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Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 6 Green Bay Preble


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

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: Green Bay Preble
Preseason Rank: 6
2018 Record: 21-4
Conference: Fox River Classic
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Andy Conrad
Playoff Run: State Semifinal
2018 Final Rank: 6
Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers: 2

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment

Josh Nicklaus

WI

Green Bay Preble

2019

INF

St. Norbert College (basketball)

Bryce Miller

WI

Green Bay Preble

2019

INF

Rock Valley JC

Logan Dorner

WI

Green Bay Preble

2019

OF


Zach Renier

WI

Green Bay Preble

2019

INF


Max Wagner

WI

Green Bay Preble

2020

3B/RHP

Clemson

Ryan Stefiuk

WI

Green Bay Preble

2020

LHP

Vanderbilt

Ben Graff

WI

Green Bay Preble

2020

OF



KEY PLAYERS LOST

Paul Stefiuk, RHP (Madison JC)
Casey Roeser, C
Collin Dougherty, OF
Quinn Williquette, LHP

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

While both players had large roles on varsity last spring for their work in the batter’s box, senior Bryce Miller and junior Ben Graff should be utilized much more often on this pitching staff, in some capacity. Quinn Williquette is graduated and so are his 40-plus innings pitched in 2018. And even though there are a couple juniors on this staff set to handle the bulk of the team’s most important innings this spring, Miller and Graff could carve out important roles as the team’s No. 3 on staff or from the bullpen.

Miller, in our last up-and-close look around this time last year, is capable of working in the low 80s with some tilt. He showed the offspeed to make him a useful weapon out of the pen for last year’s team, but only saw five total innings of action in 2018. As for Graff, he didn’t pitch a single inning last year as a sophomore, but looks like he could contribute this season. We saw him at our Fox Cities showcase last month where he sat at a heavy 81-83 mph with the makings of a biting slider.

It remains to be seen who, exactly, will benefit most from the graduation of Williquette, but Graff and Miller are capable candidates to eat the innings lost, in either a reliever or starter’s role.

Ben Graff (2/24/19)


X-FACTOR

Our staff just had the pleasure of watching the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Ryan Stefiuk showcase his hard work in the offseason at our Madison-area event a couple weeks ago. There, the junior and Vanderbilt commit was all the way up to 90 mph, a personal best for him in front of the PBR staff. He was also mixing in his plus changeup, featuring arm-side sink.

This deadly combination helped Stefiuk strike out 85 batters in 55.2 innings in 2018, allowing just four earned runs all spring long. He operated as the team’s ace last year and all of the experience Stefiuk amassed as a sophomore on this staff in 2018 should help him become even more dominant in 2019 – a frightening thought for the rest of the Fox River Classic.

Ryan Stefiuk (3/10/19)


OUTLOOK

Preble has had at least a share of the last three Fox River Classic crowns and are the favorites for a fourth straight, though will compete with ranked Bay Port and a talented De Pere team for the conference title once again. The last three teams have also helped the Hornets earn three consecutive appearances in the state tournament, though they’ve yet to earn a spot in the title game in their program’s history.

So, despite all the success this team has garnered in such a short amount of time, Green Bay Preble is still seeking the opportunity to battle for the big one, a Division-1 title. They got as close as one could come to getting there last year, falling short in 11 innings of edge-of-the-seat action against the eventual champs Waunakee in the state semis. After the Warriors rallied to a 3-1 lead in the top of the 11th, the Hornets battled back to push runners on second and third with no outs, but struck out in the next three at-bats to halt their season there.

The devastating defeat was Preble’s first loss in almost six weeks – they had won 19 straight games to get to that semifinal. In hindsight, it was another highly successful season for head coach Andy Conrad and the rest of the Preble program, but it certainly wasn’t a satisfying finish for the seniors on the roster who had made three straight state trips without bringing back the most coveted silverware.

While the two most heavily relied on pitchers on this staff return – Stefiuk and two-way prospect Max Wagner – they did graduate the third piece of what had become a three-headed monster of a rotation, Quinn Williquette. He tossed over 40 innings last spring and held an ERA of 1.68, so finding another arm to help round out this staff could help the Hornets meet the lofty bar raised over the past three seasons.

Though Wagner and Stefiuk, juniors now, dominated on their own last spring. Wagner’s ERA was just a tick over 1.00 and Stefiuk maintained a minuscule mark of 0.50, and both pitched over 50 innings.

The two are high-level Division-I recruits and are arguably the most dynamic duo to share a dugout in the state. Stefiuk has been a Vanderbilt commit since the summer of 2017 and it took Wagner until last summer, shortly following the PBR Future Games, to find his next-level home at Clemson. And while he’s hyper effective from the mound, Wagner is more comfortably the better recruit for his bat, with a solid chance to continue playing on the left side of the infield. He’s a strong, aggressive right-handed hitter with an advanced feel for the barrel who slugged .646 as a sophomore and easily led Preble in hits (35), batting average (.443), and extra-base hits (13; 11 doubles, one home run).

As Wagner continues to grow and develop – physically and mentally – he can be further relied on as the key cog in what's become a well-oiled offensive machine in Green Bay.

No doubt, Preble is the kind of team that is going to go as far as its two top-five-ranked juniors can take them, but they’ll have the kind of support behind them in the order and on the mound to help them capture their first-ever state title berth.

Its senior role players are going to be integral to how far this team can go: infielders Josh Nicklaus and Zach Renier, as well as outfielder Logan Dorner. Nicklaus is a St. Norbert commit for his skills on the basketball court but was also among the team’s best bats behind Wagner last spring. He hit .341 as a junior and started in the four-hole in last year’s state semifinal. Dorner hit .292 in 24 at-bats last spring but is a solid defender in the outfield and a step up offensively will help the Hornets cover the losses of a couple of since-graduated pieces who slotted into the top of this lineup. Renier didn’t have a strong spring offensively, but he’s a sure-handed defender who can handle an up-the-middle position on the dirt.

And Wagner and Stefiuk weren’t the only sophomores starting on varsity last spring. We discussed the potential Graff has on the mound as the third arm on staff, but he also found a home in the middle of this lineup and hit .297 with four doubles in 64 at-bats. Some developmental progress here offensively, like we’ve seen first hand over the offseason, could also help Preble contend once again at state.

BOTTOM LINE

When you’re rostering two of the best players in the state, two players who’ve got the experience and polished skillset to continue carrying their whole team, you’re a state title favorite. Green Bay Preble’s electric junior duo at the top of this rotation is among the state’s best. They might have the right mix of run-production and reliable depth on offense to afford the Hornets a fourth straight chance to earn a state title, too.

Only a handful of teams can enter the spring knowing that their ambition begins and ends with a state trophy, and Preble is one of them.

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

Find more information on the 2019 Hornets below:

+ Full Schedule
+ Team Website
+ GameChanger
Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN