Thursday, March 25, 2010

"A New Journey" for defending champion Madison Edgewood

Madison Edgewood baseball head coach Richard Newton has a feeling his team’s road back to the Division 2 state championship will be “a new journey.”

The Crusaders, finishing 23-2 (10-2) in 2009, come into the season with only two returning starters, including senior center fielder Ryan Haen and senior outfielder/pitcher Christiaan Wabers. If they want to repeat, they will need leadership to bring the inexperienced unit together.

Although Haen will be leaving Edgewood to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes next season, he is only thinking about the season ahead and his new role as a senior leader.

“My sophomore year I was expected to go out there and play my part. Last year was sort of the same way…just to lead by example,” said Haen, who batted .370 with 29 RBIs and 30 runs scored in 2009. “Experience is something I have been fortunate enough to have. Hopefully, I can pass it on to my teammates and keep going out there, doing the right thing and taking care of my business…ultimately (to) win a state title.”

The three-time Badger Conference champions will have the added pressure of being a defending state champion. However, they will be a different team on paper than they were last year. Haen, Wabers and the replacement starters – including seniors Zach Addamo and Shawn Tipple – will need to put the past behind them.

“Added pressure is something that goes along with being from Edgewood, regardless of being the defending champions or not,” said Newton. “Our goals are the same this year as they are every year, come together as a team, play as a team, improve every time that you step on the field and let all the hard work culminate into the best product you have to offer.”

The Badger South Conference will have some stiff competition, which will make it difficult to win. With Stoughton’s depth and experience and Monona Grove’s strong returning core, the conference season contains a playoff atmosphere.

“We have had some recent success the past couple of years,” said Haen about the tough season ahead. “Every year; every team is circling us on the schedule. It is kind of like that playoff atmosphere, because every team is bringing it…and emotions are running high.”

The Crusaders will need to play at a high level with a tough schedule ahead, including a stretch in April with five road games in a row. They will play at Stoughton, at Rock Valley contender Jefferson and at Northern Capitol Conference competitor Lodi during the stretch.

“Our conference is going to be really tough this year with everyone having the ability to beat any other team on any night, this might be the toughest it has been since I have been at Edgewood,” said Newton.

Madison Edgewood has some key attributes to help them throughout the year, including more speed than previous years and a deep pitching staff, according to Newton. However, there is work to be done with so many replacements.

“We will be a team that will be a little more scrappy than we have
been in the past, a team that will be able to manufacture runs,” said Newton about Edgewood’s strengths. “We need to continue to improve our power on offense, solidify our defense, and since we are finding several replacements, we need to develop that team cohesiveness necessary to succeed.”

Haen will be one of the main players trying to help the newcomers, and he has no problem working harder to reach his senior goal of winning another state title. But first, the Badger South Conference will be the Crusaders first test.

“First of all, our goal is to start of with the conference championship,” said Haen. “We will have to play well and play strong everyday, take nothing for granted… We are young, and there is definitely a lot of talent. I have to keep strong and stay focused. Putting in the extra effort…I am willing to do that, because that state title, there is nothing like it.”


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