The Three Lakes-Phelps baseball team has set a precedent in recent years that they aim to continue this season.

After an undefeated 2019 campaign and consecutive Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) championships spanning back to 2017, coaches Tyler Lorenz and Brad Bisnette know there is likely a target on the backs of team members this season.

“This is probably the most athletically talented team we’ve had,” Lorenz said. “But we have to want it. And when you haven’t played ball in a year we need to find a way to light a fire under these kids to see them pick up where we left off.”

Bisnette said much the same.

“We’ll definitely have a target on our backs after going undefeated in the NLC in 2019,” he said. “Six of our seniors were starters on that team two years ago as sophomores so everyone knows those guys.”

Crandon and Laona-Wabeno will bring competitive, well-coached teams to the conference field this season again, according to Bisnette.

“They will push us to stay at the top of our game,” he said.

Lorenz said that though there is no denying the experience Three Lakes-Phelps returns this season, it’s been over 20 months since many of them have seen gamelike situations and early on there will be some catch-up.

“Some of what we’ve seen early this season is attributed to not playing a live game for so long,” Lorenz said. “You can’t simulate so much of what happens in a game and it’s shown, especially in our hitting approaches. You need in-game experience to get better and really put what we’ve practiced into place.”

After opening the season with an 8-6 win at home over Elcho, the team dropped both games of a weekend tourney in Bonduel, falling to the hosts 5-3 in the first game before letting the second game get away from them, losing to Rosh­olt 20-5.

“Against Rosholt the wheels came off after we were up 4-3 in the fourth,” Lorenz said. “Everything that could’ve happened did so, in sequence. At that point we had to salvage some pitching for the week and it sort of just went from there.

“We played Bonduel well. We were right there in both games, but that second game, the Earth seemed to be spinning on a reverse axis.”

One thing the Bluejays will lean on this season is their pitching. Bisnette said so far this year that’s proved itself.

“Solid starting pitching has been the storyline for us so far,” Bisnette said. “Mitch Wolosek and Cole Melton have been stellar on the mound followed up with some strong relief innings from freshman Jared Kaufman.

“Those arms have the ability to take us a long way this year. Defensive communication and overall approach at the plate have to continue to improve. There is some rust still getting shook off from missing the season last year when it comes to live game situations.”

The overall baseball IQ of the Bluejays squad is also something both coaches say is high, and will help them in situations that can make or break a game.

“That and our overall team defense is going to be a huge strength,” Bisnette said. “We are several players deep and multiple positions, and have pitchers that can throw strikes. We coaches will have the luxury of options for defensive lineups depending on who is on the mound on any given day.”

Lorenz said that having that high knowledge of the game has let the staff work with the core group of the offense for a while now.

“We’ve been working our tails off with these kids for the last three and four years, and we’re just going to start putting our best team forward,” Lorenz said.

Returning letterwinners for the Three Lakes-Phelps squad this season include seniors Cody Spittlemeister, David Kaufman, Griffin Schroeder, Henry Siedschlag, Jack Breier, Wolosek and juniors Melton and Sawyer Siedschlag. 

Wolosek was first-team all-conference in 2019 while catcher Henry Siedschlag and David Kaufman were second team. Melton received an honorable mention.

The Bluejays played Laona-Wabeno on the road Tuesday, and will play at Marion this Friday.

The team will be back in conference action next Tuesday when they host Florence at Don Burnside Park in Three Lakes at 5 p.m.