Almond-Bancroft baseball set to contend in CWC South
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
After winning back-to-back Conference Titles, the Almond-Bancroft High School baseball team will look to win its third in a row in the newly-formed Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) South.
The Eagles returned five starters from last year’s team that finished 20-3 overall, and are off to a 3-1 start this season following a 4-1 win at Rosholt Monday, April 30.
“The guys are stepping up and making plays,” said Almond-Bancroft baseball head coach Rod Turzinski. “Even if they’re playing out of position, they’re getting it done.”
Almond won the CWC-10 in 2016 for its first Conference Title since 1986, then followed it up by going 18-0 in the conference last season to win the CWC-10 for the second year in a row.
The Eagles lost First Team All-CWC-10 pitcher/shortstop Carter Newby, Honorable Mention All-CWC-10 center fielder Wyatt Richtmyre and Honorable Mention All-CWC-10 first baseman Dylan Bunders from last year’s team that was eliminated from the postseason with a 7-5 loss to Tigerton in the WIAA Division 4 Regional Semifinals, while Second Team All-CWC-10 junior pitcher/infielder Cade Lamb was lost for this season due to a knee injury suffered in basketball.
Almond is led by the return of three-time First Team All-CWC-10 and the reigning CWC-10 Player of the Year in senior catcher Derek Baumgartner, a NCAA Division II Winona State (Minn.) recruit and Third-Team All-State selection last year, as well as Honorable Mention All-State and First Team All-CWC-10 pitcher/third baseman Alec Wiczek, and junior infielder/catcher Zach Bunders.
“Zach worked his butt off in the cages this year to slap the ball and make contact, and he’s doing a heck of a job leading off this year,” said Turzinski. “Derek is Derek, our lineup is built on protecting him, and Alec is just a horse.
“If I didn’t have Derek and Alec with these younger guys behind them, it would be a whole different team,” he said. “They are super nice guys, they’re not cocky at all, they help the young guys tremendously, and you can’t ask for more. There’s more than playing the game when it comes to a team, they’re the real deal, and they do it.”
Freshman first baseman Daniel Baumgartner, Derek’s younger brother, and freshman shortstop Thomas Hunt have earned starting roles this season, while junior outfielder/pitcher Zach Clark is also back as a starter.
Meanwhile, sophomore infielder Cage Meddaugh and junior outfielder Grant Burns saw time in the lineup last season, and junior Jon Perrin has taken over in center field.
“We’re not a fast team, but if we can pick up a few hits down in the lineup, and they have been, that’s huge to roll that lineup over,” said Turzinski. “And the guys have done it here in the last few games.”
With the start of the season delayed due to weather, Almond opened with a 3-2 win at home over Port Edwards April 12, then was unable to play again until a 9-2 loss at home to fourth-ranked Pittsville Tuesday, April 24.
The Eagles bounced back with a 16-1 win at Port Edwards Thursday, April 26, then traveled to take on Rosholt Monday, where Zach Bunders, Daniel Baumgartner, Hunt and Clark each had singles in the top of the first inning to lead a two-run rally that gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
With Wiczek on the mound, Almond maintained a 2-0 lead heading into the top of the fifth inning, where Zach Bunders led off with a double and came around to score on a RBI groundout from Wiczek, and Hunt added a RBI single to give Almond a 4-0 lead.
Rosholt scored a run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 4-1, but that was all the Hornets were able to get off Wiczek, as he struck out 12, walked one and allowed one earned run on six hits in a complete-game, 4-1 victory.
Meanwhile, Hunt went 3-for-4, Daniel Baumgartner was 2-for-3 with a double, and Zach Bunders went 2-for-4 with a double to lead the Almond offense.
“Alec stayed ahead of all of the batters and was able to finish the game,” said Turzinski. “With Derek, you can throw balls in the dirt and trust your catcher, we’ve lived on that for four years now, and it’s always a lot easier on me when Alec’s on the mound.
“But this win is huge,” he said. “They’re a good team and we love playing Rosholt, they’ve got good coaches, and if we can beat them or even split, it’s a good season right there.”
Almond was scheduled to host Tri-County Tuesday, May 1, then will play at Tri-County Thursday, May 3, before a matchup at Pittsville Monday, May 7.
Seventh-ranked Wild Rose and Pacelli were both tied atop the CWC South standings this week at 3-0, followed by Pittsville (2-0), Almond (3-1), Rosholt (1-2), Port Edwards (0-4) and Tri-County (0-5), in what is expected to be a tight race for the Conference Title this season.
“With the season the way it is, you better have pitching, and we do,” said Turzinski. “All of the other teams have good pitching too, but we’ve got a few guys that can throw, and with teams playing doubleheaders and Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, I think it will play in our favor in the long run.
“But there’s nobody you can overlook,” he said.
The Pittsville game starts a stretch of eight games in 15 days to close out the regular season, before the WIAA Division 4 Playoffs are set to begin May 24.
“I know that the guys want to keep that Conference Championship (streak) running,” said Turzinski. “My personal goal, and I think theirs is too, is to try do a little bit in the playoffs, which we haven’t been able to do.
“We’ve been a great team the last three years, and we just couldn’t get it done in the postseason,” he said. “So I think their goal is to try to win a few there and maybe at least get a Regional Trophy.”