2015 RECAP: DeForest ran away with the regular season crown, posting an 11-1 record in Badger-North play. Baraboo was in second place at 8-4, but it was the Thunderbirds who made the deepest postseason run, getting to the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual Division 1 state champ Janesville Craig.
DeForest claimed its first conference championship since 2010, going 11-1 to cruise home to a league title. Veteran head coach Harold Olson, who has spent the past 17 years at DeForest after several years at Richland Center in the mid-90's, has a group that enters as the favorites once again. All four First Team All-Conference players are back from a year ago, including league Player of the Year Alex Oliver, who went 6-2 with a 0.58 ERA. Catcher Logan Michaels and corner infielders Dryden Van Schoyck and Justin Wentland are also returning First Teamers. Van Schoyck and Jack George will provide depth in the pitching staff once again. This could be the year the Norskies make their first trip to the state tournament.
Baraboo posted one of the more successful seasons in some time, going 22-7 overall and qualifying for its first state tournament since 2000, going down to eventual D1 champ Janesville Craig. Head coach Paul Kujak has stepped down, with Stephen Considine taking over at the helm. Considine inherits a roster with good depth and talent on the pitching staff, with Tom Ginther, Miles Statz, and Ethan Wilkinson combining for 12 victories a year ago. The offense will take a bit more work, but there is talent in place to push DeForest at the top of the Badger-North.
Portage should very much be in the mix for a top three finish in the Badger-North, as the Warriors are a consistent contender under veteran head coach Mike Hemming. First Team All-Conference hurler TJ Belleau is gone, but Jake Kastenholz and Jack Nelson each have a good amount of varsity experience on the mound and will provide a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Offensively, the duo will team with Honorable Mention All-Conference catcher Andrew Pinion to lead the way.
Waunakee finished just 5-19 last year, one of the worst seasons the program has seen in Spencer Lee's two decades as coach. The Warriors are a prime bounce-back candidate however, as a good portion of the roster is back and they'll get a boost from a JV squad that finished 18-5. Jacob Royston, an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection a year ago, will serve as the staff ace once again.
Mount Horeb is battling to get back into the upper echelon of the Badger-North Conference after sharing the league title in 2013. As with most teams, their success will be dependent on the development of depth in the pitching staff, where Jake Droessler is a proven commodity. Bama Doyle saw time on the bump last year as well, but was most dangerous at the plate, hitting .312 to garner Second Team All-Conference recognition. He'll team with catcher David Droessler, also a Second Team choice, to try to improve a lineup that brings back five regulars.
Reedsburg is in a transition season, as former Sun Prairie standout Sam Abbot takes over as head coach from Dennis Schommer. The Beavers experienced an uncharacteristic down season in 2015, and lose a good amount of the pitching from that group.
Sauk Prairie will try to take a step forward in the second season under head coach Steve Lenerz, but the Eagles will be short on varsity experience.
Madison Edgewood enters as the preseason favorites in the Badger-South after finishing in a tie for second place last season. The Crusaders feature the best and most experienced pitching staff in the league, headlined by Cody Link, who went 7-2 with a 2.49 ERA. Jack McNeil and Cooper Kelly were also impressive in the rotation. Most of the batting order is back as well. One of the league's top programs over the last decade or more, Edgewood will have a target on its back to open the season, as the Baseball Wisconsin Yearbook ranked the Crusaders #3 in Division 2 in the pre-season.
Oregon has claimed two straight outright Badger-South championships, and should be in the thick of the title race once again. The Panthers do lose Badger-South Player of the Year Mitch Weber amongst others, but have a potential ace in senior Jake Odegard, who went 3-1 with a 3.85 ERA last season. No players that received All-Conference recognition return, but last year's group got plenty of valuable experience and will be aided by a JV that finished 17-4 a season ago.
Milton was just a game behind league champion Oregon a year ago, and the Red Hawks should once again be a factor in the Badger-South race. Fourth-year head coach Ryan Neuenschwander has an outstanding core of hitters back, including First Team All-Conference picks Chase Davis and Andrew Hermanson, along with Second Team infielder Nick Cadd. The pitching staff doesn't have the same experience level, especially after All-Conference pitcher Tyler Westrick graduated. A larger portion of the innings will fall to Wrage Marzahl and Dakota Cude.
Stoughton brings back a pair of experienced starting pitchers in Dillon Nowicki and Ethan Genter, but that experienced will need to turn into more success after the duo combined to post an ERA around 6.00. The league's top-scoring team from a year ago, the Vikings will have some work to do in the lineup as less than a third of last season's production returns. Sophomores Dillon Nowicki and Brady Schipper will carry much of the load after impressive debuts as freshmen.
Monona Grove has some solid pieces in place, including unanimous First Team All-Conference outfielder Tanner Dahlhauser, who hit .469 a year ago. He's one of several returnees in the batting order, but the pitching staff will see significant overhaul from a year ago. The development of that group could very well determine Monona Grove's success this season.
Monroe was an interesting case study last year, finishing tied for last in the league with a 3-9 record, but going 16-13 overall and advancing to a regional final in Division 2. The Cheesemakers welcome back Taylor Meier and Hogan Edwards with experience on the mound, but the offense will need to show considerable improvement in order to move into the upper portion of the league standings.
Fort Atkinson tied with Monroe for last place in the league at 3-9, but unlike Monroe, didn't experience the out of league success, going 3-24 overall. Second year head coach Andy Schwantes is looking for improvement in all areas after the team was outscored 105-37 in conference games.
Conference Previews are based on information submitted by coaches, 2015 award info, statistics available to WSN, and other sources including the Baseball Wisconsin Yearbook. To purchase your copy of the Baseball Wisconsin Yearbook, click here.
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