WBCA PRESEASON POLL
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011 -- 8:47 am
Posted by Larry Hoeser, Sports Director
The Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association spring preseason baseball polls have expanded this year to 20 teams.
1. Bay Port – The Pirates are the two-time defending WIAA Division 1 state champions. Last year’s team was young and rolled through the postseason to earn the crown again in Appleton. Having co-Coach of the Year Mike Simeons in the dugout might have helped a little, too.
2. Eau Claire North – The Huskies were 19-3 last year and return five starters, including three that were first-team All-Big Rivers Conference picks.
3. Sun Prairie – The Cardinals lost some pitching last year from their 20-win team, but if coach Rob Hamilton’s staff develops pitching (like it usually does), they will be a force in the Big Eight and beyond.
4. Wilmot Union – The Panthers return 10 players with varsity experience from a team that won 19 games last season. They are once again the picks by the coaches of the Southern Lakes to win the conference.
5. Kenosha Bradford – The Red Devils return nine players with varsity experience from last year’s squad that won 20 games and reached sectionals. Offense will not be a problem as the team works some untested arms into the rotation on the mound.
6. Wausau West – The Warriors return their entire infielder and their six top pitchers along with all-conference pitcher and outfielder Brett Ziegel and shortstop Tanner Blaschka can provide a spark at the plate, as well.
7. Kimberly – Kimberly made the WIAA Division 1 state tournament after earning yet another Fox Valley Association title under coach Ryan McGinnis. The Papermakers were hit hard by graduation, but are still the picks of the FVA coaches to be at the front of the pack.
8. La Crosse Logan – Coach Terry Curtis’ club struggled last year, finishing below .500. That shouldn’t be the case this year, as all of the Rangers who saw significant playing time return to the lineup.
9. Chippewa Falls – Pitcher Justin Jaquish is going to be hard to beat. The Cardinals, in addition to Jaquish, returns almost their entire pitching staff and starting lineup from last season.
10. Kenosha Tremper – Hard-throwing Sam Mahar returns for his senior season to lead of bumper crop of Trojans pitchers. Having nearly everyone back in the lineup from last year should help, as well in the Southeast Conference.
11. Stevens Point – SPASH will get reinforcements this season from a junior varsity team that went 22-1 last season. That should give the Panthers outstanding depth at all positions and on the hill to challenge Wausau West atop the Wisconsin Valley.
12. Appleton North – The top three pitchers from North return from a team that won 20 games and reached the sectional finals last season. That staff was led by Garrett Moody, back for his season season, who went 5-0 and will be joined by righty Grant Yost, who enters his junior season, after going 6-1 last season.
13. Middleton – The Cardinals won 23 games and made it to the sectional finals last season. That was the good news. The bad news for coach Tom Schmitt and company is they will be young and untested this season.
14 New Richmond – The Tigers are one of the smallest Division 1 teams in the state, but their lineup packs a lot of punch and they have some hurlers who can bring it. Look for the Tigers to challenge the bigger schools come tournament time.
15. Rhinelander – The Hodags bring back some solid arms and a majority of their lineup. Those factors have them favored in the Great Northern this season, making the jump from the Wisconsin Valley.
16. La Crosse Central – All-state catcher Mitch Ghelfiis going to be asked to carry a bunch of the offensive load as the Red Raiders got hit hard by graduation.
17. Waunakee – The Warriors are the class of the Badger Conference. They return five starters from a team that went to Appleton last spring and is picked to repeat as Badger-North champs.
18. West De Pere – The Division 2 powers make the jump to Division 1 this year. Coach Joe Rukamp will help get his team ready in the always tough Bay Conference.
19. Beaver Dam – The Golden Beavers were very young last season and finished below .500, but that experience has them the pick of many to rise through the standings and polls this year.
20. Milwaukee Hamilton – Last season ended a run of three straight conference champs for the Wildcats and coach Jeff Hogan, who is just eight wins away from his 300th of his career, all in the City Conference.
1. Madison Edgewood – The Crusaders fell in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals last year after many did not expect them to make much noise in the tournament. With much of the same crew back for coach Rich Newton, Edgewood is poised to be a force again this year.
2. Green Bay Notre Dame – The Tritons are picked to finish second in the Fox River Classic Conference. As the only Division 2 school among 11 Division 1 schools, Notre Dame should emerge battle tested. Having most everyone back from last year, should help, too.
3. University School of Milwaukee – The defending Division 2 state champs compete in one of the toughest conferences in Division 2, the Midwest Classic North, which also includes Division 4 champ Catholic Central. The two should duke it out for the conference crown and make their matchups during the season, great.
4. Spooner – The top-ranked public school in Division 2 brings back every player from last year’s team that went 21-4, reached the sectional finals and was Heart O’North Conference tri-champs.
5. Clinton – The Rock Valley-South defending champs (winning the conference for the first time since 2004) fell early in the postseason last year. Junior Aaron Roth returns to anchor a veteran pitching staff with his 9-1 record from last year and 1.49 ERA.
6. Mauston – The Golden Eagles won the South Central, fell just one game short of the state tournament and won 20 games last spring. With SCC Player of the Year Brady Nelson returning, they are picked to repeat in the conference and have the potential to go deep into the postseason.
7. Ripon – The Tigers return seniors Jordan Jess, Jess Ehrenberg and Michael Polcyn, all of which earned first-team all-conference selections last season.
8. Wrightstown – The Tigers won the Olympian Conference and won 25 games last spring. Senior Brett Nockerts is back and should be a catalyst in their lineup once again.
9. Union Grove – The Broncos is picked fourth in a loaded seven-team league with six Division 1 programs. That should help them cut their teeth for tournament time.
10. Beloit Turner – For just the fourth time since 200 the Trojans did not win at least a share of the Rock Valley-South. They will be senior and junior dominated, but are unproven to start the season. As history shows, however, coach Ryan Bertelsen will get things rolling in the right direction early.
11. Prairie du Chein – The Blackhawks are looking for a five-peat in the Southwestern Conference. They might get it as they will be led by Kevin Aspenson, one of the conference’s most talent players, who hit .369 last season and had 29 RBIs.
12. Appleton Xavier – Xavier made it to sectionals last season and return most of that talent. That makes them a prime candidate to battle Ripon for the top spot in the Eastern Valley.
13. Seymour – Senior Troy Rottier, All-Bay Conference pick last year, returns for this season to lead the Thunder, which should again battle with West De Pere at the top of the conference standings.
14. St. Johns Northwestern – The Lancers return half of their pitching, including lefty D.J. Mlachnik as they try to repeat in the Midwest Classic-North.
15. Jefferson – Patrick Cottrell and Zack Peachey return as possibly one of the best duos in the state. Both his over .460 last season with Peachey driving in 22 runs and Cottrell having 52 hits.
16. Wisconsin Dells – Alexy Yacko can flat-out rake, hitting .514 last season. Junior Billy Percival hit .470 and both are also the Chiefs top pitchers that will surely improve on a 15-12 mark from last season.
17. Mosinee – Mosinee has a strong junior class and is strong overall. They are the incumbent challenger to Rhinelander in the Great Northern and should give the new arrival to the conference a fight.
18. Somerset – Connecticut Jared Dettmann went 6-1 last year with a 1.30 ERA. A senior pitching staff bring back 15 of its 16 wins from last season.
19. Unity – Brad Nelson and Luke Flaherty bring back most of the Eagles pitching wins from last season. Flaherty hit over .500 last season.
20. Sturgeon Bay – The Clippers should find the sailing smoother this year and improve on their 12-11 mark. They have a majority of their inning and at-bats returning with talented sophomores pushing for playing time.
1. Stevens Point Pacelli – Senior lefty Kevin Stroik showed last year he is one of the best players in the state at any level going 7-1 on the mound and boasted a .434 batting average in the Central Wisconsin Conference.
2. Pittsville – A changing of the guard could be taking place in the Marawood-South this year and Pittsville could be the driving force of it all. The Panthers were picked by the coaches to unseat perennial power Marathon with their six returning starters.
3. Pardeeville – The Trailways-South Conference champs return their entire lineup from last year, led by junior righty Nate Schmidt who went 6-1 on the mound with a 3.15 ERA and .516 last year with 39 RBIs.
4. Watertown Luther Prep – The Phoenix fell in the sectional final last year and have half their starters back from that team. The backbone this year will be seniors Brandon Hildenbrandt and Andrew Nemmers, who will likely be 1-2 in the starting rotation as Prep looks for its fifth straight Capitol-North crown.
5. Osseo-Fairchild – Junior Nick Moore and sophomore Sam Walters both hit over .400 last season to earn all-conference honors in the Cloverbelt. They will lead an experience team that won 18 games last year.
6. Boyceville – Junior Ryan Bloom went 10-3 with a 1.12 ERA last season and should be a force again this season. The Bulldogs have experience abound and will look to seize the Dunn-St. Croix-Large.
7. Brookfield Academy – The Blue Knights returns three players who made first-team all-conference last season and will battle St. John’s NW for the top spot in the Midwest Classic-North.
8. Racine St. Catherine’s – The Angels have experience abound and star power in sophomore shortstop Shey Smith, who hit .388 last season. They’ll look to jump in the discussion with Burlington Catholic Central and University School in the very tough Midwest Classic-South.
9. Turtle Lake-Clayton – The TeeCees’ only loss came in the regionals last season. They are senior dominated this season and are led by Tyler Kertz.
10. Marathon – Don’t tell coach Steve Warren and all-state pitcher Cody Hanke Pittsville is ready to change the guard in the Marawood-South. The Red Raiders are the Division 3 dynasty and will look to hold on to their throne.
11. Waterloo – Steve Leistico’s Pirates bring back all but one pitching victory from last season and seven position players. Will they be able to compete with conference rival Luther Prep? An early-season test against the Phoenix on April 19 will let us know.
12. Sevastopol – The Pioneers are the pick in the Packerland as last year’s team that went 16-8 returns a number of starters, including the conference’s four of the five returning first-team all-conference picks.
13. Wisconsin Heights – A.J. Donaldson leads an experienced group of Vanguards back this season with his 9-1 record on the mound from last season. Look for Heights and Waterloo to battle for the top spot in the Capitol-South.
14. Bangor – The Cardinals dominated the Scenic Bluffs the last half-decade, but have not won the conference the last two years. This could be the year it returns to Bangor with an experienced group of arms and sticks.
15. Mineral Point – The Pointers were 22-3 last year and are in search of their fourth straight SWAL crown. They’ll have their top pitcher in Nick Smith, who went 6-2 with a 2.22 ERA, back to build around.
16. Peshtigo – Four all-conference players are slated to return as the Bulldogs go for their fifth Marinete and Oconto title in the past six years.
17. Winnebago Lutheran – Senior Ian Zahn went 8-2 on the mound last year and hit .442. The Vikings made their first trip to state last season and will likely battle cross-town rival St. Mary’s Springs for the Wisconsin Flyway Conference.
18. Coleman – The Cougars look to close the gap with Peshtigo as they return their entire lineup and pitching staff from last spring. They finished three games out of the top spot in the conference last year, but expect to make it a tight race this year.
19. St. Mary’s Springs – The Ledgers got hit hard by graduation, but coach Mike St. Mary should have his team ready as many of the coaches still have them picked to battle with Winnebago Lutheran atop the conference standings.
20. Elk Mound – A third consecutive trip to state might be a lot to ask from the Mounders as they try to rebuild their pitching staff. To help things out, they should have an offense that can buy their hurlers some time to develop during the season.
1. Burlington Catholic Central – Hall of Fame coach Tom O’Connell has built a monster in the Hilltoppers. Can another title be waiting in Appleton in June? With Rex Morrow back for his senior year, it is not that far out of a question to think it’s possible.
2. Rosholt – Few teams have had portion of the success over the last handful of years as Catholic Central, but Rosholt is right there with them. With a pitching staff that returns 16 wins from last season and experience at the plate a third straight CWC-10 crown is surely on the list for the Hornets.
3. Southwestern – The Wildcats made their first state tournament trip in school history last season and with 10 players, including five starters back from that team, including junior Keaton Kephart, who went 8-1 with a 1.85 ERA last season, making a run is in their sights.
4. Greenwood – Easily the youngest team in the top five, the Indians made the sectional finals last year without a senior on their roster. They should have everyone back this year and still be mostly underclassmen.
5. Chippewa Falls McDonell – The Macks will have many new faces on the field this season, but with the success of their junior varsity and youth teams, should find success.
6. Johnson Creek – Head coach George Sabol got his 400th career victory last season and enters the Hall of Fame this season. His treat for all those accolades? His entire lineup back from last year as the Blue Jays look to be a force this season.
7. Lake Country Lutheran – The Lightning have a solid 1-2 punch that strikes fear in opposing pitchers. Senior Jacob Berra hit .471 last year and had 15 stolen bases while junior Brady Andersen hit .417 with 22 RBIs.
8. Green Lake – The Lakers have solid hitting returning to their lineup, but pitching is what keeps teams at bay. With senior righty Curtis Morgan, 11-1 with a 2.18 ERA last season, back things should go quite well for Green Lake.
9. Barneveld – The Golden Eagles will turn to seniors Cody Carmody and Brad Zander to lead this team that will see a few new faces emerge. That should not be as big of a problem for this team, as many got some valuable playing time last season, as well.
10. Bruce – The drive for the eighth straight Lakeland Conference title will not be an easy one for coach Larry Villard and company. There are untested players that need to step up, but the Red Raiders still have leadership to lead the way.
11. Royall – Coach Joe Vitcenda has 507 wins in his 43-year career and to add to that total this year, he’ll need to straighten out a pitching staff that and build on around a couple solid bats in the lineup.
12. Cassville – The reigning Six Rivers-West champs will have to put the pieces together for a chance to repeat with inexperience all over the field.
13. Monticello – Seniors Trae Seffrood and Tyler Ritschard give the Ponies a formidable offense that they will need to have step up if they want to compete with reigning champ Barneveld.
14. Northwood – If there were a team that could beat Turtle Lake-Clayton during the regular season and possibly sneak the conference crown from them, the Evergreens are it. They return first-team all-conference picks from last year.
15. Ithaca – The pieces are in place for the Bulldogs to get back a conference title for the first time this millennium with three senior first-team all-conference picks back. Now they just have to find a way to knock off De Soto.
16. Gibraltar – The reigning Packerland Conference champs are picked to finish fourth in the conference this year amidst the rise of Sevastopol, Sturgeon Bay and Oconto. They’ll need senior Tyler Hanusa and junior Tanner Biwer to step it up on the mound to jump in the mix.
17. Florence – David LaPoint’s team will need to rebuilt pitching to emerge beyond the Northern Lakes Conference this season. They do have solid bats in junior shortstop Bryce Kersher who hit .437, had 16 stolen bases and scored 27 runs while senior Matt Jackson hit .327.
18. Elmwood – The Raiders return their entire pitching staff from last year which should help them challenge for the Dunn-St. Croix-Small title.
19. De Soto – The Pirates have won at least a share of the Ridge and Valley title this millennium one year, in 2005. This year will not be easy as Ithaca was the pick of the coaches in the conference based on their bumper crop of returning players.
20. Drummond – Senior third baseman Brian Best was a first-team all-conference pick and sophomore Ben Best as a second team pick for the Lumberjacks. Ben was one of three freshmen that started last year, along with one sophomore.
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