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Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 2 Kimberly


By Steve Nielsen
Scouting Supervisor - Wisconsin/Illinois

The WIAA high school baseball season opens on March 26, the opening day for prep baseball in Wisconsin.

Leading up to the opening week of action, we’ll be rolling out team-by-team previews, counting down to our state’s preseason No. 1-ranked program for the 2019 season. We’re combing over all classifications and corners of the state to determine our top-25 ranked teams ahead of what’s sure to be an historic campaign, with the merging of the spring and summer divisions into one single WIAA season.

Perennially, we’ve submitted a Preseason Questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our analysis.

Our 2019 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Kimberly
Preseason Rank: 2
2018 Record: 18-8
Conference: Fox Valley Association
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Ryan McGinnis
Playoff Run: State Quarterfinal
2018 Final Rank: 10
Returning Starters: 9
Returning Pitchers: 5

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment

Drew Lechnir

WI

Kimberly

2019

OF

Central Michigan

Zach Lechnir

WI

Kimberly

2019

SS

Central Michigan

Beau Schumacher

WI

Kimberly

2019

C

Minnesota State

John Nett

WI

Kimberly

2019

OF/RHP

St. Cloud State

Trey Tennessen

WI

Kimberly

2019

RHP/INF


Connor Chitko

WI

Kimberly

2019

OF


Jordan Purdy

WI

Kimberly

2019

RHP/INF

Lake County CC

Donovan Schultz

WI

Kimberly

2020

LHP


Michael Alt

WI

Kimberly

2020

LHP/1B


Jack Kieffer

WI

Kimberly

2020

3B/1B



KEY PLAYERS LOST

None.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

It’ll be hard for any new faces to crack the Kimberly lineup in 2019, considering the entire lineup and pitching staff that made last year’s state tournament berth possible is back in full force.

However, there are a couple of spots on the roster where newcomers could bolster the team’s depth, offering the Papermakers plenty of options. The varsity roster should look practically identical to 2018’s. There were a couple underclassmen on last year’s squad, so look for sophomore Cal McGinnis and junior Ben Coons to contribute in limited roles, helping Kimberly keep pace throughout the spring. McGinnis was just rostered once the Papermakers reached the playoffs, so he’ll really be receiving his first taste of varsity ball this spring. As for Coons, he didn’t see many at-bats as a sophomore, but both look like they’re the double play tandem of the future, awaiting their turn to take over a full-time role. Until then, they’re a luxury most teams can’t afford.

At the very least, they’ll solidify backup defensive roles when the two-way players are called on to pitch.

STAT RAT

100%: Exactly 100 percent of the roster is back in the dugout for a repeat run at state. Returning a team in full is a total anomaly in today’s game, and it’s among the most compelling reasons as to why Kimberly is the No. 2-ranked team on the Preseason Power 25. This gifted 2019 class is looking to finish on top of the Division-1 world. The Papermakers did not graduate a single senior last year and they’ll likely pick up right where they left off, that includes five returners with some mention of all-conference honors, five returners who have already made plans to play after college (and likely more on the way), five with all-district mentions, and two with some level of all-state accolades.

They’re deep, experienced, and dedicated to bringing home the ultimate hardware in June.

X-FACTOR

The Papermakers are motored by its twin heartbeat, powered by Drew and Zach Lechnir. Both Drew and Zach play the game with their feet jammed down on the accelerator, but also pride themselves in their on-field intellect. They set the table for the Papermakers and often clear it, too. They’re game-in-and-out highlight reels on defense and play the game with an infectious dedication and competitiveness that makes each and every one of their teammates better.

If you’ve ever seen a Kimberly pregame warm-up, you’ll know right away that this coaching staff is passionate about relaying an attention to detail onto its players. Drew and Zach are just extensions of this meticulous and ardent coaching staff. The twins are constantly communicating with their teammate mid-game, pre-pitch, shifting defensive alignments, describing pitcher tendencies, anything to earn Kimberly a competitive advantage.

They’re the Kimberly showrunners, and their energy filters throughout this entire lineup. And we haven’t even mentioned their actual in-game skillset. Zach hits lead-off and excels at demonstrating patience in order to reach base so Drew has a chance to drive him in from the three-hole. Opposing teams were accustomed to looking at the scoreboard in the first inning, already on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline.

Drew Lechnir (7/10/19)


OUTLOOK

If we copied Kimberly’s 2018 preseason preview, you wouldn’t know the difference. Not much, if anything, has changed here.

Every single inning pitched last year makes its way back to the staff. The order in which the starters are rolled out might be up for some tinkering, however. Righties Trey Tennessen, John Nett, and Jordan Purdy logged the most innings on this staff, in that order, but there’s a contender to emerge as a new No. 1-type arm: left-hander Donovan Schultz. The junior has been on our radar for awhile while we waited for him to take to make a jump in velocity, and that day came this offseason at our Fox Cities preseason event. There, he was up five ticks or so, touching 86 mph from the left side. With some of our previous expectations on Schultz coming to fruition ahead of his junior campaign, he’s looking like a completely different arm. He could offer front-line stuff to an already durable and steady rotation that was void of the kind of power arm Schultz is trending towards becoming.

Donovan Schultz (2/24/19)

Beau Schumacher is set to be the other half of this battery, and his bat has plenty of talking to do. Schumacher embodies everything you ask for behind the plate, but is bat is a separator. The Minnesota State commit brings back a .439 average and drove in a whopping 48 RBIs in 2018, all while leading the team in OPS. He’s a run-producing bat that excellently complements the Lechnirs’ skillsets.

Protecting Schumacher in this daily lineup will help Kimberly avoid stalling out at the plate this spring. Much of the Papermakers’ offensive firepower is predicated on working tough at-bats, earning hard-fought free passes to take advantage of their team speed and genius-level baseball IQ on the basepaths. Five of their nine regulars in the lineup bring back .400-plus on-base percentages, while four tallied double-digit stolen bases totals. There are plenty of ways to dissect this Kimberly lineup, and its versatility is what makes it so special. It’s an athletic swiss army knife, capable of beating teams in a multitude of ways. They’re packed with quality at-bats up and down the order, and any spot in the lineup could rival another team’s three- or four-hole hitter.

Utilityman John Nett is a do-it-all type of player who can play nearly anywhere on the diamond, on top of his ability to offer the Papermakers quality innings on the mound. He projects best as a center fielder at the next level, since he’s a prototypical burner who can chase any ball down in the grass. His 6.69 speed in the 60-yard dash paired next to Drew Lechnir in right makes any outfield feel like Williamsport. Though, in the past, he’s also shown a knack in the middle of the infield, capable of turning smooth double plays with the other Lechnir, Zach. Wherever Nett’s penciled in, he’s bringing back all-everything honors with a .468 batting average, adding to the potency of this Kimberly lineup.

Zach Lechnir (7/10/19)

The right-handed-hitting Connor Chitko and lefty Michael Alt round out the majority of last year’s production, as both were .300-plus hitters. Chitko may be the most viable option to hit behind Schumacher, since he’s the power-type bat who led the team in home runs and doubles in 2018, while hitting .354. Alt is also a three-year varsity contributor.

BOTTOM LINE

While only 17 miles from Kimberly High, Fox Cities Stadium has served as a second home for the Papermakers in recent years. Head coach Ryan McGinnis has taken Kimberly to the state tournament every year since 2014, winning it once in 2017, and finishing as runners-up in 2014 and 2015. The Papermakers are poised to add to that Grand Chute resume, and the only question is what color the hardware will be.

The fact that Kimberly’s returning a roster indistinguishable from last year’s, a team that earned a state quarterfinals berth at state last year, makes it so it’s almost impossible to pinpoint a team with a better chance to win it all in Grand Chute.

They’re older, more experienced, hungrier, and downright talented across the board. For many of these seniors, this will be their third varsity baseball letter, and they’ve never felt what it was like to finish a season outside of Neuroscience Group Field.

You can bet Kimberly will be playing with one goal in mind this season: improving on what was an earlier-than-expected exit in last year’s quarterfinals. This memorable 2019 class is looking to give their historic run on varsity a storybook finish in the Fox Valley.

Make sure to follow @PBRWisconsin on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the season.

Find more information on the 2019 Papermakers below:

+ Full Schedule
+ Team Website
+ Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN