I’ve always said, high school sports are your best entertainment value. It’s especially true in the spring, when most events are free of charge. So, I’ll make my semi-annual push to boost attendance by saying, if you’re looking to spend a few quality hours outdoors in the next few weeks, go check out a game.
The high school baseball and softball postseasons are already underway, and there are plenty of local teams whose dreams of making it to state are still intact. Which ones will be playing at Fox Cities Stadium and Goodman Diamond?
Baseball and softball aren’t the easiest sports to pick, because one bad inning can help put an end to a strong team’s season. Likewise, a team with a so-so record can get hot when the games matter most. Nevertheless, here are my opinions:
Eau Claire North would have been my preseason pick to get to state, and while I’m sticking with the top-seeded Huskies, they don’t figure to have an easy time of it. Chippewa Falls, despite a late-season fade, has a solid hitting lineup top to bottom and a bona-fide ace in Justin Jaquish. Eau Claire Memorial has made strides all season and won’t be an easy out, while River Falls, Hudson, and Stevens Point are both solid clubs who could go on a postseason run. Still, I like how the Huskies are hitting the ball of late, they’re playing well defensively, and with Greg Button returning to form on the mound, North has pitching depth–a requirement for getting through the sectional.
Regional finals: ECN over New Richmond, River Falls over Marshfield, SPASH over Hudson, CF over ECM
Sectional semifinals: ECN over RF, CF over SPASH
Sectional final: ECN over CF
Altoona takes the state’s #1 rating in the Division 2 coaches poll into the postseason, but there’s no easy path to Fox Cities Stadium for the Railroaders. Bloomer could await in a regional final, Prescott in a sectional semifinal, and Spooner in a sectional semifinal. It wouldn’t surprise me if any of those four teams made it through, but if I have to pick one, I’ll go with Altoona, on a hunch. Keep an eye on Amery in the upper part of the bracket.
Regional finals: Spooner over Hayward, Amery over Cumberland, Somerset over Prescott, Altoona over Bloomer
Sectional semifinals: Amery over Spooner, Altoona over Somerset
Sectional final: Altoona over Amery
Elk Mound has won this sectional in back-to-back seasons and is one of four #1 seeds, so you have to include the Mounders in any discussion of favorites. Still, this is a section in which I think there’s very little separating the #1 seeds from the #2′s & #3′s. With that in mind, I’m going to forecast sectional semifinal matchups between #3 Turtle Lake/Clayton and #2 Hurley, along with a game between #2 Boyceville and #2 Fall Creek. With Ryan Bloom, the Bulldogs have the most dominant pitcher in that foursome, so I’ll say Boyceville gets through and makes it to state.
Regional finals: Turtle Lake/Clayton over Grantsburg, Hurley over Chequamegon, Boyceville over Elk Mound, Fall Creek over Mondovi
Sectional semifinals: Turtle Lake/Clayton over Hurley, Boyceville over Fall Creek
Sectional final: Boyceville over Turtle Lake/Clayton
McDonell’s won this sectional in the last two seasons, and with Kyle Cody on the mound, the Macks have one of the best pitchers in the section. McDonell is always well-prepared for the postseason under head coach Eric Wedemeyer. The same can be said for Bruce’s Larry Villard. Still, I’m going to go out on limb in this section and say Gilman gets through–although I’m not really sure if picking a #1 seed is “going out on a limb.”
Regional finals: Shell Lake over Northwood, Mellen over Drummond, McDonell over EC Immanuel Lutheran, Gilman over Bruce
Sectional semifinals: Shell Lake over Mellen, Gilman over McDonell
Sectional final: Gilman over Shell Lake
Unlike baseball, there’s no limit on innings pitched by an individual. Therefore, a team with a star pitcher can send that ace to the circle each and every game of the postseason. There’s no better ace in the local sectional than Kendra Bowe of Chippewa Falls. The Cardinals can also hit the ball and generate runs. Hudson has a solid team, so does D.C. Everest, while EC North is capable of winning a few games, but I don’t see anyone standing in the way of the Cards and a third straight state tournament appearance. Of all my baseball & softball sectional picks, I’m most confident in this one.
Regional finals: CF over Superior, Hudson over ECN, DCE over Wausau West, Merill over Antigo
Sectional semifinals: CF over Hudson, DCE over Merill
Sectional final: CF over DCE
If things go to form, and I think they will, we’ll have a matchup of local powers Baldwin-Woodville and Rice Lake in the sectional final. Both programs loaded up their schedules for this season, so don’t be deceived by the Warriors’six losses: 2 came to BRC champion Chippewa Falls, while the others were to Southern Door, Kaukauna, and Minnesota powers Anoka & Woodbury. B-W’s late season-schedule included consecutive wins over Hudson, Menomonie, & St. Anthony (MN), by a combined total of 21-1. If the Blackhawks have an edge, it’s in the circle: pitcher Abby Klopp is 15-0 (with an absurd ERA of 0.08), while the Warriors’ staff has been just a bit unsettled this season.
Regional finals: G-E-T over West Salem, B-W over Ellsworth, Rice Lake over Northwestern, Medford over Mosinee
Sectional semifinals: B-W over G-E-T, Rice Lake over Medford
Sectional final: B-W over Rice Lake
There are some solid teams in this group, but it’s going to be tough to knock off unbeaten Grantsburg, one of the better softball programs in the state. On top of that, the Pirates will be hosting the sectional final.
Regional finals: SCC over Prescott, Bloomer over Elk Mound, Hurley over Ladysmith, Grantsburg over Cameron
Sectional semifinals: Bloomer over SCC, Grantsburg over Hurley
Sectional final: Grantsburg over Bloomer
Thorp, McDonell, & Regis finished 1-2-3 in the Western Cloverbelt, they’re arguably the three strongest teams in the sectional, and all three happen to be on the same side of the bracket. Making it even tougher to pick just one is the fact each team split with the other two. On a hunch, I say the Cardinals come through. Over in the Boscobel sectional, I’m picking Pepin, a perennial power.
Regional finals: Frederic over Shell Lake, Northwood over Drummond, McDonell over Regis, Thorp over Gilman
Sectional semifinals: Northwood over Frederic, Thorp over McDonell
Sectional final: Thorp over Northwood
Regional finals: Pepin over C-FC, New Lisbon over Cashton, Highland over De Soto, Belmont over River Ridge
Sectional semifinals: Pepin over New Lisbon, Highland over Belmont
Sectional final: Pepin over Highland
Your thoughts? Your picks? Feel free to post those in the comments section, below.
Posted under Hometown Sports
This post was written by bbradovich on May 29, 2011