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Kimberly looking ahead after winning state title in 2017

After winning the state title last season, Kimberly is focused on 2018.

KIMBERLY (WLUK) -- The Kimberly baseball program is at a point where no matter what players graduated the year before the expectations remain high.

That might be even more true this spring as the Papermakers are coming off winning the Division 1 state title.

So far this season Kimberly is 2-0 and players believe this team can do something special this season.

"I think we got a real good group of guys,"said junior John Net, who pitched a complete game in a state semifinal last spring. "We work really hard and we got a lot of talent this year, so I think we'll have a really good team."

Nothing else would be expected and last year's state tournament run should give Kimberly confidence it can make a serious run this season.

Last year in a sectional final, ace/shortstop Danny Vanden Boom broke his foot, ending his season. That changed the rotation and took one of the team's best bats out of lineup.

Nonetheless, Kimberly overcame Vanden Boom's loss.

"We want to be right there, because that means we're doing well," Nett said. "We're always ready. We don't consider it pressure, we consider it an opportunity and will always be ready."

Ryan McGinnis has dealt with expectations in his decade-plus of coaching so he knows the vibe around the program, and he knows how to deal with it.

"What we as coaches try to do with them is have conversations about the controllables, the process and enjoying that process and letting the expectations of the outside world stay outside and create and foster the expectations we have of ourselves and those expectations are about what are we going to do about today?" he said.

Kimberly has managed to be one of the state's top programs -- it has reached the state tournament eight times since 2007 -- because it knows how to look forward. Coming off a state title returning players could look back at last year and think that success will be a stepping stone for this season.

It's not. The Papermakers are looking forward and starting over like every other team in the state.

"What we're trying to do this year is say that was last year, there's a lot of new faces and the guys who have played have grown and have gotten better and the guys who are coming in melting into the larger pot are finding their niche so over time we'll see how special this group is," McGinnis said.

Knowing the Papermakers, don't expect them to miss a beat.

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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