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Archive for Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Talent aplenty for new Raiders boss

May 31, 2006

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Troy Wingert claims he knows exactly what he's getting himself into.

As the new coach of the Lawrence Raiders, Wingert is the fourth different coach in the last four years for the summer American Legion AAA baseball team.

And, oh by the way, each of the other three just happened to win state championships in their first seasons.

"Obviously that's a lot of pressure on me," Wingert said, "but I'm not feeling it just yet."

Part of the reason for that is the first-year coach knows he is walking into an ideal situation with the Raiders - a situation where he might not have to coach much at all.

Much like last season, the Raiders will return an experienced bunch that can not only score but also pitch with the best in the state.

"With this talented of a team," Wingert said, "I'm going to pretty much throw the ball out there and let them play."

Free State High's Brett Lisher speaks with Firebirds coach Mike Hill during a game against Lawrence High. Lisher is one of eight players from this year's Class 6A state championship team who will suit up for the Lawrence Raiders this summer.

Free State High's Brett Lisher speaks with Firebirds coach Mike Hill during a game against Lawrence High. Lisher is one of eight players from this year's Class 6A state championship team who will suit up for the Lawrence Raiders this summer.

In addition to returning eight players from last year's summer squad, the Raiders will also have eight players from this year's 6A state championship Free State High baseball team.

Wingert was an assistant coach during the team's run to the title.

"They never really felt pressure," Wingert said of the Firebirds. "They were down in the first game of state, but they never quit. It's a testament to them. They have pressure, but they welcome that."

The coach also has ties to Lawrence High, where he was an honorable mention catcher during his playing days. His brother, Matt, also pitched for the Lions.


















Raiders roster

Name, School Travis Blankenship, Free State Cory Cooper, Allen County Community College Kyle Cross, Free State Max Ellenbecker, Kansas University Daniel Green, Lawrence High Brian Heere, Lawrence High Scott Heitshusen, Free State Travis Ice, Free State Patrick Johnson, Lawrence High Tyler Knight, Lawrence High Brett Lisher, Free State Nick Madl, Lawrence High John Novotny, Lawrence High Daren Parker, Lawrence High Andy Petz, Free State Lorenzo Ricketts, Free State John Sneegas, Free State

Seven players from LHS's 13-9 campaign will join the Raiders.

"I know a lot about them," Wingert said. "They didn't make it to state, but they certainly belonged to be there."

College players Max Ellenbecker and Cory Cooper round out the roster. Ellenbecker served a redshirt year as a pitcher for KU, while Cooper played at Allen County Community College.

The 17 will mesh together soon enough, as they travel to Omaha, Neb., for their first games of the season Saturday.

"When I was a player, the first weekend was a good time to get away and build camaraderie," Wingert said. "That will be important with this team, especially with the little bit of cross-town rivalry that there is. It'll be nice to get away from friends and family in Omaha to just play and spend time with each other. We'll need that in order to succeed."

Just like last season, a powerful offense and strong pitching should be the team's benchmark.

College signees Brett Lisher, Brian Heere, Lorenzo Ricketts, Scott Heitshusen and Tyler Knight give punch to the middle of the lineup, while Ellenbecker, Travis Blankenship and Heitshusen provide experience on the mound.

"I wouldn't key on one part of our team," Wingert said. "We're well-rounded in every area of the game."

Wingert takes over the Raiders after working as an assistant for two of the state title teams.

"I always thought I'd be a head coach," Wingert said, "but I didn't realize it'd be this soon."

At only 22 years of age, Wingert said he was ready for the challenge.

After all, he already knows what he's gotten himself into.

"This is a dream job for me," Wingert said. "Coaching a team that has won three consecutive state titles that returns its core group ... I'm ready to go."

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