Prep Baseball Report

Badger State Battle: Quick Hits Day 1

By Wisconsin Staff

Welcome back to the PBR Wisconsin Badger State Battle, a collection of the state’s finest travel ball programs in one hub for one weekend. Under a modified format, the PBR Wisconsin staff is still hosting this huge annual event, and after each gameday, we'll be highlighting the best things we saw, starting today after a light Day 1.

+ LHP Andrew Milner (Eau Claire North, 2022) started game one for the Eau Claire A’s while playing up a level amongst 2021 competition. He didn’t look out of place, either. Milner first sticks out for the obvious projection in his frame – a lanky, long-levered 6-foot-4, 165 pounds. Miller pitched six strong innings in their game against GRB Rays, allowing three hits, two walks while striking out six. Miller’s fastball sat 78-79 with a 1-7 curveball at 64-66. 

+ Rhino Wisconsin’s 15U squad tied Eau Claire A’s, 4-4, but got a pretty sturdy outing from its strong No. 1, RHP Logan Frank (Oshkosh North, 2023). Listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Frank features obvious arm strength coming from a lower slot with funk, and it made life tough on A’s batters. Frank was sitting 76-78 mph early, touching 79, with a heavy, running fastball and he mixed in a slow, sweeping curve at 57-60. His stuff on this day helped him punch out nine batters of his 13 outs recorded.

+ Sluggers Baseball’s 16U squad leaned on RHP Pearson Kephart (Southwestern, 2022) to open its tournament from the mound and he hauled them to a victory. He pitched a complete game in a tight 4-3 contest over GRB Rays Eau Claire. Crossfire action from a low ¾ slot, sat in the mid-70s, up to 78 mph, in the outing, mixing in a breaking ball that kept the opposition off balance. Kephart K’d seven and he maintained his composure to help assert his team the win, as none of the runs he allowed were earned.

+ RHP Ethan Hoops (De Pere, 2022) had a nice outing against Thundercats on Thursday morning, collecting the complete game victory. After allowing three straight hits and an earned run in the second inning, Hoops went on to retire nine out of the next 10 batters. He showed command of the zone and flashed a sweeping slider with strikeout ability, helping his ISA squad earn a game one win.

+ C Brandon Vlcko (Stevens Point Area, 2022) has made some big gains in 2020. We first saw the 6-foot-1, 185-pound backstop at our Madison-area event in March where his impressive physicality jumped out. He was a raw defender, but his innate arm strength out of the chute was very noteworthy. Vlcko’s done well to make his arm action more efficient all while maintaining huge arm strength (topping 84 mph at our PBR All-State Games event earlier in the week). He was popping in the low 2.00 range in between innings, repeatedly on the bag with casual, easy arm strength. Vlcko also added a pair of singles up the middle, one for an RBI, en route to CBT’s 16U opening day win.

CBT 16U actually notched a pair of wins on Thursday, and Vlcko pitched in offensively while RHP Easton Plachetka (Hortonville, 2022) filled it up from the mound, dodging barrels to shut down GRB Rays Eau Claire. He pitched four scoreless having allowed just two hits, no walks, and he K’d a couple. Plachetka also helped his own cause by going 2-for-3 with an inside-the-park homer, adding three RBIs.

+ GRB Rays Yellow at both the 16U and 17U levels saw some quality work from a trio of righties: Marcus Jaworski (Iola-Scandinavia, 2021) Aaron Rice (Brillion, 2021) and Cole Barton (Westfield, 2022). Jaworski pitched a dominant five frames, K’ing six across that span having allowed just a pair of hits and walks. He was sitting 80-83 mph, up to 84 early, mixing in a curveball that flashed sharp action with depth. Rice is a top-40-ranked prospect in the state, which makes him one of the state’s top-ranked uncommitted arms. He has a live fastball that was up to 87 mph, and he also showed off a changeup with arm side run at 76-77. RHP Cole Barton (Westfield, 2022) was overwhelming and it helped the Yellow 16U squad battle for a narrow 3-2 win over BATS Academy. Barton is a physical 6-foot-2 right-hander with a heavy fastball that kept earning swings, nine Ks in total. He pitched six innings and scattered seven hits, two walks, and both runs allowed were unearned.

The teams were also boosted on offense by SS Mason Kirchberg (DeForest, 2021), OF Angel Rades (Oak Creek, 2021), and 3B Kase Reierson (Rio, 2022). Kirchberg was all over the barrel on Thursday, making some of the loudest contact, that we saw, of the day and on repeat. Rades collected a double and a triple in the team’s first game and tacked on a couple more hustle hits in game two. And on the 16U side, three-hole bat Reierson looks like one to follow this weekend. He was 1-for-2 with a double in the team’s lone game with a fast bat with some strength.

+ Poised to be one of the top teams in attendance this weekend, STiKS Academy Black 16U were buoyed by an excellent pitching performance from on-the-rise ‘22 righty Joey Schneider (West Bend West). He’s a thick/strong right-hander who held low- to mid-80s velo throughout his start, complemented by a 12/6 breaking ball that flashed sharp downer bite, effectively keeping Rhino Wisconsin off balance, K’ing eight batters in the process.

And STiKS Black 16U got a second dominant outing from RHP Thomas Harper (Wauwatosa East, 2022), who’s arrow is trending up. After a great performance at our All-State Games event earlier in the week, Harper needed only his fastball to overpower Silver Sluggers, sitting 83-85 mph early from a clean, loose ¾ slot, mixing in the occasional curve at 72 that showed above-average action. He struck out six while filling the zone, as his offense picked him up for the lopsided win.

+ Keep an eye on PBA 15U righty Noah Musolf (Franklin, 2023), a loose-armed righty who touched 79 mph from a thin, slender frame. He was mostly 75-78 mph throughout and just by using the fastball almost exclusively, Musolf carved through the Midwest Halos White order. He scattered five hits and three walks to earn a six-inning shutout, striking out six overall.

+ After showing well at our 15U tournament at The Rock, 1B Michael Comber (Verona Area, 2023) was back at it again for Edge Baseball. He went 3-for-3 in his team’s first game, including a triple and a pair of RBIs. A 6-foot-5, 205-pound sophomore to keep an eye on.

+ RHP A.J. Hamilton (Sussex Hamilton, 2021) of Brew State Baseball Academy impressed in front of our colleagues at PBR Michigan last weekend, and he did the same to his home state’s staff here in Mauston. He dominated from the rubber and at the plate. On the bump, he works with long and loose arm action from a high ¾ slot. His arm works well out front. Hamilton used his three pitch arsenal to consistently miss barrels against ISA Stars Black. His fastball sat 80-82 mph, while being able to maintain that velocity for all seven innings. Hamilton showcased advanced feel for his breaking ball for his age, and he was comfortable throwing the pitch in any count. His curveball sat 65-67 mph with 11/5 shape and sharp depth. His changeup sat 70-72 mph with running and fading action. His final line on the rubber was quite impressive; CG, 10K, 2 hits, 2 walks. Hamilton also provided plenty of offense for himself. Finished 2-for-3 with a single, a double, and a pair of RBI. 

+ RHP Preston Piranio (Mukwonago, 2021) has been enjoying a strong summer, thus far, and it motored on in front of our staff on Thursday in one of the day’s most dominant pitching performances. He tossed a 13-strikeout complete game having allowed a single run and hit along the way. Piranio is a compact/strong 5-foot-8 who came out sitting in the 80-82 mph range, and it mostly stayed that way, dropping down to the occasional 78 late. The slider is an effective go-to offspeed that flashes late, and it clearly did its job yesterday.

+ Piranio’s performance looked like the no-doubt best line of the day, until RHP Walker Retz (Boyceville, 2021) took the mound for Turn 2 Athletics at the Dells complex later in the day. Retz didn’t allow the heat index of 100 degrees to affect him as he tossed a complete game no-hitter, even that’s selling the game’s dominance short. Retz only gained velocity on all three of his pitches as the start went on. In the first, Retz was spotting it up in the low-80s and he just kep climbing into the 85-86 range before finishing the game by touching 88 twice in the seventh. After allowing a walk in the second frame, Retz struck out the next 13 GRB MKE Yellow hitters in a row. He only allowed two baserunners all game, via a walk and dropped-third strike. Retz’s overpowering final line: 7 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 17 K on 93 pitches.

Offensively for Turn 2 Athletics, there are some clear follow names living inside the lineup, like 3B Gabriel Richardson (Eau Claire North, 2022) and SS Austin Baker (Eau Claire Memorial). The two have shown very well in the past at this same tournament. Richardson is a hefty right-handed bat with advanced strength on contact, and he went 4-for-7 on Thursday with a double and two RBIs. He’s one of the top power bats in Wisconsin’s 2022 class. Baker’s a two-way athlete who moves well on defense and he also reached base in six of his seven plate appearances on Thursday, stealing three bases as well. Both Richardson and Baker are follows the rest of this weekend and summer.

And to cap off a glorious day for Turn 2, RHP Ryan Robertson (Eau Claire North, 2022) earned the team its second complete game victory from the mound. He pitched around five hits in six innings with a fastball that lived in the 78-80 mph range and an above-average breaking ball.

+ The Kenosha Braves’ SS Brady Davidson (St. Joseph, 2023) was one of the most productive bats at our 15U at The Rock tournament a few weeks ago, and he’s here in Mauston to keep that title. He tallied two more knocks and was constantly on the barrel.

+ SS A.J. Lausten (Hartford Union, 2022) is one of the the high-follow prospects here, and one of the top 2022 shortstops in the state, as he’s already showed our staff a couple times this summer. This time, we got to see it in-game, where Lausten led off for the Midwest Halos and reached base in all four of his plate appearances, slapping hard-hit singles through both infield holes, all while playing a savvy shortstop. A high-follow through the weekend and beyond.

+ And a busy, busy Day One in Mauston was capped by a star-studded matchup between Prospect Training Academy Cardinal and STiKS Academy Black at the 17U level. The matchup featured an excellent starting pitching duel between two-way follows RHP Jacob Hartlaub (Martin Luther, 2021) and RHP Owen Washburn (Webster, 2021; South Carolina commit). Hartlaub remains one of the more interesting uncommitted talents in Wisconsin’s incoming senior class. He’s a natural athlete who plays a smooth shortstop, but his live arm might work best on the mound. On Thursday night, he was sitting 84-86 mph, touching a couple 87-88, while mixing in a sweeping slider that he demonstrated confidence in, capable of landing at the backdoor. He had to work hard, naturally, against one of the top 17U programs in the state but he did so effectively – he held this lethal lineup to just one hit in his five innings, walked five and K’d three. He was relieved by RHP Jacob Thoresen (Oak Creek, 2021), another uncommitted name to know. He’s a durable 6-foot with arm strength, and he sat 83-84 mph, touching 85, in his scoreless relief outing, holding onto the 3-0 win.

For STiKS, Washburn came out hot, sitting 86-88 mph, touching a couple 90s, mixing in what was very possibly the day’s best breaking ball – an 11/5 curve that showed late bite at 71-75 mph, with RPMs that topped 2,500-plus. He K’d seven in his 4.1 innings, but PTA did manage a couple barrels off the bats of J.J. Chapman (Waterford, 2021; Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and Anthony Tomczak (Muskego, 2021).

Most notably, RHP/3B Grant Ross (Pewaukee, 2021; Valparaiso) came in for relief and looked as competitive as ever, pumping strikes with some grunts and anger behind them, sitting 86-88 mph, and he reached back for a couple 90s, too. He struck out each of the five batters he faced.