Prep Athlete of the Week: Priegnitz makes immediate impact for Panthers

Coming into the season, the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton baseball team was hoping that it had found its catcher in freshman Beau Priegnitz.

What it found covered needs both on the mound and behind the plate.

Priegnitz ended the season with a perfect 5-0 record on the mound for the Panthers, who finished the season 10-5 after falling to Southwest United in a Section 3A play-in game on Thursday.

“It’s definitely been a pleasant surprise,” TMB head coach Bill Tauer said. “We knew that he had the knowledge. His family is a baseball family and he’s played a lot of ball growing up.

“He played B-squad for us last year, and we knew he had a lot of knowledge and athletic ability. We just didn’t know how well he would adapt to the varsity level.”

Priegnitz came into the season ready to do what he could to help the Panthers.

“I was trying to contribute my best to the team, doing whatever the coach asked me to, to help the team as much as I can,” Priegnitz said. “It was the first year of varsity baseball, so I was looking to get the best out of it.”

Tauer expected Priegnitz to contribute, just more behind the plate than from the mound.

“At first he was strictly going to be our catcher and he would pitch a little bit,” Tauer said. “But the more he pitched, the better he looked and the better he did. He kept getting better and better.”

Entering playoffs, Priegnitz had struck out 51 batters while compiling a 1.40 ERA.

And he loved the challenge.

“It was fun. I’ve pitched before in junior high and stuff, but it was good to try pitching at a higher level,” Priegnitz said. “I pitch pretty aggressive, mainly focus on trying to get strikes first and not get deep in the count.

“I try to throw strikes early because sometimes my control can get me in trouble. I’m mainly trying to give our team a chance to make plays behind me.”

Tauer added, “He has a few pitches he can throw. He’s a competitor on the mound. All those things you look for in a pitcher, especially at a young age, is always nice, He’s done really well. I know he had a two-hitter the other day, he’s thrown a one-hitter. He’s done really well for us at the varsity level.”

With young players, the concern is always keeping their arms fresh. Pitching and catching makes that a little more difficult.

“The arm can potentially get a little tired at times. We’ve tried to make sure he takes care of it,” Tauer said. “It’s probably been a week between his pitching performances. He doesn’t pitch two or three days a week. We try to be careful with him and not overuse him.”

Priegnitz also knows how important it is to keep his arm strong.

“My dad helps me a lot with icing and taking care of it,” Priegnitz said. “We have a trainer, Donald Strand, who has helped me a lot with lifts and stretches that help keep my arm in shape.”

At the plate, the transition wasn’t as instantaneous, but Priegnitz has picked it up near the end of the season.

“His batting average really has increased in the last few weeks. He has come around at the plate,” Tauer said. “He still shows a little youth at times at the plate, but he’s definitely swinging a nice bat for us as well.”

Going into the postseason, Priegnitz carried a .300 batting average, collecting 12 hits in 40 at-bats. He was also quick enough on the bases to steal seven times.

“It was pretty rattling at first. It took me a little while to calm down,” Priegnitz said. “But teammates have really helped me push through and calm me down. Coach has given me the chance to go out there and show what I can do. It’s been fun.”