KAUKAUNA - When it comes to winning the Fox Valley Association baseball crown in recent years no team has done it better than Kimberly.
The Papermakers enter this spring having won four of the last five titles, including last year.
Tuesday, Kimberly opened its season against Kaukauna and showed why the Papermakers once again will be a major factor. With Scott Schreiber wheeling and dealing on the mound and the offense putting pressure on the Ghosts, Kimberly claimed a 6-2 win.
"It's great (to be outside)," Kimberly coach Ryan McGinnis said. "Guys get their timing down, get to see fly balls, deal with the sun and stuff like that."
"It was a lot of fun to get out with the guys, play some baseball," Schreiber said. "Kaukauna always comes out and plays good against us."
This spring teams have spent more time indoors practicing than they wish because of the inclement weather, but Kimberly didn't look affected. However, Kaukauna wasn't sharp, committing three errors and allowing multiple runners to score on wild pitches.
Kimberly opened a 6-0 lead after five innings, but if it executed better with runners in scoring position the Papermakers could've put away the Ghosts sooner.
"We didn't take advantage of a lot of opportunities," McGinnis said. "We left a lot of guys in scoring position. That's a good thing, we still got six runs. I like that we scored in four different innings."
Schreiber performed like he will be among the best pitchers in the FVA. He opened the game with four straight strikeouts, as his fastball was overpowering, and he allowed two hits over five innings before being relieved.
"That's exactly what we hope we get," McGinnis said. "We need to build up his endurance. He's a strike thrower and keeps the ball low. He has an outstanding change-up and a good breaking ball. He's a top-level guy."
Because weather has shortened the spring season, pitching depth will be paramount in the FVA, which has an 18-game schedule. McGinnis likes Schreiber, but knows he better have more than one pitcher or maybe Kimberly won't defend its conference title.
"A lot of that stuff people don't recognize," McGinnis said. "You need a lot of guys to throw strikes and for your defense to make plays. You also have to be able to score some runs; sometimes it'll be a slug-it-out type game."
Most believe Kimberly will be there at the end and its record convinces you of that. It is 78-11 in the FVA in the previous five seasons.
There should be plenty of competition near the top and the last five FVA champs (Kimberly and Appleton North) have forged 16-2 records. In other words, hiccups can't happen if a team has designs on winning.
"I expect all the teams to be good," Schreiber said. "Appleton North, Appleton West, lots of good teams out there. We have to come out and play hard every day."
While Kimberly has ruled the FVA, it has not been to the state tournament the last two seasons as Appleton North has been the entrant in that sectional. Being a senior, Schreiber doesn't want to miss out on another state trip.
"That's always the goal," Schreiber said. "We have to get better every day. We have to battle and we hope it comes out good."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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