Joe Waite of BaseballWisconsin.com and the Baseball Wisconsin publication breaks down the major storylines heading into the 2019 baseball season, as well as a look at the rankings in all four divisions as last year's champions are expected to do well again in 2019.
Waite also discusses the major news of the offseason, in which summer baseball was eliminated as a WIAA-sanctioned sport and all of those teams are now part of spring baseball moving forward.
Below are the top three in each division heading into the season, as well as rankings for area teams (Milwaukee, Madison, and Eau Claire only). Click on the division name to see the full poll and breakdown. These are all courtesy of BaseballWisconsin.com.
1: Green Bay Preble Hornets: Two 1st Team All-State juniors including Max Wagner (5-1, .443) and Ryan Stefiuk (8-0, 0.50 ERA) make them the favorite.
2: Waunakee Warriors: The State Champs are still loaded. Arkansas recruit Nate Stevens is one of the State’s best players. The Warriors have a lot of momentum going.
3: Burlington Demons: The Demons have a one-two pitching punch in 2nd Team All-State recruit Trey Krause and Trent Turzenski. Most of the team that went to Appleton last year is back.
Other ranked area teams:
4: Arrowhead Warhawks: Fresh off a State-Runner-Up, the Warhawks get three of their starting pitchers back including Davis Zeutzius who was 7-1, 1.15 ERA as a junior.
5: Janesville Craig Cougars: Sectional champs are looking to take back the Big Eight from Sun Prairie. Mitchell Woelfle and Dan Blomgren lead an experienced team that won 23 games last year.
8: Kenosha Tremper Trojans: Picked to win the ‘new’ Southeast Conference. Tremper won 21 games last year. They return six starters including two 1st Team All-SEC picks.
9: Oak Creek Knights: Oak Creek is picked to give Tremper their biggest challenge. The Knights were one of summer baseball’s preeminent teams and will have an experienced team.
11: Eau Claire Memorial Old Abes: Will battle cross-town rival North per usual for the Big Rivers title. Winona State committ Cooper Kapanke will lead an experienced offense. Pitching will be key.
12: Sun Prairie Cardinals: Won a share of the Big Eight title last year but lost a lot of talent. Still always a force in the state under Rob Hamilton.
14: West Bend West Spartans: Legendary coach Billy Albrecht steps down as Dan D’Amico comes from Waukesha North to take over. Logan Rupnow will lead the team in this new era.
15: Milwaukee Marquette Hilltoppers: The Toppers won 20 games last summer and return three-quarters of their lineup including 1st Team All-GMC Sean Garczynski.
16: Menomonee Falls Indians: Falls returns five starters and have of their pitching staff from a 26-win, Sectional Championship team last year. Will fight Marquette for the Greater Metro.
19: Kenosha Bradford Red Devils: Have three terrific seniors including Jarett Ramer and will battle, as usual, for a South East Conference title.
20: Eau Claire North Huskies: Have dominated the Big Rivers the past three years but will be challenged by Memorial this season. 1st Team All-BRC players in Carter Hesselman and Sam Stange return.
Receiving Votes: Oconomowoc, Germantown, Franklin, DeForest, Verona, Milwaukee Rufus King.
1: Waupun Warriors: Waupun was loaded last year and are loaded again this year. Four 1st Team All-Conference players, two of whom are juniors, are back. The tradition is back on track.
2: Waukesha Catholic Memorial Crusaders: Memorial made it to the Sectional Finals last year and bring back almost every starter. 1st Team All-C8 seniors Luke Fox and Chris Byhre both hit over .400.
3: Jefferson Eagles: The State-Runner-Ups want another shot at a title and might get it. Four starters are back along with half the pitching staff, including 9-0 Ryan Brost, a lefty senior.
Other ranked area teams:
6: Beloit Turner Trojans: Tied with Jefferson last year in the first unified Rock Valley race. With six starters returning, the Trojans and Eagles are on yet another collision course.
7: Greendale Panthers: The Panthers won a summer Regional last year and return almost all of their pitching and six starters. Are picked to win the Woodland West over Pewaukee.
11: Whitefish Bay Blue Dukes: Playing a tough, mostly DI North Shore schedule will make them dangerous come DII tournament time. Most of their pitching is back from last year.
13: Adams-Friendship Green Devils: Almost entire lineup returns for South Central favorites including six All-Conference players. Braedyn Quinnell hit .420 last spring and will lead the attack.
14: Greendale Martin Luther Spartans: Metro Classic favorites and defending champs lost a lot to graduation but still return two 1st Team All-MCC players in Bryce Kulinski and Nate Crawey.
16: Whitnall Falcons: The Falcons have been rising for three years. 2019 might be their year with almost half their pitching staff and half their starters returning.
19: Pewaukee Pirates: The Pirates won 20 games last summer and return most of their pitching plus five starters. They return All-Conference catcher Josh Geisel.
Receiving Votes: Mount Horeb, Edgerton, Altoona, River Valley, Monona Grove, Edgewood.
1: Saint Marty Catholic Zephyrs: TJ Skrzypczak back who was 9-0 this season, along with most of his friends.
2: Lake Country Lutheran Lightning: 1st Team All-State Tyler Brandenberg leads a team that brings back their entire infield intact and is picked to win the tough Midwest Classic.
3: Prairie du Chien Blackhawks: The Blackhawks were 18-2 last season, made it to the Sectional Finals, and bring back all but one starter including Gavin Gillitzer who was 9-0 last season.
Other ranked area teams:
10: Fall Creek Crickets: Picked to win the tough Cloverbelt West, the Crickets have an experienced team and return catcher Marcus Cline.
12: Columbus Cardinals: Five starters and four All-Conference players return to a team that went 14-3 last season. Picked to win the Capitol North again.
13: Wisconsin Heights Vanguards: Heights will have a strong defensive team anchored by senior 1st Team All-Capitol South, Payton Flamme.
18: Regis Ramblers: Return most of their staff and five starters from a 17-win team last season. Senior Cade Osborn is a dominant number one pitcher.
19: Boyceville Bulldogs: The Bulldogs bring back a deep pitching staff. Catcher Trett Joles hit .440 as a freshman last year and is one of state’s top sophomores.
20: Lakeside Lutheran Warriors: The Warriors were 12-6 and return half of their pitching staff and four starters from last season. Alex Ryan was 4-0, .420 last season.
Receiving Votes: Mondovi, Brookfield Academy, Westfield, Palmyra-Eagle, Markesan, Fennimore.
1: Webster Tigers: The defending D3 State champs might be the first D4 in history to have two pitchers who are both NCAA D1 recruits. Jack Washburn coming off an All-State season.
2: Athens Bluejays: The two time defending D4 State champions return All-State Seth Coker for his Hall of Fame dad’s last year of coaching.
3: Mineral Point Pointers: Last year’s Sectional Champs come back with most of their team that went 18-5 last year and is the pick to win the SWAL in 2019.
Other ranked area teams
4: Pecatonica Vikings: The Vikings return seven starters and a deep pitching staff that went 19-6 and won their third consecutive Six Rivers East title. They won a Regional last year.
5: Johnson Creek Bluejays: The Bluejays bring back several starters from last year’s Sectional Chamionship squad including Justin Swanson who was 5-1 and hit close to .500.
6: Shullsburg-Benton Co-op: SB returns nine kids who started last year, six of whom were named either 1st or 2nd Team All-Conference and won the Six Rivers West for the second straight year.
7: Green Lake-Princeton Tigersharks: Ten games over .500 and Sectional Finalists, return almost every starter from last year and most of their pitching. Will fight it out for the new Trailways West.
9: Living Word Lutheran Timberwolves: The Wolves were 17-6 last season playing in a D3 conference, the Midwest Classic. Almost every pitcher returns to a team that won a Regional. Picked 4th in MCC.
13: Parkview Vikings: Bring back six seniors who were three games over .500 last year but entire team is very experienced. Will fight with Johnson Creek and Palmyra for a Trailways South title.
16: De Soto Pirates: Picked to win the Ridge and Valley in a tight three-team race, the Pirates return at least six starters but will have to develop pitching.
18: Wauzeka-Steuben Hornets: The Hornets went 11-8 last season and return most of their lineup. Talented freshmen coming into the program will insure that they will stay at the top of the R&V for years.
Receiving Votes: Ithaca, Highland, Argyle, Barneveld.