Pacelli baseball wins CWC South Title, set for postseason
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
With a chance to win a share of the Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) South Title, the Pacelli Catholic High School baseball team went on the road and beat Rosholt in its regular-season finale Tuesday, May 22.
Down 2-0, the Cardinals rallied for four runs in the top of the second inning to take a 4-2 lead, and went on to win 4-3 to earn a share of the Conference Title.
Third-seeded Pacelli (14-7, 10-2) is set to open the postseason against sixth-seeded Manawa in a WIAA Division 3 Regional Quarterfinal at Bukolt Park at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, with the winner to play at second-seeded and reigning State Runner-up Iola-Scandinavia in a Regional Semifinal Tuesday, May 29.
“It’s been kind of an up-and-down year for us, but give the guys a lot of credit,” said Pacelli baseball head coach Wayne Sankey. “We’re not very deep, we only have 12 guys, and that’s been tough.
“But to win with the season being so condensed the way it is, and to pull off a Conference Championship the way we did, I thought that’s pretty special for these guys, especially with only two seniors on the team,” he said. “They’ve come out and they want to play, they want to get better, and they play hard and try to give everything they’ve got every game.”
The Cardinals returned five starters from a year ago, after they lost a pair of First Team All-CWC-8 selections in shortstop Andy Tepp and third baseman/pitcher Jake Thomas, Second Team All-CWC-8 center fielder Ethan Jansch and Honorable Mention All-CWC-8 first baseman Jordan Raflik from last year’s team that finished second in the CWC-8 and 18-8 overall following a 6-5 loss to Weyauwega-Fremont in the Division 3 Regional Semifinals.
This season, Pacelli has been led at the top of the order by the return of three starters in junior catcher Seth Shulfer, First Team All-CWC-8 junior utility player/pitcher Zach Zimmerman and Honorable Mention All-CWC-8 junior infielder/pitcher Nate Helms.
“Seth’s had a great, great year for us, he’s leading us in hitting, hitting over .400, and defensively he’s been great,” said Sankey. “Zach plays short, he plays third, he plays center, he plays some second, and he pitches for us, and he’s got a lot of speed, he gets on base and is also hitting very well.
“And then Nate’s our three hitter, and on the mound he’s been kind of that tough-luck guy, but he’s had to throw the big games,” he said. “And all three of those guys, being juniors, have had great years for us.”
Senior outfielder Garret Parks has been joined in the middle of the order by the return of sophomore left fielder/pitcher Cam Landwer to the lineup and the addition of freshman second baseman Kayden Mayek.
“We moved Garret up to the four spot about halfway through the season, and he hadn’t played last year, so once he got used to getting at bats and getting experience, he’s been doing a great job of putting the ball in play,” said Sankey. “Cam drives the ball for us and he’s one of our top three pitchers also, and just does a great job of throwing hard and throwing strikes.
“And Kayden started out hot, we’re just looking to get him some experience and get him at bats, and he’s doing a nice job for us,” he said.
Junior third baseman Brad Raflik also returns as a starter, while senior first baseman Jonah Dombrowski and sophomore right fielder Tim Tippel have moved into the lineup this season.
“Jonah’s been hitting very well as of late, and he’s also been used on the mound on the weekends,” said Sankey. “Brad really has turned it on too offensively here toward the end of the year.
“And then Tim’s a nice, little nine hitter, he gets on base and battles and has really turned around his defense in the outfield and helps us a lot out there,” he said.
Pacelli split a pair of games with Division 4 third-ranked Pittsville and Wild Rose during the conference season, and went 7-0 against the rest of the CWC South.
That left the Cardinals at 9-2 in the conference heading into its regular-season finale at Rosholt (9-8, 6-6), where they had a chance to win a share of the CWC South Title after Pittsville (10-2) clinched at least a share with a 10-0 win over Port Edwards (0-12) in its last final game Friday, May 18.
Pacelli came up empty in the top of the first inning Tuesday after it loaded the bases with nobody out, while Rosholt used a RBI double and a RBI single off Helms in the bottom of the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals answered in the top of the second inning, as Helms delivered a three-run double with two outs to give the team a 3-2 lead, and Parks followed with a RBI single to make it 4-2.
“When you have bases loaded and nobody out in the first and you don’t score, and then they put up two runs with their first three or four hitters, that’s tough,” said Sankey. “We dug ourselves a hole, but Nate had the big hit to drive in three there, and then also Garret to drive him in.”
Rosholt reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the second inning and had a two-out RBI single to pull within 4-3, before Helms took control on the mound the rest of the way.
A two-out single in the bottom of the fifth inning was the only baserunner Helms allowed over the final five innings, and he struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh inning to close out the 4-3 victory.
Helms went 2-for-4 with two doubles, Dombrowski was 2-for-3, and Shulfer went 2-for-4 with a double to lead the Pacelli offense, while Helms allowed two earned runs on five hits, walked none and struck out nine over seven innings in the complete-game victory.
“Nate just mixed his pitches better and threw more curveballs and change-ups and wasn’t so predictable,” said Sankey. “And that helped a lot.
“And I don’t care what anybody says, winning at Rosholt is tough, and to win it and tie Pittsville, we’ll take it,” he said. “But obviously the bigger part of the season’s coming up.”
Pacelli is set to open the postseason Thursday against Manawa, with the winner to play at Iola-Scandinavia in the Regional Semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The winner of that will advance to the Regional Final against top-seeded Amherst, fourth-seeded Wittenberg-Birnamwood and fifth-seeded Weyauwega-Fremont at the highest remaining seed Wednesday, May 30.
“It’s going to tough,” said Sankey. “Iola took second at state last year, Amherst has got a good team this year, and Wittenberg’s got a pretty solid team too.
“We’ve got to come ready to play, because there’s going to be some tough teams for us,” he said.
Sectionals are set for Saint Mary Catholic in Neenah Tuesday, June 5, with the Sectional Semifinal at noon and the Sectional Final at 6 p.m., while the Cardinals are just focusing on the next game on their schedule.
“We try to take each playoff game one game at a time, and try to play our best game each playoff game,” said Sankey. “We don’t talk about Regionals or Sectionals or state, we just try to be the best team we can be in the playoffs in that particular game.
“And hopefully with 21 games in such a short season this year, we’ve got that experience that we’ll be as good as we can be in the playoffs,” he said.