The St. Croix Central baseball program took a big step forward in 2019.

Ryan Berg wants to make sure the Panther program continues to move in the right direction.

Berg has been an assistant coach for the Panthers the past six seasons. With Panther coach Tom Sauve accepting a principal position in Plum City, the varsity baseball coaching position was vacated. Berg stepped up to take on the position. His hiring was approved at the St. Croix Central Board of Education meeting on July 15.

Berg is a Whitehall native where he played baseball, football, track and basketball. It was in baseball that he saw the most team success. Whitehall played summer baseball, reaching the WIAA state tournament in 1990 and 1992, Berg's sophomore and senior seasons. In his sophomore season, Whitehall reached the state title game. Berg said the team ran out of pitching, with Coach Dave Henrickson handing him the ball to face Holmen in the state championship game. Holmen topped Berg and Whitehall 16-7 for the state title.

Berg played football and baseball at UW-Stout. He has head coaching experience. He was the head football coach, along with being an assistant baseball coach, in his first teaching job in Westfield. He then taught in Minnesota for one year before coming to Central as an elementary teacher.

Berg was a catcher in high school and he was also a catcher for many years in fastpitch softball. He thinks his catching experience helps him in training young catchers.

"I'll give catchers a lot of freedom to call games," Berg said.

Berg said he wasn't sure he was going to continue coaching baseball, because his son, Keagen, graduated in May. Current players asked him to take over the program and he agreed. Berg said he doesn't plan any major changes in the program.

"I like the way we're going. We don't want a big drastic change. We've been playing pretty well," he said.

Berg credited Sauve with getting Central's youth program working at its maximum capacity. He said that's most important in pitching, where most teams in the Middle Border Conference are very deep in pitching.

"If we can get four solid pitchers (every year), that's the key to high school baseball," Berg said.