Prescott, Ellsworth head to state in different rolesThe favorite/underdog roles are perfectly situated for the Ellsworth and Prescott baseball teams in the 65th WIAA State Spring Baseball Tournament. Prescott opens Division 3 state semifinal play tomorrow afternoon around 3 p.m. and Ellsworth will play Racine St. Catherine's in the final semifinal of the day in Division 2 around 8 p.m. weather permitting.
The favorite/underdog roles are perfectly situated for the Ellsworth and Prescott baseball teams in the 65th WIAA State Spring Baseball Tournament.
Prescott opens Division 3 state semifinal play tomorrow afternoon around 3 p.m. and Ellsworth will play Racine St. Catherine's in the final semifinal of the day in Division 2 around 8 p.m. weather permitting.
As the No. 1 ranked team in the polls and the one with the best record, Prescott will be seen as the favorite to win the Division 3 title.
As the team facing the state’s No. 1 ranked team in Division 2, Ellsworth will be seen as the underdog against Racine St. Catherine’s.
But what makes Prescott’s semifinal opponent, Oshkosh Lourdes/Oshkosh Valley Christian, much more than just a speedbump on the way to the state title is momentum. The Knights were just 10-9 overall after the regular season. They were a No. 3 seed in their regional.
Yet, like all good tournament teams, Lourdes/OVC got hot at the right time and pulled off some upsets along the way to make its first state tournament.
Lourdes/OVC upended the No. 2 seed in their regional, Green Lake/Princeton 4-2 in the semifinals then topped the No. 5 seed, Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs 5-0 in the finals. They took advantage of the fact the bulk of the top teams in Division 3 were in the western part of the state and thus were able to get past Reedsville 8-1 in the sectional semifinals then upset the only ranked team in the Horicon Sectional, No. 3 Deerfield, by 7-4 score in the finals.
The Knights, 15-9 overall, have a balanced pitching staff with fewest innings pitched among their five starters being 19. Lourdes/OVC had two pitches with ERA’s below 2.00 led by Chris Hetzel, who has a 4-4 record with a 1.92 ERA and 55 strikeouts while senior Robbie Kleman has a 1.05 ERA with 41Ks and a 4-0 record. Kleman is also his team’s best hitter with a .471 batting average with team high’s in hits (30), RBIs (33), doubles (7) and home runs (3). Junior outfielder Jack Danielson is next with a .351 average. Hetzel has 25 RBIs.
The winner of this state semifinal game will face either No. 10 ranked Menasha St. Mary’s or Orfordville Parkview. The Olympian Conference champ Zephyrs, 19-4 overall, are the only other ranked team in the field and are making their first state appearance since 2003. They are led by senior left hander John Quigley in pitching with a 1.59 ERA, 9-2 record, 76 strikeouts and in hitting with a .465 batting average, 33 hits, nine doubles and 25 RBIs. St. Mary’s has good balance in their line-up with at least eight players batting over .300 and the Zeph’s have a talented No.2 pitcher in sophomore right-hander Richard Vanden Branden who has gone 49 innings with a 1.42 ERA and 58 Ks.
Parkview, much like Prescott, plays in a league, (the Rock Valley Conference) which features mostly Division 2 schools. The Vikings, 21-7 overall, finished third in that league but still won over 20 games and enter the tournament on a seven-game winning streak. They also downed No. 4 Fennimore to advance in the Riverdale Sectional and beat traditional power Arcadia 4-1 in the finals for their first trip to state. Like St. Mary’s, the Vikes’ have good hitting balance with six players batting over .300, four players with over 20 hits and four over 10 RBIs. Junior dominated Parkview is led by Charlie Thole and Trevor Aasen in batting, both hitting over .410 with 25 hits and 18 RBIs apiece. Aasen and fellow right-handed junior Jameson Lavery are their top two pitchers. Lavery has a 1.33 ERA with 79 strikeouts.
Racine St. Catherine’s is 25-1 overall, their lone loss coming in the second game of a doubleheader to Milwaukee Heritage Christian. Besides their record, the Angels are also No. 1 because they beat both the No. 2 ranked team in Division 2, University School of Milwaukee, and the No. 3 squad, Waupun, in the Whitewater Sectional to reach their first state tournament.
St. Catherine’s is a largely junior/sophomore squad. The Angels’ top pitcher is, 6-4, 195 pound sophomore right hander Drew Heffel. He has a 1.04 ERA, a 6-0 record and 69 strikeouts. Junior right-hander Eric Eitel has thrown 51 innings with 1 .92 ERA, 6-1 record and 44 strikeouts. St. Kate’s has a strong batting line-up with three players hitting over .400 and another five hitting .300 or better. Their top hitters are junior lefty Eric Weisbrod, 35 hits, 34 RBIs, five doubles, five triples and three home runs; junior shortstop Shey Smith, 28 hits, 29 RBIs, nine doubles and five triples along with junior catcher A.J. Kaprelian, 29 hits, 17 RBIs and five doubles. Junior second baseman Nathan Simmons leads the team in runs with 29.
Ellsworth is the only unranked team in the Division 2 tourney field as the winner of their semifinal game gets either No. 8 Fox Valley Lutheran or No. 10 Portage.
FVL, 21-4, overall, definitely has the home field advantage as they are located just a few minutes away from Fox Cities Stadium smack dab in Appleton. The Eastern Valley Conference champion Foxes are making their third trip to state in the last five seasons although they have not gotten out of the semifinal round. Senior right-hander Ryan Raube is their top pitcher with a 1.29 ERA, 118 strikeouts and a 9-1 record. Raube also has 35 hits but he’s just one of five players in the FVL line-up with 30 or more hits with three more with over 20 hits. The Foxes also have six players with 20 RBIs and have the most home runs of the tournament with 16.
The 10th ranked Warriors know how to get the job done in extra innings as they, a No. 2 seed in their regional, beat No. 1 seeded Wisconsin Dells 11-7 in eight innings in the regional finals and topped No. 9 Lodi 7-6 in nine innings to win their own sectional. Portage, 20-6 overall, is on a seven-game winning streak and another intangible in their favor is the fact they are unbeaten in state play. Their last and only trip to state in 2006 resulted in the D-2 state championship.
Portage uses a lot of pitchers, with nine on their roster throwing at least two innings. The best is senior right-hander Matt Bortz who has a 2.29 ERA, a 6-2 record and 69 strikeouts. Fellow senior Adam Bortz has one of the lowest ERA in the tournament at 0.05 in 28 innings. He’s struck out 41 batters. Senior Brady Green and Mike Jordahl are their top two hitters. Greene has a .400 batting average which includes 30 hits, 26 RBIs, four doubles, four triples and three home runs while Jordahl has 13 doubles and five triples as part of 32 hits, a .385 average and 32 RBIs.