Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 2 Janesville Craig


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: Janesville Craig
Preseason Rank: 2
2017 Record: 23-3
Conference: Big Eight
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Victor Herbst
Playoff Run: Sectional semifinalists
2017 Final Rank: 6
Returning Starters: 5
Returning Pitchers: 3

KEY PLAYERS LOST

Jack Blomgren, SS (Michigan)
Evan Spry, INF/RHP (Creighton)
Austin Kraus, INF (Edgewood College)

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Jacob Campbell
WI Janesville Craig 2018 C Illinois
Noah Berghammer WI Janesville Craig 2018 SS/RHP Minnesota 
JJ Brennan WI Janesville Craig 2018 OF Judson University (IL)
Luke Malmanger WI Janesville Craig 2018 1B
Ross March WI Janesville Craig 2018 INF
Dan Blomgren WI Janesville Craig 2019 SS/2B Michigan
Mitchell Woelfle WI Janesville Craig 2019 RHP Air Force

x-factor

Senior SS/RHP Noah Berghammer (Minnesota) is a nimble, reliable defender with a bat that’s set to be featured in the middle of a skilled Cougars lineup. He hit .315 last year, certainly a good mark, but maybe a number that failed to meet his own expectations as a junior. He’s capable of much better numbers offensively and now that he’s a senior, Craig will be looking to lean on Berghammer at the top of this order.

And, while his bat is going to be crucial to the success of this team, Berghammer is actually going to be useful as the staff’s No. 2 on the mound. He was 2-0 last year with a 2.92 ERA and given the lack of experience in the bullpen and at the very back of this rotation, Berghammer must provide the Cougars some quality innings in order for the D-1 powerhouse to find its way back to the state tournament.

OUTLOOK

Janesville Craig seemed like it was going to be a shoo-in for its third straight trip to state last year. The Cougars earned their third straight title in the merciless Big Eight Conference and they had a staggering number of next-level talent that was fueling them through a regional championship and a 25-win season. Their hopes of winning then-seniors Jack Blomgren (Michigan), Evan Spry (Creighton), and Austin Kraus (Edgewood College) the ultimate going away present, a Division-1 state trophy (what would have been their second in three years), collapsed. The Cougars were stunted by intra-conference rivals Beloit Memorial, 3-2, in the first round of sectionals to be denied their third straight sectional finals appearance.

But, while that exceedingly talented group of seniors is graduated, a new one enters the picture and it has plenty of firepower to blast the Cougars back into the state title scene.

This class of 2018, as it always has been, will be led from behind the plate by C Jacob Campbell (Illinois). Campbell is coming off a spectacular season when he accrued a ton of individual accolades, including a first team all-state honor. He’s affirmed himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the Midwest, too, which makes him a bully to baserunners within his own cutthroat conference. Campbell is also the best slugger on his team and hit .463 last year, reached base at a .535 clip, and drove in 37 runs for Craig. He’s committed to the University of Illinois, but his draft stock has also been on the rise and is bound to see several scouts evaluating his skill set for this June’s MLB draft as well. .

Jacob Campbell (7.11.17)

Campbell joins a significant number of Craig returnees which is what enhances their chances at winning a fourth straight BEC crown and getting back to state. The aforementioned Berghammer is back and so is his double play partner, junior INF Dan Blomgren (Michigan). Dan will succeed his graduated brother Jack in the infield. Dan hit .351 last season for Craig and is set to become its next-best run producer after Campbell in 2018. Senior 1B Luke Malmanger should move up to the top half of the order, too. He hit .333 last year for the Cougars and will be a key role player for this offense. Fellow seniors Ross March and J.J. Brennan (Judson) should both help boost this offense to familiar heights this spring.

On the mound, junior RHP Mitchell Woelfle (Air Force) is back as staff ace. He was phenomenal as a sophomore as Craig’s go-to arm and won seven games and maintained a lowly 1.43 ERA, earning him a first team all-conference selection. He’s cemented himself as one of the best righties in his state’s class, No. 4 on our board, and will bring some much needed stability to a rotation with some question marks at the back. Again, Berghammer as the staff’s No. 2 is a luxury most teams don’t have, and senior RHP Jacob Faust should be all set to be this team’s sturdy No. 3. Faust was 3-0 with a 2.58 ERA last year and the Cougars would be happy to see similar production out of the back-end of their rotation again this spring.

Mitchell Woelfle (3.11.18)

BOTTOM LINE

Sending Campbell, this program’s heartbeat for the past four years, off with a second state title in his high school career would be a storybook way to cap a 2018 season. Like any team ranked this high on a list like this, the Cougars are more than just their star player. He headlines a punishing offense, sure, but they’re deep and have the bats up and down the lineup to keep up in a slugfest. Their arms on the mound are suppressive and it’ll be hard for any team to score in bunches, which gives their lethal offense an even greater chance to win them ballgames.

It was an unlikely loss that kept them out of another state berth, so head coach Victor Herbst will have to make sure his team keeps its focus if it wants to dodge another big time upset. Otherwise, Craig is as talented as any team in Wisconsin and it’s a sure-fire favorite to return to Appleton.

Find more information on the 2018 Cougars 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