After a year for the record books, Wisconsin Rapids visits Madison for the first game of 2018.
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – The 2018 season is finally here as the Rafters look to earn a postseason berth for the third year in a row and win their second Northwoods League title in three years. The Rafters were upset by the Battle Creek Bombers at home in the 2017 Northwoods League Playoffs just a game away from their second Summer Collegiate World Series in as many years.
After finishing with 52 wins last season, the most in team and Northwoods League history, Wisconsin Rapids welcomes back Mason McReaken (SIU-Edwardsville) and Mitch Mallek (St. Cloud State) from the 2017 squad. Gareth Stroh (Purdue) is expected to join the Rafters in 2018 as well. Stroh was a pivotal piece to the pitching staff on the 2016 Northwoods League Championship squad.
A reliable bullpen arm for the Rafters last year, McReaken returns for his second season with Wisconsin Rapids. He went 4-1 with a 1.61 ERA and a save last season while striking out 49. Mallek played nine games in a Rafters uniform last year, collected eight hits and scored seven runs. Mallek had a memorable walk-off two-run home run in just the second game of the 2017 season in a 4-2 victory over Kenosha. Gareth Stroh played an important role on 2016’s pitching staff leading the team in innings pitched (60) and strikeouts (55).
There will be some new faces in the Rafters’ coaching staff in 2018. Still leading the way is 2017 Northwoods League Field Manager of the Year Craig Noto, who helped the team tie or break 35 team and league records in 2017. Now in his fourth year at the helm, Noto brings in two new assistant coaches for the 2018 season. Joe Haumacher begins his first year as the pitching coach. Finally, Brink Ambler rounds out the staff and will serve as assistant coach and first base coach.
Starting today for the Rafters is right-handed pitcher Charlie Ruegger from Stevens Institute of Technology. Ruegger pitched to an 8-3 record with a 2.58 ERA this spring as a junior. The Mallards will send sophomore Dalton Morrow from Southwest Baptist. Morrow also posted an 8-3 record but had an ERA of 3.47 this spring.
First pitch is slated for 6:05 pm at Warner Park.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Entering its 25th anniversary season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 190 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (TOR). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.wisconsinrapidsrafters.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rafters as your favorite team.