Pacelli baseball set to contend in Division 3 this season
With an experienced group back, the Pacelli High School
baseball team will look to compete with the top teams in Division 3 this
The Cardinals return six starters, including their top three
pitchers, from last year’s team that finished 21-7 and advanced to the WIAA Division
3 Sectional Semifinals.
Following a 2-0 win over reigning Central Wisconsin
Conference-8 (CWC-8) Champion Bonduel and a doubleheader sweep at WIAA Division
3 State Runner-up La Crosse Aquinas last week, Pacelli improved to 5-0 this
season with an 8-3 win over Amherst (1-2, 0-2) at Bukolt Park Monday, April 18.
“We’ve got a lot of guys back, but we’ve also got a lot of guys
who are different players than they were last year,” said Pacelli baseball head
coach Wayne Sankey. “Andy Tepp for instance, spent a lot of time in the weight
room in the off-season and a lot of time working, same thing with Matt Helms
and Jake Thomas and a couple of other guys.
“They really knew that we have a chance to be successful
this year, and they just didn’t lay back, and they weren’t just satisfied that
we are returning a lot of guys,” he said. “They wanted to get extra work in and
become better players, so our team can be better this year.”
Last season the Cardinals tied for second in the Central
Wisconsin Conference-8 (CWC-8) behind Bonduel and went on to advance to the
Division 3 Sectional Semifinals, where they fell 1-0 to eventual State Semifinalist
Marathon to finish 21-7 overall.
Pacelli lost Honorable Mention All-CWC-8 second baseman Troy
Flugaur and Honorable Mention All-CWC-8 outfielder Brett Barton from last
season, but returned five players who received All-CWC-8 recognition last year,
and opened this season as the 10th-ranked team in Division 3 in the Wisconsin
Baseball Central Pre-season Rankings.
Early on the Cardinals have gone through a number of
different lineups, but have been led at the top by First Team All-CWC-8 senior
right fielder Chris Shibilski, freshman designated hitter/outfielder/shortstop Zach
Zimmerman and Second Team All-CWC-8 junior shortstop Andy Tepp.
“I really like what Chris Shibilski’s done in the leadoff
spot for us this year, moving him from three to one,” said Sankey. “He’s one of
our fastest base runners, puts the bat on the ball, he can bunt, and just a
really good guy that sets the table.
“We like the way Zach makes contact and the way he can push
the ball to the right side of the field, that’s a huge asset in the two-hole,
and he is one of our faster runners,” he said. “And Andy has really, really
improved. Last year we used him as a leadoff guy, and this year we consider him
our best hitter.”
Also returning to the middle of the order from a year ago are
First Team All-CWC-8 senior catcher Cal Hintz, Second Team All-CWC-8 senior third
baseman Matt Helms and Honorable Mention junior third baseman/designated hitter
had a big year last year as a junior,” said Sankey. “Matt Helms has just been
on fire to start the year with the stick.
“And we’ve got Jake as the sixth hitter, he’ll play some
third base and DH,” he said.
Senior first baseman Chris Karch is also back as a starter
and hits seventh, while the Cardinals have rotated different players through
the bottom part of the order, with freshman second baseman Nate Helms, sophomore
center fielder Daniel Mitch, senior outfielder Josh Bergquist and junior
outfielder Ethan Jansch in the mix.
Also fighting for playing time are sophomore outfielder/catcher
Garret Parks, junior outfielder Hunter Hoover,
senior outfielder Anders Jacobson, senior second baseman Mike Dombrowski,
junior outfielder/first baseman Jordan Raflik and sophomore second baseman Cam
“Dan Mitch is our normal starting center fielder and is very
good defensively, and Ethan Jansch has played well defensively too,” said
Sankey. “The lineup’s been changed every game, so it’s not like in years past,
even with the number of guys that we have back.
“We’re trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle into the right
spots,” he said.
On the mound, the Cardinals also bring back their top three
pitchers from a year ago in Matt Helms, Shibilski and Thomas, while Tepp, Bergquist,
Karch, Nate Helms, Zimmerman, Cloud and Parks are expected to provide depth.
“We’ve got three really good starters in Matt, Chris and
Jake, who I don’t want to jinx him, but he hasn’t lost a game yet, as a
junior,” said Sankey. “For the most part they throw strikes, they get ahead of
hitters and they’ve worked on it in the off-season too.
“Josh Bergquist had to sit out last year because he
transferred (from Stevens Point Area Senior High School), and he didn’t miss a
practice last year and he didn’t miss a game, he was there all of the time,” he
said. “Now he’s able to play, so I’m excited for him to get that opportunity,
to not only play in right field, but be one of our relief pitchers too.”
Pacelli opened the season against Wausau East April 5 and
led 3-0 when the game was postponed due to weather and moved to April 29, while
the Cardinals followed with a 2-1 win over Wittenberg-Birnamwood April 11.
Pacelli then used a complete-game, one-hit shutout from Matt
Helms to beat reigning CWC-8 Champion Bonduel 2-0 at Bukolt Park Thursday,
April 14, and then went on the road Saturday, April 16, and beat WIAA Division
3 State Runner-up La Crosse Aquinas 5-2 and 8-3 to sweep the doubleheader,
after the Cardinals went 0-4 combined against both teams last season.
“That was probably the toughest weekend we’ve got on our
schedule,” said Sankey. “And to start out that way and to beat Bonduel, who
beat us twice last year, and the same thing with La Crosse Aquinas, and win
three of those games in a three-day span, was a really nice start to the
“We’ve just got to keep moving forward and keep getting
better every time out,” he said.
Pacelli was back home Monday afternoon to face Amherst,
which scored an unearned run in the top of the second inning and another
unearned run in the top of third inning off starter Matt Helms to take a 2-0
Shibilski had a one-out double in the bottom of the third
off Amherst senior starter Tanner Hansen and came around to score on a RBI
single from Zimmerman to make it 2-1, while Matt Helms singled to lead off the
bottom of the fourth inning and scored on a sacrifice fly from Karch to tie the
game at 2-2.
It remained that way in the bottom of the fifth, when
Shibilski had a one-out single off Amherst senior relief pitcher Nelson Bricco,
stole second base and came around to score on a RBI single from Tepp to give
the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.
Pacelli rallied again in the bottom of the sixth, as Nate
Helms singled with one out, Karch walked and Berquist singled to load the bases
for Parks, who followed with a fly ball that went over the head of Amherst
sophomore right fielder Marcus Glodowski for a two-run double that increased the
Cardinals’ lead to 5-2.
“Garret had a surprise start tonight, Cal was sick and a little under the weather
and didn’t feel very well,” said Sankey. “But it was nice for Garret to get a
big hit with that opportunity.”
Pacelli added a RBI groundout from Shibilski, a RBI single
from Zimmerman and a RBI double from Tepp later in the sixth inning to build an
8-2 lead, while Amherst (1-2, 0-2) scored an unearned run in the top of the
seventh to close the scoring in the Cardinals’ 8-3 win.
“We weren’t the sharpest we’ve been all year, but Matt was
on short rest from last week Thursday, and he did enough to get the job done,”
said Sankey. “Our defense wasn’t as good as it’s been in the first four games,
but it was adequate enough.
“And our sticks came alive in the sixth,” he said. “When you
put up a five-spot in the sixth, that helps a lot, and that just solidified the
win for us.”
The Cardinals will be back at home to play Shiocton (1-5,
1-1) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, and Iola-Scandinavia (2-4, 1-1) at Monday, April 25.
Pacelli is currently alone at the top of the CWC-8 standings
over Weyauwega-Fremont (3-1, 2-1) and Bonduel (3-1, 1-1), as it looks to win a
Conference Championship this season for the first time since it won three
consecutive CWC-8 Titles from 2010 to 2012.
“Bonduel and Iola and Wittenberg
look to be the three teams to be very competitive this year,” said Sankey.
“Bonduel lost six of their starters, but they still have one of the better
pitchers in the league.
“Iola, the same thing, they’ve got two good pitchers back,”
he said. “Wittenberg is definitely improved, they’ve got some young kids and
they didn’t graduate anybody so they’ve got a lot of guys coming back, and
they’ll be better.”
Going forward, Sankey said he wants his team to keep improving,
and that hopefully the experience the Cardinals have from their run to
Sectionals last year will carry with them down the road.
“Looking back, I was very pleased with those three games
last weekend, and now that we’ve done that, we’ve got to come ready to play
every day,” said Sankey. “There’s no reason why we can’t win every game we
“Now, it’s also baseball and it’s also about pitching
matchups and high school kids, so anything can happen,” he said. “So we really
want to focus on the mental part of the game and concentrating, and being
focused with every pitch.”