Webster's Brad Sigfrids celebrates with coach Jarrod Washburn after a play in the Division 3 state championship game on June 14, 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 4.
(In alphabetical order)
Butternut-Mercer – The Indianhead Conference champions and sectional finalists return three first-team all-conference players. They’ll be led by the Scherwinski cousins. Seth hit .519 last year, while Jace batted .477.
Highland – The Cardinals, winners of 16 games last year, will have a strong pitching staff. Honorable mention All-Wisconsin infielder Drew Hennessey (.542, 9 home runs) brings tremendous power to the lineup.
Hillsboro — The Tigers tied for second in the Scenic Bluffs a year ago, and have five regulars who hit over .300 back from that team. Dane Bach (.425) was a first team all-conference catcher.
Independence/Gilmanton – Six starters are back from a team that was 19-2, but the three who graduated were three of their best players. Sam Killian (.379/4-0, 2.49) will be one of the top players in the Dairyland Conference.
Northland Lutheran-Wisconsin Valley Lutheran – The Wildcats only lost one game last season and have three all-conference players back.
Northwood – The Evergreens were co-champions of the Lakeland East last year and have most of the team back, including first team all-conference players Ben Hanson (.414) and Hunter Frahm (.371).
Pittsville – The Panthers have four starters and some quality pitching returning from a 19-5 team. Kordel Landphier (4-0, 1.58 ERA) is tough to beat when he’s on the mound.
Wausaukee – Six starters are back from a team that reached the sectional finals, including first team all-conference infielder Kyle Struve.
The Eagles were 12-5 last year and tied for second place in the Scenic Bluffs Conference. They’re expected to be one of the main contenders for the league title again this spring with tons of experience returning.
First team all-conference pick Kole Ripley (.457) is the team’s top returning hitter. Honorable mention All-Scenic Bluffs honorees Carter Hall (.389) and Ty Costello (.303) are also back. Other returners include Damon Lukaszewski (.333), TJ Leis (.283) and Aiden Cook (.283).
Hall picked up four wins on the mound last season and had a 2.20 ERA. Lukaszewski went 2-1 with a 0.57 ERA, and Ripley was 1-1 and had a 1.05 ERA. That experience should add up to a well-rounded pitching staff for Cashton.
Expect a tight race for the Scenic Bluffs title, with Cashton being right in the thick of things.
The Pirates won the Cloverbelt East Conference title last season and ended the year with an 11-4 record. They’ll have most of their team back this spring, led by three second team all-conference players.
Kade Kroeplin (.385), Maverick Birkenholz (.295) and Gabe Gunderson (.275) all earned all-conference recognition last season. Honorable mention All-Cloverbelt East outfielder Dallas Skabroud (.391) is also back in the lineup, along with Ryan Webster (.333), Brayden Boie (.333) and Spencer Kraus (.250).
Returning pitchers include Gunderson (4-2, 4.10 ERA), Skabroud (3-0, 2.20 ERA) and Boie (1-0, 4.10 ERA). Overall, the Pirates have about three-quarters of their innings back from last season.
Fresh off its first conference title in a while, Gilman is expected to challenge for another one this spring.
The Tigersharks reached the sectional finals last year and finished with a 16-6 record. Almost the entire roster returns for this season.
First team all-conference picks BJ Konkel and Buxton Toutant are back after hitting .345 and .371, respectively. Konkel drove in 20 runs. Brad Myers (.358, 19 RBIs), Luke Morgan (.273, 16 RBIs) and Luke Pulvermacher (.255) also return with a lot of starting experience.
Morgan was a second team all-conference pitcher last year, going 8-1 with a 0.99 ERA. Aiden Brookins (2-1, 3.23 ERA) and Toutant (2-2, 4.59 ERA) also have significant pitching experience.
It will be a tough battle for the Trailways West Conference title, but Green Lake-Princeton is expected to duel with Markesan for the crown.
The Timberwolves finished 17-6 last season, winning a Division 3 regional title along the way. Four all-conference players are back in the mix this season, along with most of the pitching staff and lineup.
Two honorable mention All-Wisconsin players return to the batting order: Catcher Jonny Baumann and infielder Jimmy Juergensen. Baumann mashed to the tune of a .484 average with 10 doubles and five home runs last season. He drove in 34 runs. Juergensen, a Grand Canyon University recruit, hit .431 with 11 extra-base hits – including four homers – and 37 RBIs. Also back are all-conference players Ezra DuFour (.373) and Simon Heller (.351), among a handful of others.
Juergensen, DuFour and Heller teamed up for eight wins on the mound last year. DuFour had the most victories at four and posted a 3.09 ERA. Juergensen went 2-3 with a 2.71 ERA, and Heller was 2-0 on the way to a 2.27 ERA.
The Midwest Classic Conference will be tough to emerge from with a league title, but the Timberwolves should be counted among the possible contenders along with Lake Country Luthearn, Brookfield Academy and University School.
The Vikings won a third straight Six Rivers East championship last spring. A fourth consecutive title is well within reach, as Pecatonica brings back five all-conference players.
The lineup will be strong, with players like Colton Schraepfer (.387), Lane Busser (.474), Carter Ruegsegger (.357), Bo Hendrickson (.361) and Everett Johnson (.353) returning with all-conference honors on their resumes. The Vikings could fill a batting order almost entirely with players who hit over .300 last year.
Ruegsegger, Busser and Johnson combined for nine wins on the mound last year. Ruegsegger was 5-1 with a 2.32 ERA, while Busser went 3-1 with a 4.44 ERA. Johnson finished 1-2 and had a 4.00 ERA.
The Shullsburg/Benton co-op ran away with the Six Rivers West title and finished 19-3 last season, and has six players back who received all-conference recognition. They’ll be the strong favorites to win the conference again.
Honorable mention All-Wisconsin infielder Jacob Berendes (.471, 15 RBIs, 15 steals) was the conference’s player of the year last season. He’s joined in the lineup by fellow first team all-conference infielder Nathan Mowry (.450) and first team catcher Alex Wand (.471). Honorable mention all-conference picks Nick Jansen (.333) and Nolan Strang (.309) are also back, along with Brooks Tiedeman (.415) and Griffin Wiegel (.279).
Berendes, Mowry and Strang teamed up for 17 wins on the mound last year. Berendes was 6-1 with a 1.14 ERA, Mowry went 7-0 and had a 1.12 ERA, while Strang posted a 1.26 ERA on his way to four wins.
Shullsburg/Benton drops down to Division 4 from D3. They reached the regional finals before losing to eventual state tournament team Mineral Point. With another year of growth, this could be a team that’s incredibly tough to beat.
The Bluejays went to state for the first time since 2012 last season, and have eight starters returning to the lineup this year along with some of their top pitchers.
Honorable mention All-Wisconsin infielder Justin Swanson hit .484 with seven extra-base hits and drove in 23 runs for Johnson Creek last spring. Outfielder Bryce Henningsen (.385, 29 RBIs) earned second team all-conference honors a season ago. The Hartwigs are also back: Kaleb hit .360 and Bow batted .333. Zach Johnson (.404, 12 RBIs), Anthony Purpi (.363, 13 RBIs), Lucas Sullivan (.317) and Micah Garvey (.244) also return as starters from last year.
Swanson (4-1, 1.89 ERA) is the squad’s top returning pitcher. The Hartwigs and Sullivan also bring back a wealth of experience on the mound. Those three combined for several wins a year ago.
There’s a lot to like about a team as experienced as Johnson Creek. A return trip to Appleton is certainly a possibility this June.
The Pointers, winners of 18 games, went to the state tournament last year in Division 3. They have eight starters and most of their pitching returning from that team.
Leading the way at the plate is sophomore Liam Stumpf, a finalist for Newcomer of the Year last season. He hit .481 with 19 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs. Justin Baehler (.368, 28 RBIs) and Curtis Cox (.378, 14 RBIs) were both first team all-conference picks last season. Isaac Lindsey (.371) and Grant Bossert (.339) are the other returning starters to hit over .300 last season.
First team all-conference pick Grady Gorgen (5-1, 1.58 ERA) returns to the mound, along with Cox (6-2, 2.45 ERA) and Stumpf (4-1, 3.07 ERA). Baehler and Lindsey also have pitching experience.
The Pointers were drawn into arguably the toughest Division 4 regional for the playoffs, featuring the likes of Shullsburg/Benton and Pecatonica. But Mineral Point’s experience might make them the favorites to make another run.
The Fighting Bluejays are the two-time defending champions in Division 4, and will have a real shot to add a third straight title this spring. Five starters are back from last season’s state championship team, along with two of its top three pitchers.
Leading the way at the plate is third team All-Wisconsin infielder Seth Coker, a UW-La Crosse recruit. He hit .575 with 18 extra-base hits and 38 RBIs last season. Catcher Connor Westfall, a second team all-conference selection, batted .343 with 13 RBIs a year ago. Other returning starters are Dakota Willemssen (.306, 29 RBIs), Javon Penney (.302) and Dayne Diethelm (.241).
On the mound, Willemssen and Coker both are back with tons of experience. Willemssen was 8-0 with a 1.66 ERA, and Coker went 4-0 and posted a 1.14 ERA. There’s not much else varsity pitching experience on the roster though.
Division 4 is loaded with talent this year, and the back-to-back champions are expected to be among the main contenders for the gold trophy.
The Tigers won the Division 3 state championship last season and drop back down to Division 4 this year. They’ve made two straight trips to state, and are favored to take home another title this spring. Almost all of Webster’s star-studded pitching staff returns, along with six starters to the lineup.
Two Division I recruits headline the pitching staff: First team All-Wisconsin pick Jack Washburn, (9-1, 0.88 ERA), an Oregon State recruit, joins honorable mention All-Wisconsin selection Hunter Rosenbaum (9-0, 1.63 ERA), a West Virginia recruit, to form arguably the best one-two punch in the state – in any Division. The two combined for 189 strikeouts last season. Also back to the rotation are Owen Washburn (4-0, 0.54 ERA) and Minnesota-Duluth recruit Trevor Gustafson (2-0, 1.11 ERA).
Jack Washburn, a finalist for Wisconsin Player of the Year last season, is the Tigers’ top returning hitter. He batted .443 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 55 RBIs. Rosenbaum (.386, 11 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs), Newcomer of the Year finalist Carsen Stenberg (.380, 8 doubles, 24 RBIs), Gustafson (.371), Owen Washburn (.324) and Brad Sigfrids (.314) also bring back good bats.
No team in Division 3 could stop the Tigers last season, and the drop to Division 4 gives Webster an even better chance to hoist the gold trophy this year.