Rosholt baseball team looks to keep building
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Led by an experienced senior class and a talented group of underclassmen, the Rosholt High School baseball has high aspirations for this season.
Coming off a fifth-place finish in the Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) South in 2018, the Hornets knocked off last year’s top three teams in the conference during the past week, to improve to 8-1-1 overall and move into a three-way tie at the top of the conference standings.
“We’re a work in progress,” said Rosholt baseball head coach Jack Brooks. “I told them when we started, ‘at the end of the year, we’re going to be a lot better team than we were at the beginning of the year.’
“And that’s your goal in high school baseball when you start, is teaching the game as you go, and go from there,” he said.
Rosholt lost a pair of starters in center fielder/pitcher Dylan Richter and pitcher/third baseman John Suwyn from a year ago, but brought back the rest of its team from last season, when the Hornets finished 10-9 following an 8-3 loss to Wild Rose in the WIAA Division 4 Regional Semifinals.
Leading the returnees at the top of the lineup this season are Second Team All-CWC South senior shortstop/pitcher Hunter Garski, Honorable Mention All-CWC South sophomore catcher/pitcher Isaac Cychosz, and First Team All-CWC South senior left fielder/third baseman Isaac Groshek.
“Hunter’s been here for four years at shortstop, he knows the game well, and the bigger the game, the better he plays,” said Brooks. “Isaac Cychosz is one of the best catchers that we’ve ever had, he’s got a cannon for an arm, and when he learns little things about calling the game, he could be really tough.
“And Isaac Groshek has played for four years now, he’s the nicest kid you’ll meet and he’ll show the young guys what to do, so he works well with them,” he said.
Freshman infielder/pitcher Blade Niewiadomski has earned a starting spot in the lineup and hits cleanup for Rosholt, followed by sophomore first baseman/pitcher Nathan Lemanczyk and sophomore second baseman/pitcher Nathan Kropidlowski.
“Blade plays above his age bracket, way above it,” said Brooks. “Lemanczyk is the most coachable kid I’ve ever met, you tell him things and he’s got it, and he’ll give you 100 percent.
“And Nathan Kropidlowski does a good job at second base for us, and really plays hard,” he said.
Also returning as starters for the Hornets this season are senior right fielder/second baseman Logan McHugh, sophomore center fielder Bo Niewiadomski and Honorable Mention All-CWC South senior infielder/pitcher Tony Kropidlowski.
“Logan does a really good job for us, he’s got a lot better this year, and it’s a matter of just playing up to what he can do,” said Brooks. “Bo at times can be too much of a perfectionist, if he thinks he’s not doing well, he’ll get down too much, but when the ball’s hit and it’s in the air, he can go get it.
“And Tony’s just even keel, he never gets too excited, never gets too down, but the biggest thing about him is, he’s the calming force for people,” he said.
Meanwhile, senior Brandon Wanta; juniors Isaac Kaminski and Andrew Ganski; sophomores Brock Lyshik, Sam Trzebiatowski, Noah Barden, Justin Wanta, Rafael Lugo and Mason Skortz; and freshmen Skyler Feltz, Jacob Lemke, Landon Zinda and Isaac Mlodik are also fighting for playing time.
“Right now, the biggest thing we’ve got is the pitching,” said Brooks. “And I’ve got a couple of guys on the bench that can pitch, and the way this pitch count thing goes, it’s great to have depth like that.”
Rosholt opened the season with a 2-2 tie against Wautoma March 28, which was the first of Brooks’ 33-year coaching career, and followed with a 3-0 loss at Almond April 4, when the Eagles hit a walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to drop the Hornets to 0-1-1 on the season.
Rosholt bounced back with six wins in a row, including a pair of victories over last season’s CWC South co-Champions, as Blade Niewiadomski allowed one earned run over five innings in an 8-1 win at Pacelli April 25, and Cychosz struck out nine and walked none in a complete game, two-hit shutout to lead a 2-0 win at Pittsville April 26.
The Hornets were back home to take on CWC South leader Almond-Bancroft (4-0) Monday, April 29, where Garski scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first inning to give Rosholt a 1-0 lead, and Groshek had a two-run double in the bottom of the second inning to power a four-run rally that pushed the lead to 5-0.
Blade Niewiadomski went on to strike out 12, walk two and allow two hits over six and 2/3 innings before he left due to the pitch limit, as he earned the victory in a 7-0 win that left Rosholt (4-1) tied atop the CWC South standings with Almond (4-1) and Pacelli (4-1).
“Pitching was great both games, but they just got one big hit last game, which got them the win,” said Blade Niewiadomski. “But this game we hit well, both teams pitched well, we just came out on top.”
“It was big,” said Garski. “We came out here being the underdog to them, because they were first in conference, they beat up on us the first time, ending with that walk-off.
“But we came out here today and brought it back to them, and got the win,” he said.
The Hornets ran their win streak to eight games with a 4-3 nonconference victory at Wittenberg-Birnamwood Tuesday, April 30, and are scheduled to play at Wild Rose Thursday, May 2, before they host Division 3 ninth-ranked Iola-Scandinavia in a nonconference game at 6 p.m. Friday, May 3.
Rosholt will then return to nonconference play at Port Edwards at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 4, as it looks to remain in first place in the CWC South, after it finished fifth (6-6) last year behind Pacelli (10-2), Pittsville (10-2), Almond (7-5) and Wild Rose (7-5).
“Pacelli and Almond have to play each other yet (twice), so it all depends on how it sorts itself out at the end here,” said Brooks. “What’s going to happen is, the team with the most pitching is going to be at a big advantage, because these games backing up (with rainouts).
“It’ll be interesting,” he said.
In the postseason, Rosholt has ninth-ranked and back-to-back defending WIAA Division 4 State Champion Athens in its Division 4 Regional, while the Sectional also includes 10th-ranked Greenwood.
Brooks said that his team is a lot better than it was two weeks ago and that it’s meshing well, while he wants them to keep striving to get better and better as the season goes on.
“Our goal is win conference, and then our ultimate goal is to go to state,” said Cychosz. “We’ve got Athens in our Regional though, they’re tough, but I think we’re ready for them, and I think we could beat anybody right now.
“We’re playing good, and (we just need to) keep playing as a team and do the fundamentals,” he said.
“When we started I said, ‘we want to get better each week,’” said Brooks. “Well you look at it now, and like Isaac said, you want to win conference and go to the State Tournament.
“If you set that goal high and you work for it, you reach a lot of things that are close to it,” he said. “You try to be perfect, and the closest you can get to it, the better you’re going to be.”