Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 22 Oshkosh West


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

The Wisconsin high school season kicks off on March 27th, the first day for regular season games.

Leading up to the opening week of games we will be rolling out team previews of high school teams all across the state and across all classifications, eventually launching our Preseason Power 25.

We will bring you a snapshot of what to expect along with top players and keys to success for that particular team.

Team: Oshkosh West
Preseason Rank: 22
2017 Record: 15-9
Conference: Fox Valley Association
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Tony Gerharz
Playoff Run: Sectional semifinals appearance
2017 Final Rank: NR
Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers: 5

KEY PLAYERS LOST

Hunter Barber, RHP (St. Olaf College)
Austin Fox, RHP (Ripon College)

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Michael McBriar
WI Oshkosh West 2018 RHP/INF McHenry County JC
Ben Kohl WI Oshkosh West
2018 SS/RHP  
Jordan Brewer WI Oshkosh West
2019 2B/OF/RHP  
Tyler Whiteley WI Oshkosh West
2018 OF/RHP
Bryce Koch WI Oshkosh West
2018 3B/RHP  
Devan Wright WI Oshkosh West
2018 RHP/1B
Derek Kroll WI Oshkosh West
2018 RHP/OF  
Dylan Wright WI Oshkosh West
2018 OF  
Andy Dey WI Oshkosh West
2018 C  
Jordan Steinbeck WI Oshkosh West
2019 OF/RHP  
Joe Rebholz WI Oshkosh West
2019 OF/RHP  

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

Sophomore LHP Riley Frey certainly has the ability to make a dent in this roster predominantly made up of seniors, we’re not sure of the opportunity, however. The long-levered Frey stood at 6-foot, 156 pounds when we saw him as recently as March 11, he was sitting in the low-80s while working uptempo with feel for multiple pitches in the zone and his mound presence appears ready to handle a varsity season. He might need a little more fine-tuning at JV, but the Wildcats are actually short on lefty arms so there’s a scenario that Frey could break into this team as just an underclassman.

Riley Frey (10.28.17)

Stat rat

31: The number of years prolific head coach and Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Tony Gerharz has been at the helm of Oshkosh West’s program. He has yet to earn a state title at this uber-competitive level, though he’s taken his team to state twice, in 1996 and 1998. It’s also exceptionally tough to earn a conference crown when squaring off against the likes Kimberly and Appleton North twice a year in the Fox Valley Association. Though this year, the beloved head coach may have his best opportunity in decades to take down the traditional top dogs.

X-FACTOR

All-conference selections three years running, RHP/INF Michael McBriar and SS/RHP Ben Kohl are locked in to become four-year starters for the Wildcats, atypical for Gerharz’s style. That just goes to show you how talented the two are. McBriar will return as ace of this rotation, where he’s excelled. He maintained a miniscule 1.24 ERA in 2017 and won four games for Oshkosh West. Kohl will back him up on the mound as more of a No. 3 starter but his value is provided at shortstop and in the lineup.

Kohl led the team with a .356 batting average last year and his athleticism shines at shortstop. He plays basketball and stars in football at the high school, where he’s been the starting quarterback ever since he was a sophomore.

Their experience at the varsity level on the baseball field is irreplaceable. Now that they’re seniors, not only is this their last chance to further enhance their coach’s legacy, it might be their best chance.

OUTLOOK

Oshkosh West’s legendary head coach Gerharz rarely ever brings up freshmen to his varsity squad but seniors McBriar and and Kohl were exceptions to this rule, as mentioned aobve. Both are headed into this spring as four-year varsity starters for the Wildcats and the senior duo are accompanied by a jam-packed 2018 class that’s given Coach Gerharz his best shot at a FVA crown -- and possibly even a deep postseason run -- in perhaps his entire three-decade tenure.

This team is coming off a regional championship-winning season but lost their very next game in the sectional semis to FVA rival Kimberly, the eventual D-1 state champions. Many of the pieces that helped earn the Wildcats a regional title are back, though they’ll miss RHPs Hunter Barber and Austin Fox, who are both playing baseball at the next level in 2018. But the depth this 2018 class provides should be more than enough to cover those key losses.

McBriar’s back as the staff’s No. 1, Kohl should be featured at the back-end when he isn’t playing shortstop, and senior RHP Devan Wright will be sandwiched right between them.  Wright was a reliable arm of Gerharz’s staff last season and he should snag a few more innings this spring given last season’s senior departures.

Offensively, Oshkosh West is prepared to challenge the likes of Kimberly, Hortonville, and Appleton North. Kohl was the team’s catalyst in 2017 and he’s prepared to take on that role again. But more importantly, joining Kohl are many of the same pieces as last year. It’s a senior-led group with a wealth of experience. Senior OF Tyler Whiteley was named second team all-conference a season ago, his first full year starting, and hit .313. He’s joined by fellow two-year starter and senior 2B/OF Jordan Brewer, who hit .340 last spring. And the senior 3B Bryce Koch is also returning for his third season at the hot corner -- yet another Wildcat who hit well above .300.

It’s a deep team that may have been assembled at a good moment in time while powerhouse Kimberly fields a talented but somewhat inexperienced unit in 2018. If Gerharz can find a junior or two to contribute the way Whiteley and Brewer did last spring, the Wildcats could make a run at the FVA title and beyond.

BOTTOM LINE

The seniority on this team alone makes Oshkosh West a capable contender at a sectional berth at the least. It would have been interesting to see how far this group of juniors last year could go had they not run into the Papermakers after their regional win. Those juniors are now seniors, however, hungrier than ever to help their prestigious head coach gain some more glory on the diamond. They have the depth of pitching and the established bats to make that hope a reality in 2018.

Find more information on the 2018 Wildcats below:

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

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN