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Knights return experience, add depth for 2019 season

May 25, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Head Coach: Robert Driscol

2018 Record: 9-16 (L to Columbus at Districts)

The Union Knights saw a mix of results from last years season as the program continued to build experience behind a strong senior class. Several close games throughout the 2018 season did not favor the Knights as they finished with single digit wins and limited success in NICL play. With experienced players back this season, Union will look to move forward and find more success on the field.

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"We played a good mixture of kids last season, including three seniors in Jace Glenn, Hunter Fleshner and Koby Alpers playing some key positions," coach Robert Driscol said. "They were good leaders for us last year and produced statistically, so we will definitely miss them. We played some young guys with them and hope that experience will pay off this year after losing some close games."

The loss of Alpers, Fleshner and Glenn is traded off for experience this year, with senior Benton Behrens coming back as a starter this season after ACL surgery this fall. Recently cleared to play this season, Behrens has watched his teammates improve their throwing accuracy and spend more time in the bullpen practicing their hitting.

"I'm excited to get out there and play again while having fun," Behrens said. "As a senior, I feel I need to help lead a team with some youth to have a successful season. I'm just ready to get out there after being cleared."

Among the other returning upperclassmen this season is senior Anthony Kiler, a Second Team All-Conference at pitcher with a 5-2 record starting for the Knights in 2018. While Kiler feels last season's record wasn't where the team wanted it to be, the experience is carrying over into his final season as a Knight.

"We have a lot of people stepping up and have six seniors this season," Kiler said. "I've been working on my pitching in the offseason and excited for one last go around as a senior. I want to be a leader for this team, keep them focused for wins. When I'm not pitching, I'll be at shortstop, third base."

Yet outside of the senior class lies unproven talent Driscol hopes will provide needed depth which has been missing in recent seasons for the Knights.

"Whether physically or simply in gametime experience, we are more prepared as a youth group this season," Driscol said. "We had several good freshman coming in this year and we are potentially deeper and more flexible than last year. We have some utility guys we'll look to."

Beyond Kiler on the mound, the Knights will be short staffed with pitching due to injury.

"We have several guys coming back with experience with throwing, but unfortunately Hunter Holman has a torn labrum we just found out about," Driscol said. "He'll be having surgery and will be limited to being a designated hitter for us this season. Hunter was going to be our number two or three pitcher, so Alex Kiler and Hunter Heitmann will be our number two and three pitchers going forward."

Yet Driscol remains optimistic about a group with a balance of youth and also varsity experience behind Behrens, Anthony and Alex Kiler, Jacob Carey and players who will step up during the season, which again will see Denver, Dike-New Hartford and Hudson as favorite and the Knights face off against New Hampton and North Tama in their non-conference.

"This group has been working hard so far and listening," Driscol said "They are a coachable group. If we pitch well, play defense well, we have the potential to win quite a few games. With our depth, if one person is in a slump, we do have other guys who can step in."

The Knights opened their season with a doubleheader at Wapsie Valley on Wednesday before traveling to Don Bosco on Saturday, May 25 and then playing their first home game against Dike-New Hartford in a second doubleheader.



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