Almond-Bancroft baseball set to contend
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
After returning a talented group from a year ago, the Almond-Bancroft High School baseball team will look to challenge for the Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) South Title and make a return trip to Sectionals this season.
The Eagles brought back all but two starters back from last year’s team and are off to a 7-3 start so far this season, following a 7-0 loss at Rosholt Monday, April 29, that left the team in a three-way tie atop the CWC South standings.
“We’re doing good,” said Almond-Bancroft baseball head coach Rod Turzinski. “We beat these guys down in Almond, they beat us here, so we’re tied for first with them and Pacelli.
“The game moves on,” he said. “This one’s done, just like an at bat that you didn’t like, and we’ll be fine.”
Almond lost Unanimous First Team All-CWC South catcher and CWC South Player of the Year Derek Baumgartner and Unanimous First Team All-CWC South pitcher Alec Wiczek from last year’s team that finished 10-7 overall after a 9-8 loss to Green Lake/Princeton in the WIAA Division 4 Sectional Semifinals.
“I lost two good players, but I had two real good players hurt, and they’re back this year,” said Turzinski. “So we’re as good, or maybe better than last year.
“You’re not going to replace Derek as a catcher, I get that, but we’ve improved in other positions,” he said. “So we’ll be good by the end of the year.”
Honorable Mention All-CWC senior Zach Bunders moved from the infield to catcher this season and has been joined at the top of the Eagles’ lineup by Second Team All-CWC South sophomore shortstop/pitcher Thomas Hunt and senior infielder/pitcher Cade Lamb, who missed all of last year due to a torn ACL.
Second Team All-CWC South sophomore first baseman/pitcher Danny Baumgartner returns to the middle of the lineup for Almond, along with junior third baseman Gage Meddaugh and senior center fielder Jon Perrin.
Senior left fielder Zach Clark is back for his fourth year as a starter, and sophomore second baseman/pitcher Connor Newby joined the lineup this season after missing last year due to an injury, while junior Sheldon Wade, senior Max Turzinski, senior Aidan Whitman, senior Jake Stuebs, sophomore Damion Wiza, and freshmen Tyler Huntington, Mason Manske and Evan Ramczyk are also battling for playing time.
“Zach has been doing a good job, this is his first year catching, he’s a senior, but he hasn’t done that before,” said coach Turzinski. “We’ve got a couple of young guys at second and at third that haven’t played there much, and are making plays.
“We’re still trying to find our ninth starter, that’s kind of up in the air yet,” he said. “But our center fielder’s strong, our pitching’s coming around, and we’re getting healthier with the arms.”
Almond opened this season with four wins in a row, including a 3-0 win at home over Rosholt April 4, as Newby hit a walk-off, three-run home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Eagles followed with a 3-2 stretch, as they had nonconference losses to Wittenberg-Birnamwood (8-4) and Amherst (9-0), but got off to a 4-0 start in the CWC South to sit alone atop the Conference Standings heading into their matchup at Rosholt Monday.
There, Rosholt scored one run in the bottom of the first inning on a wild pitch from Hunt to take a 1-0 lead, and Rosholt took advantage of a pair of Almond errors to score four runs in the bottom of the second inning to go up 5-0.
The Eagles went on to drop a 7-0 decision, as their offense was limited to a pair of singles in the loss, which moved Almond into a three-way tie at the top of the CWC South with Rosholt (4-1) and Pacelli (4-1).
“(Rosholt freshman Blade Niewiadomski) pitched very well,” said coach Turzinski after the game. “Like I just told the guys, ‘it doesn’t matter the errors that we had or what went on, but you’re not winning very many games putting a zero on the board.’
“We didn’t put the ball in play, simple as that, and we let their leadoff guy get on too many innings in a row,” he said. “And that will cost you in the long run.”
“We’re going to try coming out and playing better on defense, making less errors for our pitchers, make them work as (little) as possible,” said Lamb, who had one of the Eagles’ two hits. “And putting the ball in play is a big key, we’ve got to keep doing that.
“And if we put the ball in play, it will find openings, and we’ll eventually get those hits,” he said.
The Eagles are scheduled to host Tri-County Thursday, May 2, and Pittsville Friday, May 3, before they play at Pittsville Monday, May 6.
Almond will be at home again Thursday, May 9, to take on Pacelli, which finished 10-2 in the CWC South last season to win a share of the Conference Title with Pittsville, and finish ahead of the Eagles (7-5), Wild Rose (7-5) and Rosholt (6-6).
“It’s a four-team race, Pittsville and then the three of us that are tied right now for first,” said coach Turzinski. “So it will be a battle down the road.
“I just hope a few more teams can beat up on a couple of these teams here, and they will,” he said. “We’ve got to do our part, that’s it, and try to be there at the end.”
The Eagles have battled through some injuries early on this year, and coach Turzinski they’ve got to get healthy and then take it one game at a time heading into the final month of the season, as the postseason is set to begin May 23.
“Our goal is to be playing good ball going into the playoffs again,” said coach Turzinski. “That was our goal last year, we made it to Sectionals, and my goal is to get to Sectionals and win some games down there again this year.
“These guys want more, they want the conference too, and we’re in it,” he said. “But that was fun last year, going down there and playing in the Sectionals, and that’s where I want to go.”
“We’ve got to keep battling all year,” said Hunt. “Even after the loss (to Rosholt), we’re tied for first in conference, so that will be a battle.
“We’ve got to keep coming out and putting up good performances, just coming out and winning ballgames,” he said. “And then hopefully throughout the playoffs, we can keep winning and go as far as we think we can.”