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State preview: Plymouth and Muskego look for first win at state in years

By WBC Staff, 07/19/18, 2:45PM 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, continuing with Plymouth vs. Muskego. Two programs looking for their first win at state in several years clash in the semifinals.

The rundown

Plymouth is 27-6 this summer and won the Eastern Wisconsin Conference. The Panthers are playing at state for the first time since 2015, and the third time in the last five years. Since winning the title in 1982, they have not won a state tournament game in six tries. So far in the playoffs, they have beaten Oostburg, Cedar Grove-Belgium and New Holstein.

Muskego brings a 20-12 record into the state tournament, and finished in fourth place in the Classic Eight Conference. The Warriors are making their first appearance at state since 2009, and are seeking their first championship. Their best finish was runner-up in 2002. To get to Mequon, they defeated Whitnall, Greendale and Oak Creek.

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.

Note: Stats listed for both teams do not include stats from sectionals.

Hitting

Plymouth: 42 out of 45 points

Muskego: 35 out of 45 points

The Panthers can all rake, from the top of the lineup to the bottom. They have eight players who saw significant playing time hit above .300, and three above .400. Sam Miller had a team-high .414 average entering sectionals, and drove in 24 runs. Taylor Struve hit .411 with 11 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs, while Joe Steinhardt batted at a .400 clip with eight extra-base knocks and 21 RBIs. Cooper Gasse led the team in extra-base hits (13) and RBIs (33), and hit .386. Isaac Fintak (.359, 14 RBIs), Matt Pohl (.338, 18 RBIs), Aiden Reilly (.333, 19 RBIs), Will Birkholz (.313, 16 RBIs) and Ben Picard (.296, 17 RBIs) have all been big run producers too. The Panthers hit .351 as a team.

The Warriors batted .287 collectively entering sectionals. Frankie Cistaro led regulars with a .367 average, and also hit six extra-base hits. Wes Kwapick was close behind at .363 and had a team-high 12 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs. Rob Zolecki hit .338 with 22 RBIs, and Cooper Tamblyn compiled a .318 average with nine extra-base hits and 18 RBIs. Most of the rest of the team hit below .300, although Scott Bulski and Jacob Leszczynski made big impacts by driving in 16 and 13 runs, respectively.

Pitching

Plymouth: 38 out of 45 points

Muskego: 38 out of 45 points

The Panthers and Warriors are pretty even on the mound. Plymouth’s strength is its ace, while Muskego’s is its depth. Marian recruit Holden Reilly has been a bulldog on the mound for the Panthers, entering sectionals with a 10-0 record and 0.69 ERA. He averaged over one strikeout per inning this year. Aiden Reilly was 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA, and Picard went 4-0 and compiled a 1.36 ERA. Jack Nytes posted a 0.50 ERA in 14 innings of work.

The Warriors will likely go with Zolecki to get the start in the semifinals. He was 5-1 and had a 2.50 ERA going into sectionals, and has been the team’s most-used starter. Muskego had six players throw 20 innings or more, giving them plenty of options to work with though. Leszczynski was 3-0 and had a 0.91 ERA, Bulski had a 2.32 ERA but compiled a tough-luck 3-5 record, and Zach Schulz was 2-1 with a sterling 0.75 ERA. Ryan Mass (2-3) and Connor Grohman (2-1) both got plenty of starts this year too.

Base running

Plymouth: 10 out of 10 points

Muskego: 4 out of 10 points

There is a sharp contrast between these two teams’ base running tendencies. Plymouth tries to run all the time, and Muskego hardly ever tries to swipe a bag. Entering sectionals, the Panthers had 96 stolen bases, and seven of their players had at least seven steals. Struve led the team with 23, and Steinhardt had 14. Aiden Reilly chipped in with 12, and Fintak nearly broke double digits at nine.

Muskego didn’t run much, but the Warriors had a 100 percent success rate when they did. They were 19-for-19 on stolen base attempts, led by Cistaro’s five steals. Zolecki had four, and Sam Chovanec had three. Stealing bases just isn’t a big part of Muskego’s game.

The verdict

Plymouth: 90 out of 100 points

Muskego: 77 out of 100 points

Plymouth has had a great year, and would be favored by most to advance to the championship game in this matchup. The Panthers are strong at the plate and have a standout ace on the mound, but beat up on a relatively weak group of opponents for much of the year. Muskego played a tougher schedule this season, which might make its stats slightly deceiving. Either way, whoever wins this game will be getting their first state tournament victory in a long time.

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Need to Know

2018 Summer State Tournament

Where: Kapco Park, Mequon

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

Who: Menomonee Falls, Pius XI, Plymouth, Muskego