We’re hoping to put ourselves in that mix,” said Gordon, who previously served as the Bulldogs’ assistant under Brandon Burke. 


Gordon’s experience with the players—especially the sophomore class that includes son Brayden—goes back six to seven years, though.


“Since I was in high school, that’s what I wanted to do: be a coach,” Gordon shared. “When Burke retired, I was ready to take a chance. It’s a talented group of kids I like working with.”


MFL MarMac’s roster totals 41 players, which Gordon called a program high. 


“It’s a good thing to have the numbers, but it’s also a challenge working with that many kids,” he acknowledged.


With only two starters lost to graduation, that group includes a mix of youth and experience. Returning are senior Landon Johnson—a top hitter and second team all-conference selection a season ago—as well as fellow second teamer Parker Kuehl, a sophomore centerfielder and leadoff hitter. Sophomore Jacob Schellhorn, an honorable mention pick who splits time between shortstop and pitching, is back too.


Other returning starters are senior catcher Austin Schlee, junior infielders Carver Blietz-Bentien and Bryce Radloff, junior outfielder Elias Hatt and sophomore infielder and pitcher Ben Krambeer. Also seeing starting and significant playing time will be sophomores Brayden Gordon and Jaxon Millage.


“We have a lot of sophomores in the starting lineup,” Gordon noted.


The coach said this year’s offensive approach is to be aggressive, particularly with two strikes.


“We struck out looking too many times last year, so that was a big emphasis this year. Go up and determine your fate yourself. Don’t leave it in the umpire’s hands,” Gordon said.


The MFL MarMac pitching staff will be led by Schellhorn and Krambeer as well as Millage and senior Austin Evanson. At least seven players will pitch at the varsity level, according to Gordon.


“That is one of our biggest strengths with the team: our pitching depth,” he said. “It’s huge with a schedule when you’re playing sometimes four and five games a week.”


When you put all that together, “There’s the talent here to make a deep run into the playoffs,” Gordon stated. “Last year, we lost in the second round, and I think we can make it farther than that this year and hopefully go all the way. That’s the ultimate goal.”

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