The Rockford Rivets will welcome back nine players to the 2018 roster who have previously played with the Rivets in past seasons.
Rivets’ manager Brian Smith looks forward to getting some of the familiar faces back in Rockford to build off of their appearance in the Northwoods League Playoffs last season.
“I am very excited to have a large group of returning players this summer,” Smith said. “These guys know how I like things done and they’ll be able guide the direction of this team from the start. We have some loud personalities coming back and it’ll be exciting to see them mesh with a new group of screws.”
The nine players are listed below:
Pat Loeffler, INF, Indiana University
Cal Aldridge, INF, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Cory Wright, INF/OF, Mercer University
Jacob Vander Wal, OF, Central Arizona College
Evan Snyder, RHP, Parkland College
Chase Kueter, RHP, University of Dubuque
Matt Vanek, RHP, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Cole Bellair, RHP, Illinois Wesleyan University
Jeremy Orbik, RHP, Stetson University
Loeffler, a Vernon Hills, Ill. native, is a sophomore infielder at Indiana University and returning to the Rivets after being a member of the 2017 club. Loeffler batted .240 (29-121) in 36 games for the Rivets with a .369 on-base percentage, four home runs and 20 RBIs.
Smith on Loeffler – “We are very happy to have Pat back in the clubhouse this summer. He was one of the first players I aimed toward bringing back this year because of his ability to bring everyone together,” Smith said. “After only having a few at bats in the spring of 2017, Pat came up and had a knack for getting on base. He works as hard as anyone and I expect him to make an impact to our lineup as soon as he gets into town.”
A Crystal Lake, Ill. native, Aldridge returns for his second season on the Rivets. Last year Aldridge played in 10 games batting .417 and 4 RBI’s. Aldridge plays his college ball at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he made the American Baseball Coaches Association second team All-Midwest Region, first team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll.
Smith on Aldridge – “Cal plays at one of the, if not the best Division III school in the country and those Wisconsin Whitewater kids come to this league with an extra chip on their shoulder. He is having a great spring and I expect him to come in and hit right away,” Smith said. “The kid just loves to play and it is really fun to watch. If he can bring his intensity every day, he’s going to lengthen our line up quite a bit.”
Wright, a native of South Elgin, Ill., is a junior at Mercer where he plays in the infield. Prior to Mercer, Wright played for Parkland Community College in 2017 after starting his collegiate career at Kansas State. Wright played for the Rivets back in 2016 as a pitcher where he went 5-3 with an ERA of 3.64. He struck out 24 batters on the year and knocked in 11 RBI’s in 33 games as a hitter.
Smith on Wright – “Cory and I have a great relationship and we’ll be able to put him in the best situation for his individual game, which in time will help us win ball games,” Smith said. “Defensively, he’s a game changer, he plays 1st base like a shortstop. He’s smooth, can make every throw and knows what to do with the ball before he gets it. He takes a lot of pride in his defense and having him back will save us quite a bit of runs.”
Jacob Vander Wal
Vander Wal is an outfielder joining the Rivets for a second stint for the 2018 season. In 2016, the Grand Rapids, Mich. native appeared in 30 games batting .204 with a home run and 11 RBI’s. He also had 12 stolen bases. Vander Wal previously played at Ohio State University but now plays his college ball at Central Arizona College where hit .323 with 2 home runs and 44 RBI’s.
Smith on Vander Wal – “Jake plays the game hard, sometimes a little too hard, but it’s never a bad thing to have a guy on the team who only has an ‘On switch’,” Smith said. “He takes charge in the outfield and when we need a big stolen base, Jake is the guy to go out and get it for us. I’m excited to see how he’s grown at the plate. He was still raw in 2016 and had a lot of maturing to do offensively.”
Snyder is a right-handed pitcher who started four games last year pitching 19.1 innings while striking out 23, eight of those came against Fond du Lac in a 7-3 win. The Ottawa, Ill. native plays college at Parkland College. He has a 2.57 ERA with 17 strike outs in just 7 innings pitched.
Smith on Snyder – “My favorite quality of Evan is how he competes. Every time I hand him the ball, he feels like he’s the best pitcher on the planet and he’ll attack you until he can’t physically do it anymore,” Smith said. “One of the hardest things to do to teach a kid to trust his stuff and compete in the zone on a good day or a bad day. Evan lights a fire under himself and his teammates on days he pitches and its going to be fun having him back in the black and gold.”
Kueter, a Bellevue, Iowa native, is a right-hand pitcher pitched a quality start in the playoffs for the Rivets throwing 66 pitches in 7 innings of our playoff loss last summer. For the University of Dubuque, Chase earned 2017 First Team All-Iowa Conference and Academic All-Iowa Conference.
Smith on Kueter – “We loved having Chase on the club last summer. He changes speeds as well as anyone we have had in two years. He really takes pride in the art of pitching. We’re excited to see him back on the bump against some of the top hitters in the all of college baseball.”
Vanek is a right-handed pitcher who went 1-0 for the Rivets last season, finishing with a 3.06 ERA and striking out 20. in six appearances with two starts. He struck out 7 in a 2-0 win against the Wisconsin Woodchucks last year. From Plainfield, Ill., Vanek attends Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he posted a 1.12 ERA in 8 games in 2017.
Smith on Vanek – “Last summer he proved to all of us that he deserved to be on the team from day one. He may not be the biggest guy on the team but he has as much confidence as anyone when he is given the ball,” Smith said. “We are really hoping for Matty to come in and really compete for a job in our starting rotation.”
Bellair, a right-handed pitcher from Lockport, Ill. returns to Rockford after his 2017 season that resulted in him being the only Rivet to make the All-Star team. Currently playing at Tennessee Wesleyan University, he has appeared in 11 games, starting eight games with a 6-1 record, one save and a 2.84 ERA. As a freshman at the University of Illinois, he was selected to the Big Ten All Freshmen Team.
Smith on Bellair – “You don’t find characters like Cole in every clubhouse; he brings a unique style of leadership to clubhouse and it is something he takes a lot of pride in,” Smith said. “We are all here to become better at our craft and Cole will hold everyone accountable. I expect Cole to come in and be the leader of our starting rotation and the younger players will have some experienced guys to go to for help with Cole being at the top of that list.”
Orbik is a right-handed pitcher from Homewood, Ill. currently playing for Stetson University. Last season for the Rivets, Orbik appeared in seven games as a relief pitcher totaling 14 innings and compiling a 2.57 ERA. This year for Stetson, he has seen limited action in his first season with the Hatters after transferring from Kentucky.
Smith on Orbik – “Jeremy has a lot of upside, he had video game junior college numbers,” Smith said. “He hasn’t thrown very much this spring but I expect him to come in and be an anchor to the back end of our bullpen.”