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Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 25 Bay Port


By Steve Nielsen & Andy Sroka
Wisconsin Staff

The WIAA high school baseball season opens on March 26, the opening day for prep baseball in Wisconsin.

Leading up to the opening week of action, we’ll be rolling out team-by-team previews, counting down to our state’s preseason No. 1-ranked program for the 2019 season. We’re combing over all classifications and corners of the state to determine our top-25 ranked teams ahead of what’s sure to be an historic campaign, with the merging of the spring and summer divisions into one single WIAA season.

Perennially, we’ve submitted a Preseason Questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our analysis.

Our 2019 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Bay Port
Preseason Rank: 25
2018 Record: 12-5
Conference: Fox River Classic
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Mike Simoens
Playoff Run: Regional Final
2018 Final Rank: NR
Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers: 3

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment

Carter Highline

WI

Bay Port

2019

RHP

Heartland CC

Jett Thielke

WI

Bay Port

2019

RHP/SS

Madison JC

Brad Bernklau

WI

Bay Port

2019

OF


Jake Berg

WI

Bay Port

2020

C

Jacksonville

Call Verlanic

WI

Bay Port

2020

OF/RHP



KEY PLAYERS LOST

Bobby Tilot, 2018 (St. Mary’s, MN)

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

Though just a sophomore, Carl Cano could provide the Pirates some versatile two-way production. Cano is good athlete in all phases of the game. On the mound, he features a low-80s fastball with feel for two secondary offerings. Positionally, Cano has shown us the ability to play all over the diamond. His infield hands are soft enough to play anywhere on the dirt and he likely runs well enough to carry a middle-of-the-field profile.

Carl Cano (10/21/18)


STAT RAT

12: The Pirates won a dozen games last season, and each one of those victories returns on the mound. Carter Highline (5-1), Jett Thielke (3-1), and Call Verlanic (4-1) are all back to shore up a rotation capable of becoming the strength of a Bay Port team seeking its first conference title since 2016. Highline and Thielke are a reliable senior duo that can handle the brunt of the work from the mound once late April arrives, while junior Verlanic can be a dependable third option in the rotation when he’s not roaming the outfield – the uncommitted 2020 grad also hit .315 as a sophomore last spring.

In a crowded and talented Fox River Classic Conference, Bay Port’s hardy arms are going to give its offense a real chance to win, day in and out.

X-FACTOR

The multi-talented junior Verlanic is among the most important players on Bay Port. His role as the No. 3 on this staff will be critical to the Pirates’ chances of competing for a conference title, in a group where losing more than a couple of intra-conference games keeps a team on the outskirts of a Fox River Classic championship.

But more importantly, Verlanic is going to be tasked with energizing the middle of this Bay Port batting order, alongside classmate Jake Berg, a Jacksonville commit. The two juniors represent the primary run producers in this order. The two were staples on last spring’s varsity team, and will be asked to take on a larger role now that they’re juniors. A developmental step forward from the batter’s box for Verlanic will go a long way to ensuring Bay Port is back in the running for a conference title, and more, come May and maybe even June.

OUTLOOK

Bay Port has been pretty consistently a member of the state title scene throughout this decade. Since they won state in 2009, 2010, and were runners-up in 2012, the Pirates have earned state tournament berths in 2013, 2014, and 2015, but haven’t been back since. This three-year void is much shorter than many of the state’s programs, but it feels like it’s been awhile since Bay Port injected themselves into the conversation as state title hopefuls.

But, now that the state’s top-ranked catcher, Jake Berg, is a year older and has added an additional year of varsity experience, Bay Port has a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat to lean on. Berg led the team in batting average (.340) as a sophomore in 2018, and it’s fair to hope for a little bit more from the Jacksonville-committed backstop. As his bat progresses, so do Bay Port’s chances of authentically competing inside a cutthroat conference.

We touched on the importance of Verlanic’s added offensive contributions above, but seniors Thielke and Brett Bernklau are also integral to the Pirates’ everyday lineup. Thielke is this team’s No. 2 behind Highline, but offers an important role when he isn’t on the mound, manning shortstop and adding another sturdy presence in the order. Bernklau is one of the few seniors slated to handle a large role offensively for this team, and he’s bringing back his .300-plus bat.

And while Bay Port is returning a number of familiar faces, it’s what their underclassmen can provide that could help the Pirates contend for more than just their conference crown.

Along with the aforementioned Cano, it’s possible that sophomore righty Gavin Rusch could supply some meaningful innings to this staff. He’s a long, 6-foot-4, 180-pound prospect who’s only just scratching the surface of the potential he brings on the mound, and he already possesses a low-80s fastball. If he earns a shot to contribute on varsity, he won’t be asked to do too much, especially considering that this rotation is mostly set on its innings distribution. If Rusch finds a way to carve out his own role, that can only be a good thing for Bay Port.

BOTTOM LINE

In order to oust outright conference favorites Green Bay Preble, Bay Port is going to have to take advantage of its depth on staff in addition to what should be a steady defense. They lack that same overall depth and experience in the batter’s box, but the Pirates have the kind of run-producing bats in the middle of their order that most teams don’t.

While they may be light on seniors, head coach Mike Simoens has a talented group, even if they’re still a year away from being serious state title challengers. But, it’s not without the realm of reason to dream on a scenario in which its 2021 class helps shove Bay Port through the playoffs a year ahead of schedule.

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

Find more information on the 2019 Pirates below:

+ Full Schedule
+ Team Website
+ GameChanger
+ Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN