By no means was the Milton High School baseball team bad last season, but they also were not world beaters.
The Red Hawks finished 9-16 overall and 7-7 in the Badger South Conference.
In simple terms, they were just about average.
“I think we simplified our team goal this year to more or less change the culture of our program to not be mediocre anymore and to be great every day,” head coach Kris Agnew said.
“What we’re driving into our kids right now is that we want to change our program from an average program to a great program,” he added.
Milton may be just able to start to turn things around this season thanks to a healthy amount of depth.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Agnew said. “The depth is the best we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
More specifically, the Red Hawks have depth on the mound.
“Our roster is 18 players deep to start the year. Of those 18, we probably have 10 or 12 kids that could potentially see time pitching,” Agnew said. “There are not many teams that have the number of pitchers we’re going to have.”
Despite the depth, Milton loses several key players from last season. The Red Hawks lose second basemen Kam Van Natta, shortstop Sam Beers, centerfielder Payden Belk and No. 1 pitcher Blake Fuchs.
“I think we definitely have the capable people to replace them,” Agnew said.
Amongst the crowded pitching crew, sophomore Evan Jackson is expected to be the go-to guy for Milton on the mound.
The Red Hawks have a trio of junior pitchers who return with varsity experience from last year — Fletcher Terrill, Hunter Pernot and Ethan Haefner.
Terrill returns as the pitcher with the most wins from last season (2), while Pernot returns with the most strikeouts (19).
Haefner saw little time on the mound last season but made the most out of it by posting a 2.4 ERA in 3 1/3 innings pitched.
Senior Tyler Kersten also is expected to see significant time on the hill.
As far as position players go, the Red Hawks will lean on senior catcher Bailey Nickel, designated hitter Memphis Moore and left fielder Caleb Dammen.
Nickel and Moore likely will act as the cleanup crew for Milton as the duo is set to hit in the middle of the lineup.
Moore tied for a team-high in hits last season with 27, to go along with a .391 batting average. Nickel tied for a team-best eight doubles last year. He batted .299.
Junior outfielder Colin Schuetz also is expected to be a go-to player for the Red Hawks this season.
Milton also will mix in some youth with their experience.
Freshmen Keegan Knutson and Jack Campion, along with sophomore Charlie Terrill all are expected to begin the season as starting infielders.
“They’re very talented,” Agnew said. “With the pitching strength we have, I’m really excited about the quality of our defensive infield.”
The Red Hawks finished fourth (7-7) in the Badger South last season.
Watertown finished atop of the conference standings last year at 13-1.
“We’re definitely going to be out to win a conference championship this year,” Agnew said. “That’s our mindset. We have a good mix of younger and older guys.”
Milton will begin their season with a couple of tough games versus Verona and Janesville Craig.
The Red Hawks started last season against the Wildcats and Cougars with a pair of 10-2 losses. Craig also ended Milton’s season last year in the regional final.
“Those will be great measuring sticks to go out against historically very good programs, to go out and see how we measure up,” Agnew said.
Milton is headed back to Miller Park this season as well. The Red Hawks will take on Edgerton in a non-conference game on May 22 at Miller Park.
The booster club is selling tickets to the contest. Information can be found at www.miltonbaseball.org.
Milton’s game versus Janesville Craig originally was scheduled for Saturday, March 30, but the game was moved to Wednesday, March, 27.
The Red Hawks will play Verona on Thursday, March 28, at Stampfl Field in Verona at 4:30 p.m.