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Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 17 Columbus


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

The Wisconsin high school season kicks off on March 27th, the first day for regular season games.

Leading up to the opening week of games we will be rolling out team previews of high school teams all across the state and across all classifications, eventually launching our Preseason Power 25.

We will bring you a snapshot of what to expect along with top players and keys to success for that particular team.

Team: Columbus
Preseason Rank: 17
2017 Record: 18-2
Conference: Capitol North
WIAA Division: 2
Head Coach: Bob Jansen
Playoff Run: Regional finalist
2017 Final Rank: 20
Returning Starters: 7
Returning Pitchers: 3

KEY PLAYERS LOST

Peyton Henry, SS/RHP (Wisconsin-La Crosse)
Eliot Turnquist, 2B (Madison JC)
Derek Rademacher, OF

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Randon Dauman WI Columbus 2018 RHP/INF Ohio
Connor Manthey WI Columbus 2018 C/RHP Bradley
Teegan Weidemann WI Columbus 2018 OF  
Noah Black WI Columbus 2018 OF  
Joey Kalafut WI Columbus 2018 1B/OF Edgewood College
Trent Casper WI Columbus 2019 SS

X-FACTOR

Junior SS Trent Casper got some innings in the infield last year as a sophomore but is now set for the everyday job with Columbus’ former star Peyton Henry is now at Wisconsin-La Crosse. Casper didn’t exactly steal the spotlight in his limited action, but with a sample size that small, it’s hard to glean anything useful from his .214 batting average. Truly, the Cardinals don’t need him to slug his way into an all-conference pick, they just need a reliable glove that their starting staff feels confident in front of.

If Casper can do his job defensively, he’ll have had a successful season as the starting shortstop and the Cardinals’ pitching will be appreciative.

OUTLOOK

So far on this countdown, no team has yet had the luxury of being captained by two Division-I-bound seniors like Columbus’ RHP Randon Dauman (Ohio) and C Connor Manthey (Bradley). The two have been battery mates for a long time and have developed quite the rapport, and it shows on the mound.

Dauman and Manthey are entering their fourth year as starters on Coach Bob Jansen’s varsity team. The pair have accrued plenty of first team honors and individual awards along the way, but are locked in for 2018 to achieve something greater: a state title. Dauman, as just a freshman, was selected to the Capitol North Conference’s first team. He was all-district as a sophomore, all-area as a junior, and even earned the title of being named the CNC’s player of the year last spring. He’s lit up our radar, too, and is ranked No. 9 overall in his state class and is the No. 3-ranked right-handed pitcher entering the season. He’s a certifiable ace who can touch 90 mph and mixes in a sharp breaking ball. For reassurance, he went 7-0 with a 0.87 ERA in 2017.

Randon Dauman (3.12.17)

Giving Dauman the ball once a week lightens the workload significantly for the rest of this team. Dauman and Manthey rotate roles as the team’s best pitcher and hitter. It’s Manthey’s turn in the order on the mound right after Dauman’s. Since Manthey has skill behind the plate to earn a D-I offer as a catcher, he has an arm that plays well as a No. 2 on this high school staff. He was 2-0 last year with a 1.15 ERA when called upon, though he may eat more innings now that Henry, one of this team’s go-to arms after Dauman, graduated last spring.

Make no mistake, Manthey’s much better at catcher and in the batter’s box than he is on the mound. And that’s saying something. He’s very athletic for his size and was actually his high school’s star middle linebacker where he was named the North Capitol Conference Defensive Player of the Year. At the plate, he hit .429 and generates some easy pop. He’s on our state rankings, too, as his class’ No. 4-ranked catcher.

Connor Manthey (3.12.17)

But this D-2 team is aware that it’ll need more than just the standard Manthey-Dauman show to make it further than the regional finals like it did last season.

Fellow senior and first baseman, Joey Kalafut, is going to be a critical part of this team and the type of season he produces will go a long way in measuring how far the Cardinals were able to go. He’ll be the best bat outside of Manthey and Dauman, most likely, and his experience on the mound will be vital, too. Kalafut is the third pitcher on this staff who finished last season with a sub-2.00 ERA so he’ll be penciled in right behind Manthey for the No. 3 starter’s role.

Shaking out the rest of this lineup, any contributions Columbus can get from seniors Noah Black and Alex Waltrud will be welcome, considering they did see the field some as juniors. And as mentioned in the X-Factor section, Caspers’ integration into daily lineup could be a huge wildcard.

BOTTOM LINE

Last season for the Cardinals featured some high highs and some low lows. The team stymied Lodi from winning its sixth straight conference title en route to the program’s first conference title since 1992, thanks to their 15-1 record in the CNC. But, on the other hand, this team didn’t make much of a playoff splash, either. A disappointment with so many gifted athletes on its roster.

This team is going to get its predominant production from two likely heroes, but it’ll need a boost from its role players, some we may not even expect. A top-heavy rotation can deliver you to a deep postseason run, but depth gets you to state. Columbus might have it, but we’ll just have to see this spring.

Find more information on the 2018 Cardinals below:

+ Full Schedule
+ Team Website

Make sure to follow @PBRWisconsin on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the season.

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN