Preview: Danbury looking for Branden Burke to improve record season
April 13, 2011Danbury High SchoolPreview: Danbury looking for Branden Burke to improve record season
Danbury junior center fielder Branden Burke established school records with 38 hits, 30 runs and six triples last season.
Lakers coach Adam Steinbrick believes there is room for improvement.
In fact, Burke's class as a whole has the potential to continue to develop, meld and grow into a special group the next two years. Burke was first-team all-Toledo Area Athletic Conference last season, and junior Lucas Kennedy, Danbury's top defensive player, was honorable mention.
Junior Cory Schenk will compete for the No. 1 spot in the pitching rotation and classmates
Dalton Chapman and Port Clinton transfer Caleb Helline will have significant roles.
Burke's average was at least .500 for most of the season before he finished at .469 last year. He played for Shelby's American Legion team in the offseason.
"He just had a great year," Steinbrick said. "He works hard. He loves baseball. He's constantly working at his game. He works on his swing with his dad pitching to him. He just has a true love for the game.
"He's only going to get bigger and stronger, and more developed. We have a very good junior class. They're just going to grow and have a better understanding of the game. They're constantly improving mentally."
Danbury won 11 games and finished fifth in the league last season.
"The Lakers return a squad that is relatively young, but with some experience," Steinbrick said. "The Lakers need to build on their experience and mature in a hurry in those areas that are lacking."
Kennedy (catcher, outfield) stole 15 bases last season. Schenk, who also will play shortstop, batted .329 with 22 runs. Burke, Kennedy and Schenk each has earned two letters.
Chapman can help on the mound, in the outfield or in a utility role, Helline is an outfielder and pitcher, and junior John Bunce plays first base. Chapman lettered last season.
"That class keeps getting stronger and stronger," Steinbrick said. "The ones who have been with us the last couple years -- and we picked up a couple -- understand how we want to do things and continue to get a better understanding. They played as freshmen and sophomores, and they know the expectations."
In different circumstances, the Lakers' juniors wouldn't have played as much at the top level as they have but they gained valuable experience and confidence being asked to do a lot and occupy essential roles early in their careers.
"Rather than playing JV, our guys have been playing varsity," Steinbrick said. "We took some lumps, but it will pay off down the road. This year, we just need to continue to improve and next year they'll have a ton of experience."
Steinbrick said the numbers in Danbury's pre-high school baseball programs are solid. The Lakers plan to play a handful of junior varsity games this season.
Burke and Schenk (4-2) will be at the front of the rotation this season.
"We can go in any order with those guys," Steinbrick said. "Both will be relied on and depended on a bunch. Cory did a nice job for us last year. We're excited about having those two guys again next year."
Kennedy, sophomore Zach Kalinoski and freshman Tyler Dray also will pitch. Kalinoski, who lettered last season, also can play on the left side of the infield.
"It's a good group," Steinbrick said. "Very coachable. They'll listen and go out and work. That's all you can ask.
"We have a group of underclassmen who will pitch and get experience. The goal is to work and get better."
Danbury's roster includes seniors Doug Petrella, Hunter Stephens and Ed Strimpfel, and sophomores Branden Bahnsen, David Gast, Dylan Menier and Chance Mackall. Nick MacGilliray and Zak Miller are freshmen.
Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian are the preseason TAAC favorites.