Neuqua Valley keeps sparkling on the diamond
The Neuqua Valley High School baseball team is driven -- and it's a standard transmission.
"Standard" is the key word for the Wildcats, who burst out of the gates this season with a 12-0-1 record, ranking them at No. 19 in the April 10 edition of the Illinois Power 25 on PrepBaseballReport.com.
“We have standards, and my expectations are that our players rise to our standards: to put the team ahead of themselves, to play hard every pitch, to respect the game, their teammates, coaches and themselves,” head coach Robin Renner told the Will County Gazette in an email.
Renner said this year's team has exceeded expectations, dominating at the plate and on the mound.
Through 13 games, NVHS had a .350 team batting average to go with a .433 on-base percentage and .497 slugging percentage. Plus, the Wildcats scored 116 runs in that span -- an average of 8.9 runs a contest.
In that time span, Jack Rigoni had a .472 average, .568 on-base percentage, .944 slugging percentage with three home runs, six doubles, 13 RBIs and 14 runs scored. Noah Herdman had a .429 average with a .519 on-base percentage, while Ryan Wheeler had a .400 average with a team-high 22 runs. Evan Ranneklev led the team with 15 RBIs.
In the pitching department, the Wildcats had a team earned-run average of 1.405 and allowed 1.082 walks and hits per inning pitched. The staff also had a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of almost 3 to 1 (95 strikeouts to 34 walks).
Mason LeBreck had a 3-0 record in six appearances, including one start, and the Wildcats have four pitchers with two wins apiece: Austin Waeghe, James Kulak, Justin Hicks and Rick Castro. Mason LeBreck, Kulak and Castro tied for the team lead in strikeouts with 17 each.
“Our team is very unique in that our strengths are many,” Renner said. “We have been very good defensively, offensively, and our pitching has been solid.”
Putting all that together for the playoffs is the next step, but that is a step NVHS is used to making. The Wildcats have reached at least the regional final in the last six seasons, with five trips to the sectionals and a fourth-place finish in Class 4A in 2013.
“We constantly remind the guys to remain focused each and every day, game and practice,” Renner said.