St. Mary Catholic's Drew Zimmer (left) and Isaac Griffith (right) celebrate after defeating Mineral Point in the Division 3 state semifinals on June 13, 2018 at Fox Cities Stadium.
Opening day of the 2019 WIAA spring baseball season is on March 26. Hundreds of teams will compete for a state championship, but only four will be crowned champions in June. Which teams look like they'll have the best chance at hoisting the gold trophy at the end of the season? Here are our preseason rankings for Division 3.
(In alphabetical order)
Brookfield Academy – The Blue Knights should have a very powerful offense. They went 13-4 last season and have guys like honorable mention All-Wisconsin pick Logan Landers (.558), Daniel Kim (.478), Jason Foss (.471) and Joe Krantz (.364) back as all-conference players.
Coleman – The Cougars went 16-3 a year ago and have plenty of contributors back. First team all-conference outfielder Blake Forner (.322) and second team outfielder Sam Kuchta (.303) are returning, along with a handful of others.
Columbus – Four all-conference players are back for the two-time defending Capitol North Conference champions. That includes first team infielder Trent Casper (.500) and second teamers Kendall Minick (.392), Trace Kirchberg (.250) and Joe Morris.
Cumberland – Some very talented players return from a Beavers team that won 14 games last year. First team all-conference pick Reid Olson (6-2, 2.50 ERA/.397) is a standout two-way player, while Jack Martens (.510) and Riley Bodsberg (.419) both hit over .400.
Fennimore – The Golden Eagles were SWAL champions last season and have a good chunk of the roster returning. Pitcher Maguire Fitzgerald (7-1, 1.67 ERA) was a first team all-conference pick, as were Will Ahnen (5-1/.387) and Trevor Wanek (.346). Should battle Mineral Point for the conference title again this season.
Kenosha St. Joseph – Four starters are back from last year’s state tournament team, but their top three hitters will need to be replaced. Jake Reigel (6-1, 3.66 ERA) should lead the pitching staff.
Mondovi – The Buffaloes were 14-3 last season and have almost their entire team back. That includes first team all-conference picks Jackson Falkner (5-1, 3.00 ERA/.388) and Carter Johnson (.460).
Prescott – Several starters are back from the Cardinals’ 15-win team last year. There will be a strong one-two punch on the mound with Matt Langer (4-0, 0.84 ERA) and Cody Rohl (3-0, 0.87), and second team all-conference outfielder Hunter Daymond (.348) brings one of the team’s top bats back to the lineup.
Regis – Co-champions of the Cloverbelt West last season, the Ramblers bring back what should be a strong pitching staff. Cade Osborn (4-2, 1.17 ERA), Luke Rooney (4-2, 3.34 ERA) and Matthew Klink (2-0, 2.19 ERA) combined for 10 wins last year.
St. Mary’s Springs – Every player is back for the Ledgers, including four players who earned first or second team all-conference recognition. First teamer Cade Christensen (4-1, 1.09 ERA/.400) is among the top players in the Flyway Conference.
Stratford – The entire roster returns for a Tigers team that was 13-6 last season. Pitching should be a strength, as first team all-conference pick Eli Drexler (6-2, 0.90 ERA) will return to lead the staff.
Valders – The Vikings were 11-6 last spring and have most of their roster back this season. That includes honorable mention All-Wisconsin pick Fletcher Dallas (.423, 6 home runs/2-1, 1.17 ERA), a Ripon College recruit.
Peshtigo won 17 games and a share of the Packerland Conference title last season, and is dropping down from Division 2 to Division 3 this season.
The Bulldogs will have back all but one pitcher from their conference champion team, as well as several starters in the field. First team all-conference pitcher Darren Dione (3-1, 1.10 ERA), a Ripon College recruit, should lead the pitching staff again. Nick Nielson (5-1, 2.29 ERA) and Nolan Lemke (1-0) are also back in the mix on the mound.
Six starters are back in the lineup. Infielder Brandon Eick was a first team all-conference pick after hitting .275 last spring, and outfielder Nielson (.375) was a second team selection. Jacob Gordon (.245), Dionne (.220) and Travis Plym (.225) all started in the regional semifinals last season.
The Bulldogs shared the Packerland championship with Sturgeon Bay last year, and face another fight with the Clippers for this year’s title.
The Thunderbirds went to state as recently as two years ago, and have almost everybody back from last season’s 15-win team.
Three first team all-conference selections are back in the lineup. Infielder Connor Kurki (.411) – a Coastal Carolina recruit – outfielder Carter Kurki (.348) and catcher Bryce Huettner (.348) should make for a formidable trio in the batting order. Honorable mention all-conference picks Justin Sivertson (.333) and Marcus Jaworski (.292) are also back, along with Alex Sharp (.250) and Brock Gullixon (.298).
The two Kurkis combined for six wins on the mound, with Carter notching four and Connor two. Carter posted a 1.84 ERA, and Connor’s was at 1.36. Huettner also has pitching experience, meaning the Thunderbirds should be in good hands in the pitching department.
Defending Central Wisconsin East Conference champion Bonduel should still be a tough opponent, but Iola-Scandinavia appears to be the early favorite with the amount of experience it has returning.
The Huskies got hot in the playoffs and reached the sectional finals last summer despite a modest 18-15 final record. However, with a load of experience back, New Holstein will be a team to keep an eye on if it can replicate the magic of its postseason run.
Six starters are back, led by infielder Teddy Schnell (.413) and catcher Cadyn Judkins (.411). Also back are Tyler Petrie (.360), Randy Smith (.304), Owen Heus (.289) and Collin Hau (.268).
The team’s top two pitchers are back in Brad Schroeder (7-4, 2.38 ERA) and Schnell (6-5, 3.64 ERA). Hau also brings back three wins on the mound.
The new-look Eastern Wisconsin Conference is tough to gauge and could have a wide-open title chase. With continued improvement from last year, New Holstein could be among the favorites.
The Cardinals were co-champions of their conference and won a regional title last season. Plenty of experience is returning for Pacelli this season.
Three first team all-conference selections are back in Seth Shulfer (.378), Zach Zimmerman (.360) and Nate Helms (.348). Honorable mention all-conference outfielders Cam Landwer (.243) and Tim Tippel are also back, along with honorable mention infielder Brad Raflik.
Zimmerman, Helms and Landwer combined for 11 wins on the mound last season. Zimmerman was 6-1 with a 3.88 ERA, while Landwer was 3-0 and had a 2.17 ERA and Helms went 2-3 and posted a 2.76 ERA. All are capable of being consistent starters for the Cardinals.
With solid pitching and a well-rounded lineup, Pacelli looks primed to make another run at the conference title this spring.
The Rams won the Big East Conference title in the summer last year – their third in a row – and finished with a 23-8 record. They were upset in their postseason opener, but they’re back with another strong team this year looking to take another step forward.
Five starters are back in the lineup, led by first team all-conference selections Tyler Landgraf at catcher and Blake Hall on the infield. Landgraf hit .465 with 12 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs last summer. Case Noll earned second team all-conference honors as a second baseman a year ago, while Donny Singer was an honorable mention at first base. Utility man Cole Borchardt also returns with starting experience.
Ace Grayson Vandenbush returns to the mound for Random Lake. He was 7-1 and posted a 2.18 ERA last year. Several others with pitching experience return, including Dylan Gildemeister, Bryce Kultgen, Noll and Singer.
If anybody is going to challenge St. Mary Catholic for the conference title this season, it’s probably going to be Random Lake. Beyond that, the Rams will have aspirations of making a playoff run into June.
The Red Raiders, champions of the Marawood South, went 21-2 last season and reached the sectional finals. They are loaded with experience this year, with five players back who earned first or second team all-conference recognition last spring.
First team all-conference infielder Carter Hanke (.443) and outfielder Mitchell Kurtz (.391) bring back two of the best bats in the conference. Second team all-conference infielders Brock Warren (.349) and Myles Williamson (.250) are back, along with catcher Hunter Seubert (.265).
Pitching will be an area of strength for the Red Raiders. Seubert was 5-0 and had a 1.21 ERA last season, while Williamson and Kurtz picked up three wins apiece and had sub-2 ERAs.
They’re expected to get a tough challenge from Stratford in the Marawood South this season, but the defending champion Red Raiders should be in the mix for yet another conference title and deep playoff run.
The Blackhawks were co-champions of the Coulee Conference last season and have eight starters back in the mix this year. That includes honorable mention All-Wisconsin outfielder Hunter Vikemyr (.471) and first team all-conference infielder Andrew Wedwick (.431). Also returning are Mason Skrede (.325), Ryan Zemla (.276) and Clayton Slack (.281), among others.
The trio of Vikemyr, Wedwick and Andy Bomkamp combined for nine wins on the mound last season and all should continue to see innings this year.
Heavy graduation losses by Viroqua’s fellow co-champions of the Coulee, West Salem and Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, have the Blackhawks looking like the team to beat this spring.
The Lightning won the Midwest Conference and reached the regional finals last season. Most of the lineup returns this season along with a good chunk of the pitching staff.
Second team All-Wisconsin infielder Tyler Brandenburg, a Purdue recruit, hit .493 with five home runs and 37 RBIs last season. He’ll lead the batting order, along with the likes of Nick Rupprecht (.451, 23 RBIs), Dane Vance (.378, 12 RBIs), RJ Frerking (.339, 20 RBIs) and Jack Leverenz (.343, 18 RBIs), among others. All of LCL’s starting infielders are back, which should make for a solid defense.
Leverenz is the team’s top returning pitcher. He was 5-0 and had a 2.06 ERA last spring as the squad’s most-used thrower. Will Brazgel (3-0, 3.43 ERA) and Rupprecht (1-1) also have pitching experience. Brandenburg and Vance both saw time on the mound as well.
A high-powered offense should help the Lightning win plenty of games, and makes them a threat to return to the state tournament for the first time since winning the title in 2015.
The defending Southwest Wisconsin Conference champion came within a game of the state tournament last spring. The Blackhawks return with their roster mostly intact from last year, with eight starters back in the mix.
Two first team all-conference players return, including two-way star Gavin Gillitzer. He was 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA on the mound last spring, and hit .370 at the plate. Fellow first teamer Grant Martin (.414), a catcher, also returns to the lineup. Second team all-conference selections Dylan Coleman and Clayton DuCharme are also back. Outfielder Tyler Smock hit .360 last year.
Coleman (2-0, 2.53 ERA) and Ryan McGrath (2-0, 4.32 ERA) should team up with Gillitzer on the mound to form a solid foundation for the pitching staff.
Prairie du Chien only lost two games all last year, and will expect to make another run at the state tournament this season.
The Zephyrs were the state runner-up last season but are the favorites to take home the gold in Division 3 this time around. Seven starters return to the lineup, and two of the team’s top four pitchers are back.
Honorable mention All-Wisconsin infielder and St. Norbert recruit Caden Uhlenbrauck (.469, 8 extra-base hits, 16 RBIs) brings back an imposing bat to the St. Mary Catholic lineup. TJ Skrzypczak (.404, 17 RBIs), Drew Zimmer (.281, 14 RBIs), Chris Seveska (.294, 13 RBIs) and Holden Fischer (.333) are among the other players who have plenty of experience.
Skrzypczak showcased his dominance as a pitcher in last year’s state semifinals, taking a perfect game into the fifth inning against Mineral Point. He was 8-1 with a 1.14 ERA last spring. Uhlenbrauck (2-1, 2.52 ERA) also returns with plenty of innings under his belt.
St. Mary Catholic has a record of 96-12 over the last five seasons, and that kind of dominance is expected to continue this spring.