Wenzel is his name, baseball his game
The last time that a Little Falls baseball player was the Record’s Player of the Year was in 2013, when Josh Wenzel completed his senior season before heading off to have a successful college career in Mankato.
While the 2019 Record Player of the Year won’t be headed to Mankato, he did play for Little Falls, and his last name is Wenzel.
Flyers junior Travis Wenzel, younger brother of Josh and another former Flyer, Eddie, is the player of the year, and he said those older brothers are a big reason why.
“My two older brothers taught me everything I needed to know since I was four,” Travis said. “They taught me how to hit a ball, how to throw a ball, how to field a ball, and that was awesome to have that leadership.”
That wasn’t all Travis had to say about his older brothers.
“I always looked up to them, watching them play in high school and off to college ball,” Travis said. “I think that’s what made me better, having them as role models in my life.”
Coach Chad Kaddatz, whose first season as the Flyers’ head coach was that 2013 season, sees the similarities.
“I probably said this about his brother Josh years ago, but it certainly applies to Travis also, but when your top kids are also your hardest working kids, it’s very easy to coach,” Kaddatz said. “There is probably nobody that is going to outwork Travis. He doesn’t take plays off, he doesn’t take reps off, and no rep is insignifcant.”
That hard work led to a Little Falls trip to state for the first time since 2016, as a 10-9 Flyers team went undefeated through the Section 8-3A playoffs, including two wins on the mound from Wenzel, both against Bemidji.
“There were obviously a lot of nerves, especially in that first section game in Bemidji, but after I got that first strike it was like, ‘let’s go,’” Wenzel said.
By the time the second go round with the Lumberjacks in the section title game, there wasn’t a doubt who Kaddatz would throw.
“He doesn’t seem to get rattled in big moments,” Kaddatz said. “He pitched twice against Bemidji and both times we knew he wouldn’t get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the game, and the way he plays we knew we had a good chance to win.”
Travis finished the season with a 6-2 record on the mound. He had a 1.62 earned run average and struck out 58 batters in 56/23 innings.
On offense, the Flyers’ No. 3 hitter batted .400 with a .535 on-base percentage and an 1.150 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He scored 21 runs and drove in 18 more, including two home runs. He stole 12 bases.
Apart from the great numbers though, Kaddatz was impressed with other parts of his game.
“He obviously has the talent, but it’s also about his composure and the way he carries himself,” Kaddatz said. “He never gets too high and too low, and I kind of like that.”
“He keeps things in check and is business-like on the mound,” Kaddatz said. “He’s locked in from the first out to the last out.”
Travis gives a lot of credit to his teammates.
“Our defense really did great things, especially when I was on the mound, and that really made it easy,” Travis said.
Travis’ reputation preceeded him before he came up to the varsity level as a sophomore in 2018.
“He’s a kid that we had heard about coming up through travel ball, and having had his brothers Eddie and Josh come through the program, we knew what to expect,” Kaddatz said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he knows that he needs his teammates to be as good as you can be.”
Travis hopes to continue to improve in 2020, which in turn could lead to a college career, much like Josh. Kaddatz’ expectations are similar.
“We definitely expect him to provide the numbers for us, and we’ll obviously need more leadership,” Kaddatz said. “He doesn’t say alot, so when he speaks, kids listen. His name is also one that kids will recognize and respect.”
Sounds like it could be a good campaign slogan: Wenzel 2020: A name you can respect.
MC Record Players of the Year history:
2018: Preston Rocheleau, Pierz
2017: Matt Tautges, Pierz
2016: Lane Girtz, Pierz
2015: Tyler Evans, Upsala-Swanville
2014: Eric Lampert, Upsala-Swanville
2013: Josh Wenzel, Little Falls