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Ahead of the game

Fresh out of high school Express infielder makes name for himself

conz getting splashed

Express infielder Kyle Marinconz gets doused with water by teammates in celebration after his walk-off single against the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters on July 29. Marinconz was 2-5 on the night including the game winning RBI. <br />Photo by Rachel Lacey Noll.

By Jake Steen:

For a college baseball player with Major League dreams, the Northwoods League can be a big opportunity for development during the college offseason. But for recent high school grad Kyle Marinconz his season has been about jumping the gun.

Eau Claire Express starting infielder Kyle Marinconz graduated from Valley Christian High School in San Jose, CA just over two months ago. He plans on attending Cal Poly University this fall to play baseball and while he hasn’t officially started his collegiate career, he is already tearing it up against his soon to be competition.

Marinconz

Marinconz

Marinconz has started at all four infield positions during the course of the 51 games he has appeared in with the Express. Boasting a .299 batting average with 56 hits and 26 RBI, he is second on the team in batting average and his 28 walks is tied for the team high.

“He’s a free swinging high school kid,” said Express Field Manager Dale Varsho. “I don’t know if he has a whole lot of knowledge of what goes on, but he can flat-out hit. And he’s fun to watch.”

Marinconz has had to make plenty of adjustments, as high school regulations are much different than the pro-style Northwoods League upholds. But even the switch from aluminum to wood bats didn’t seem to faze him.

“It’s definitely a faster game and it was a jump from seven to nine innings,” said Marinconz. “The pitchers throw a lot harder, they have more command, they’re obviously more experienced but if you just go up there with confidence you can get the job done.”

Fitting in with a brand new team, a team where every other one of his teammates were older and already had a season of college baseball under their belt, was a whole different monster. But Express utility player Daulton Varsho said even if the team didn’t welcome him with open arms, it would never have gotten to the confident young Marinconz.

“All the time, we gave him [s—] all the time.” Said Varsho about Marinconz being the youngest of the group. “He fit in perfectly with us, it was just fun being around him. He gave our team a lot of energy.”

It showed, as Marinconz gelled with his teammates immediately and became an everyday player at the top of the lineup. He enjoyed a breakout season individually and became a key contributor to nearly all of the Express’s victories this season.

Marinconz joined Varsho as the two offensive members of the Express to take part in the Northwoods League Major League Dreams Showcase, where the top prospects from around the league battle in front of college and professional scouts. The two players were also roommates on some of the team’s longer roadtrips.

“It’s fun because he can take it but he can also dish it right out back at you,” said Varsho. “He was fun and he made our team a lot better.”

The Express finished the regular season at 29-42 and missed the playoffs but they were still able to have a memorable season including some thrilling victories. One of which, a walk-off win from the bat of Marinconz.

“That was probably one of the top moments, that was really cool.” Marinconz said about his walk-off single to beat the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters by a score of 6-5 on July 29. “When you get that opportunity it was definitely nerve racking but when you get it done everybody’s so excited it was just awesome.”

Now that the season is over Marinconz looks toward his next opportunity, launching his collegiate career at Cal Poly. One he has been looking forward to for years.

“I know I’ve wanted to go there since I was a freshman, I committed there after my sophomore summer,” said Marinconz. “I’m just trying to compete for a spot, play as a freshman, do the best I can and make a quick impact on the team.”

And Marinconz said he feels much better equipped to complete that goal after his stellar season in the Northwoods League.

“It’s definitely a faster pace and I’m seeing better pitching, this is pitching that I’m going to see in college.” Said Marinconz about his competition he’s faced while in Eau Claire. “Most of these guys are super good and its just really helping me prepare to play at the next level.”

Marinconz will be moving back to his home state of California after his summer in Eau Claire, but it doesn’t mean his time with the Express is over. When high school players sign with a Northwoods League they are required to play for two years, unless they get injured. Marinconz will be able to don his white Express jersey for one more season under the lights at Carson Park.

“I’m absolutely excited,” said Marinconz. I love this, I love this area, I love the people here, I love the fans, I love the coach, I love the players. A great opportunity, I’m blessed to have it.”