By Garth Shanklin
The Batavia Bulldogs’ season could best be described as a knuckleball with no spin. Knuckleballs by definition are unpredictable, and it’s hard to tell what will happen once the ball is released.
That kind of unpredictability is similar to that of the Batavia boys’ soccer team.
The team played well at times and other times looked out-matched, while simultaneously waiting for injuries to heal. Batavia head coach Kevin Scheel said the team’s season was akin to a roller coaster ride.
“It was kind of an up-and-down season,” Scheel said. “We had some early injuries which threw some curve balls at us. It took a little longer to figure out what our identity was, but when it was all said and done we sorted it out as high school typically goes. We were able to figure it out and finish the season on a decent note.”
“We would’ve liked to do better in a number of games, but we finished with a win against Norwood, who had previously beaten us in a shootout, we beat McNick for the first time in a few years, and we won our first tournament game,” Scheel said. “Overall, there’s a lot of good from the season. I’m pleased with the progress, and I’m looking forward to next season to see where we go from here.”
The Bulldogs’ victory over Reading in the sectional tournament opener was very close. Batavia grabbed an early lead, and Scheel said he was content to ride that 1-0 margin into the next round of the tournament.
“It was a close game,” Scheel said. “We scored about 20 minutes into the game, so it was relatively early in the first half. From that point, we kept the pressure on them the majority of the time. We gave up a few too many fouls in the defensive half that gave them chances. Overall I was pleased with the way we played the game. I could’ve pushed the tempo more offensively, but I chose to play a little bit defensive minded. I think we would’ve been able to get another goal or two if needed, but we were playing it safe.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the team that awaited them next on the schedule was New Richmond. The Tigers defeated Batavia 5-0, ending the season for eight Bulldog seniors, including Austin King.
“King was a player that I could not have asked for anything more out of,” Scheel said. “I’ve been waiting for this breakout year from him for at least a year, if not two. He’s had that potential, we found his correct role as an outside wing and he had the perfect blend of when to go for the assist or when to go for the goal. He did a phenomenal job.”
Another Batavia senior Garrett Krause, served as captain for the Bulldogs and helped provide consistent play wherever he was slotted
“Garrett Krause, a three-year captain and four-year varsity player,” Scheel said. “He’s always been the big boy. He’s always had the talent and size to play in the field, but he matured throughout those four years and has really been the steady constant that we had.”
Two other non-seniors missed significant time for the team this year. Corbin Richardson did not play after missing time with a knee injury. Another captain, Braxton Burke, will return and provide a boost to the team.
“We had a number of constant senior players,” Scheel said. “I call Jacob Knelte ‘the epitome of a Bulldog’ because he’s just a hard-nosed, driven player who’s always in the thick of things. You can never ask enough of him, he’ll give you everything he’s got.”
Because of the losses, Scheel knows next year’s team will have key roles to fill on both sides of the ball. Regardless, he’s excited for the 2017 campaign to begin.
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill, literally,” Scheel said. “Krause wears a size 16. We’ll see how next year goes. I like the makeup of the team. We have a number of very talented players, but it’s definitely going to be a dynamic shift for us.”