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State preview: Top-ranked Pius XI meets perennial contender Menomonee Falls

By WBC Staff, 07/19/18, 9:45AM CDT

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The final state tournament of the WIAA summer baseball era will be played on Friday. Only four teams remain in this period of Wisconsin high school baseball, and they're still fighting to bring home some hardware. We're previewing both semifinal matchups, starting first with Menomonee Falls vs. Pius XI. The perennial contender Indians meet the top-ranked Popes in the first game of the day at Kapco Park.

The rundown

Menomonee Falls is 26-7 this season and took fourth place in the Greater Metro Conference. The Indians are making their third appearance at the summer state tournament in the last four years. They won back-to-back championships in 2015 and 2016. To reach Mequon, they beat Grafton, West Bend East and Germantown in the playoffs.

Pius XI is the top-ranked team in summer baseball and has a 29-3 record entering the state tournament. The Popes won the Woodland West Conference this summer. This is their first appearance at state since 2001. To get this far, their postseason path has seen them beat Wauwatosa East, Brookfield Central and Kettle Moraine.

Here’s a breakdown of the matchup based on the following categories: hitting, pitching, and base running. The teams are rated on a 100 point scale, with 100 being the best. There are a possible 45 points in both the hitting and pitching categories, and 10 in the base running category.

Hitting

Menomonee Falls: 38 out of 45 points

Pius XI: 38 out of 45 points

These teams have had very similar seasons at the plate. Menomonee Falls hits .324 as a team, and Pius XI hits .321. The Indians are led by the duo of Tommy Howard and Brennen Beck. They bat .430 and .402, respectively. Howard has 12 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs, while Beck has 11 extra-base knocks and has driven in 34 runs. Dayne Fuiten has showcased some serious power, slugging 16 extra-base hits and driving in 34 runs to go along with his .314 average. Ryan Spalding (.289, 17 RBIs) is a holdover from the Indians’ 2016 state championship team, as is Howard. Alex Heitman (.358) and Johnny Komppa (.300) have both had success getting on base when called upon for the Indians, and Henry Hansen (.289) has shown he can be a run producer for the team with 15 RBIs.

The Popes have one of the best players in summer baseball over the course of the last four years as their best hitter. Quincy University recruit Gino D’Alessio has a career .402 batting average, and his senior year has been his best. He’s hitting .494 with 14 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs. TJ Driver and Branden Heller hit .340 and .337, respectively. They’ve combined for 50 RBIs between the two of them. Logan Rademan has hit .321 and has seven extra-base hits, and Sam Treffert carries a .312 average and the momentum of bashing a walk-off hit at sectionals into the state tournament. Luc Leszczynski has 12 extra-base hits to go with his .282 average.

Pitching

Menomonee Falls: 37 out of 45 points

Pius XI: 45 out of 45 points

There’s no question who has the edge on the mound. The Popes have the best pitching staff in summer baseball. The combo of Treffert and Driver has been unbeatable so far this year. Treffert is 8-0 with a 0.72 ERA, and Driver is 6-0 with a 0.68 ERA. Pius XI also has a lot of depth behind them. Kayde Thiele has a 6-1 record to show for his 2.97 ERA, and Luke Dahlstrom is 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA. Jakob Zielinski is 3-1 and has a 3.92 ERA.

The Indians have used four starters for the most part. The best, statistically speaking, has been Cory Dreier. The senior is 5-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 12 appearances. Ben Heitman has been a workhorse, starting 11 games and posting a 4-3 record with a 4.10 ERA. Falls’ other two main starters, Jack Hribernik and Daniel Knudson, have records of 4-2 and 3-1. Howard has been great in relief, posting a 0.81 ERA in 17.2 innings and compiling a 4-0 record. Alex Heitman is 2-0, pitching almost exclusively in relief. He has a 2.59 ERA in 35.2 innings and leads the team with three saves.

Base running

Menomonee Falls: 5 out of 10 points

Pius XI: 9 out of 10 points

Pius XI runs much more frequently – and with much more success – than Menomonee Falls. The Popes have stolen 90 bases this year, led by Rey Sprewer’s 22. Wil Martinez and Rademan have 13 steals apiece, and Treffert has 12. D’Alessio has chipped in with nine steals.

Falls has stolen 38 bases this summer. Two players have done most of the damage: Nathan Rozman has 11 steals, and Ben Heitman has added eight. Nobody else has more than four steals, and Howard is the only one to reach even that total. Most of their players have at least one or two steals though.

The verdict

Menomonee Falls: 80 out of 100 points

Pius XI: 92 out of 100 points

Pius XI has been the top-ranked team all summer, and will rightfully enter this game as the favorite. Nobody has been able to really rough up the Popes’ top two pitchers, which has given the team a great chance to win every game they’ve pitched in. On the other hand, nobody is more experienced at state over the last three years than the Indians. With a few players left who have won a state championship, Falls knows what it takes to win. The overall stats may not show it, but this has the makings of a great game.

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Need to Know

2018 Summer State Tournament

Where: Kapco Park, Mequon

When: Friday, 11:35 a.m. and roughly 2:00 p.m. (semifinals); 6:05 p.m. (championship)

Who: Menomonee Falls, Pius XI, Plymouth, Muskego