SPRING VALLEY, WI - Repeating a title is never easy, so getting a three-peat is quite a feat. The Spring Valley baseball team will be going for their fourth straight title as Dunn-St. Croix Small Division Conference champions.

“Our expectations are to play hard and up to our capabilities for seven innings each game,” said Head Coach Brad Baker, now entering his fifth year at the helm of the Cardinals. “ If we do that we should be right in the thick of things for winning another conference title.”

The Cardinals lost three players to graduation, but three key players, including the left side of the infield in third baseman Austen Mason and shortstop Jed Schlegel, as well as outfielder Logan Newton.

“That’s a lot of experience that we lost on that side of the infield,” said Baker. “Not sure how we replace them other than some younger guys will be given the chance to prove themselves.”

But he does feel good about the players he has coming back too.

Some of those returning players include first team All-Conference selection Sean Borgerding and honorable mention pick Brock Bune.

Borgerding led the conference with a .481 batting average and a league leading 26 hits. He had an on-base percentage of .569 and a slugging percentage of .667, all conference leading statistics. He also was 4-3 as a right-handed pitcher with a 2.37 earned run average in 10 appearances on the mound. He was tied for second in the conference with 31 strikeouts over 41 innings of work. When Borgerding wasn’t pitching last year he played either first base or left field, depending on who was pitching, but he may be pressed into playing some other positions this season.

Bune, a right-hander, was second in the conference in wins with a 6-1 record over nine games on the mound, with 29 strikeouts over 44 innings of work. Bune also hit .288 (fourth on the team) and was usually in left field when not on the mound. He also may see time in the infield this year when not pitching.

Patrick Cipriano, a lefty, was 1-2 as a starter with a 3.97 ERA with 14 strikeouts over nearly 25 innings of work. Cipriano also led the team in pickoffs. Cipriano held down duties at first base when not pitching.

Those three players will lead the team on the mound and each throws in different ways to complement each other.

The Cardinals also return centerfielder Sam Verges (.278 batting average and .969 fielding percentage), catcher Seth Schlegel (.250 batting average, seven runners caught stealing, 93 innings caught), Brett Fogarty (.293 batting average), all seniors as well.

“Most of these guys have a couple years of varsity experience that will help carry the team forward,” Baker said. “We have good senior leadership this year and that is something we have tried to stress as much as possible, and they have done a good job of doing that.”

New this year for baseball are pitch count limits set by the WIAA that will limit how long coaches can use pitchers.

“Right now we don’t know exactly how we are going to use our pitchers,” Baker said. “With three seniors we feel pretty good about them throwing strikes and keeping us in ballgames. With the pitch count rule we will probably get more underclassmen an inning or 2 at the end of games rather than have our starters throw the whole game.”

Some of those underclassmen include Tanner Bowell, Alex Johnson, and Craigen Anderson, according to Baker.

After one week of practice, nothing is set in stone for the Cardinal lineup yet, but Baker feels good about filling some of these slots. Cipriano at first base with Fogarty at second, with Verges, Borgerding and Brock and Dylan Bune in the outfield positions while Schlegel will hold down catching duties. Senior Levi Sands will take over the hot corner at third base. Shortstop is still up for grabs according to Baker, but there are some possibilities that he isn’t mentioning.

“Some younger guys are going to need to step up,” Baker said. There are 23 players on the roster so there are possibilities.

Baker feels the Cardinals have just as much a shot as anyone else, but hard work will tell.

“Pepin Alma has always been good and tough to beat since I’ve been here and Plum City has quite a few seniors with experience so I expect them to be pretty good also,” Baker said. “We aren’t sure what to expect from Glenwood City or Elmwood.”

Late breaking news revealed that Elmwood doesn’t have enough players to field a team and will have to forfeit their games this season.

Can the Cardinals make a run in the post-season similar to two years ago, possibly, but things have to align the right way for Valley to get there.

“We need to play better at tournament time and try to survive and advance against bigger schools like Eau Claire Regis, Durand, and Elk Mound to name a few,” Baker said, noting that the potential is there.