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EHS baseball team hopes to go a step further at state

Ellsworth members pose for a team picture at the East End Park Tuesday morning before leaving for Appleton. Photo by Vicky Howe.

The Ellsworth High School baseball team made a playoff run all the way to the Division 2 state finals last season. This spring the Panthers are back hoping to go a step further.

The Panthers finished state runner-ups to Portage in an 8-3 loss at Fox Cities Stadium in 2012. Head Coach Steve Block believes EHS will benefit from previous experience to their ultimate goal. Last spring was Ellsworth's first-ever appearance at state in school history.

"For those players who were at state last season, having that experience is step they don't have to take this year," Block said. "We've gotten those first-time nerves and first-time anxiousness out of us and now our focus is on winning because we're not going there just to say we were there. Our chances of being state champs are as good as anyone's elses."

Ellsworth, 16-3 overall, is ranked No. 6 in the state in D-2 and two other ranked teams are also in the field: No. 2 Lodi, 20-3 overall and No. 7 Waupun, 23-6 overall. Both teams will square off in the other state semifinal which will take place at 8 p.m. The Panthers will take on Green Bay Notre Dame, 13-10 overall.

It would be easy to think that the Tritons lack of a ranking and the fact they have the worst record of the state tournament field would lead EHS to believe they can save their best pitcher, James Georgakas, for the championship game. However, Notre Dame's record is deceptive. The Tritons may have finished ninth in the Fox River Classic Conference with a 6-9 record, but they are the smallest school in that league and the only D-2 school as well. Against competition at their own level they went 7-1. The FRCC champion, Bay Port, is the state's top-ranked team in Division 1 and is also competing in the state tournament.

"The league they play in is very tough and they've seen good pitching," Block, who will be coaching in his eighth state tournament, said. "Obviously it's a tough call but what we have to keep in mind is winning the first game and we'll have tough competitor to play."

ND had two players make second team all-conference and they happened to be the team's top two hitters in infielders, senior Dominic Golubiewski and sophomore Charlie Rotherham. Golubiewski has a .351 batting average and leads the team in RBIs with 21. Rotherham has a .321 average and leads the team in doubles with five. Notre Dame has four players hitting over .300 with at least 30 at bats. Also doing so is senior outfielder Riley Christensen at .339 and who has the most hits and runs on the team with 21 and 18 respectively, and senior infielder Matt Weber at .318.

Golubiewski is also one of the Tritons' pitchers and has a 3-3 record with a 2.12 ERA. Sophomore Davis Elm is ND's top pitcher with a 3-1 record an a 1.77 ERA. Notre Dame can also pitch junior Nick Zacharias who has a 3-4 record with a 3.95 ERA.

ND isn't far removed from its last state appearance, last making it in 2011. They have a veteran team with nine seniors on its roster.

In the other D-2 semifinal, Lodi is making its first trip to state since 1982. The Blue Devils are led by junior Fred Manke's .616 batting average with includes 31 runs, 45 hits, six doubles and three triples. Lodi has six players with over 60 at bats all over .300 in average. Fred and his brother Donnie Manke, a senior, have combined pitching records of 14-0 and both have ERA's under 1.00. Both have combined for 102 strikeouts.

Waupun is making its first trip to state since 2008. Their top two batters, seniors Colin DeBoer and Jordan Daane both have .400 plus batting averages in nearly 90 at bats. Daane alone has hit 13 doubles and three home runs. Nine of their players have at least 15 or more hits, including five with 25 or more hits. Waupun can go four deep in their pitching staff led by DeBoer who has a team-high 1.40 ERA.

Ellsworth will be playing at 6 p.m. Wednesday and the other D-2 semifinal will follow thereafter. The championship game is set for 3 p.m. Thursday.