Cardinals hope to get over playoff hump in 2023
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT – The Pacelli baseball team has had two sub-10 loss seasons over the last three years.
The Cardinals are coming off a conference championship in 2022 while finishing second in the Central Wisconsin Conference-South the two years prior.
With regular season success, Pacelli coach Wayne Sankey and the team are looking for a longer run in the playoffs.
Pacelli made sectionals in 2018 but has been a regional exit ever since, with last year being one-and-done as a No. 1 seed.
Most of the younger returning players have a chip on their shoulders.
“That hurt, obviously. We worked hard all season for the one seed and getting home-field advantage in the regional playoffs,” Sankey said. “That is what they remember. A conference championship is nice, but the playoffs are what everybody is shooting for to be the best team they are. We have got to live and learn, and hopefully, we’re a better team this year when it comes to that.”
Sankey graduated six seniors last season but brought back plenty of offensive talent to this year’s squad.
The Cardinals were disciplined in the box in their undefeated (10-0) run to the regular season conference title. Pacelli drove in 119 runs during the conference season.
“What we try to do, especially with the rules now with the pitch count and small school baseball, most teams do not have two or three pitchers ready to pitch when they’re playing multiple games a week, ” Sankey explained. “That is kind of what our philosophy is, trying to build that pitch count on the pitcher and get guys on base and create some situations that the defense is not comfortable in. Hopefully, guys can knock in runs, but we try to get into bullpens as much as we can.”
As Pacelli makes a run at defending the CWC-South title, they will have to have fun doing it.
Sankey talked about what he is most excited about coming into the season.
“I’m always excited for the kids. Just the excitement that baseball brings along with spring, good weather and being outside,” Sankey stated. “It is one of the few sports that you can play almost every single day, so I am just excited for the kids that they are excited to get going and playing.”
Pacelli opens the season on the road at Adams-Friendship on Tuesday, Apr. 4, at 5 p.m.