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Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 7 Sun Prairie


By Steve Nielsen
Scouting Supervisor - Wisconsin/Illinois

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: Sun Prairie
Preseason Rank: 7
2018 Record: 25-4
Conference: Big Eight
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Rob Hamilton
Playoff Run: Sectional Finals
2018 Final Rank: 3
Returning Starters: 2
Returning Pitchers: 1

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment

Liam Moreno

WI

Sun Prairie

2021

UTL


Matt DePrey

WI

Sun Prairie

2020

C


Carson Shepard

WI

Sun Prairie

2021

MIF


Alec Schmitz

WI

Sun Prairie

2020

RHP


Carson Fluno

WI

Sun Prairie

2020

RHP


Josh Caron

WI

Sun Prairie

2021

C


Logan Lange

WI

Sun Prairie

2019

RHP

Marian (WI)

Bennett Halbleib

WI

Sun Prairie

2019

INF


Spencer Bartel

WI

Sun Prairie

2020

OF



KEY PLAYERS LOST

Carson Holin, OF (Madison JC)
Taylor Jansen, RHP (Madison JC)
Alex Oakley, OF
Jack Zander, RHP (Ave Maria)
Ty Hamilton, C
Luke DePrey, LHP/OF
Joe Hauser, RHP/INF (2020; Transfer to Waunakee)

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

Considering Sun Prairie is boasting one of the youngest and most talented varsity squads on our Power 25, there are several candidates for our Newcomers To Watch section. Josh Caron is among the most notable sophomores on a team starting a handful because he should be able to spend some time behind the plate for Sun Prairie. For Caron, this will be his first spring on varsity, and he’s been steadily climbing our own charts in recent months. He’s a physical 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, and has advanced catch-and-throw skills. His right-handed bat is strong and flashed gap-to-gap pop for his age, something this Cardinals lineup will need after its mass exodus of seniors in 2018.

Josh Caron (3/3/19)


STAT RAT

1: There’s just a single starter returning to head coach Rob Hamilton’s everyday lineup, a team that won three playoff games last spring. That’s an overhaul, to say the least.

The Cardinals were senior-heavy last season, and there weren’t many juniors on the bench last spring who are set to step into the starting lineup as seniors. Fortunately for Sun Prairie, they’re loaded at the underclass levels. Their junior varsity squad went 23-1 last season and many of those top-ranked players will be put into the varsity mix in 2019. By their own standards, the Cardinals are a little light within their senior class, according to our ranks, but this program’s junior and sophomore classes more than make up for it. There are four Cardinals ranked within the top 75 of our 2020 board, and this 2021 class might wind up taking up even more space on our sophomore list when we update the rankings next.

Rankings mean very little between the lines, and while inexperience could be an issue for Sun Prairie in 2019, there’s no coaching staff in the state better equipped to handle integrating this talented, but youthful, core than Coach Hamilton and his staff. This coaching staff has demonstrated an aptitude to mold raw young ballplayers in varsity contributors with regularity.

X-FACTORS

After graduating former ace Taylor Jansen, as well as Jack Zander, the key to Sun Prairie’s 2019 could lie within its new-look staff.

Senior righty Logan Lange brings back the most production on the mound from last season, with a 2-1 record and a 2.17 ERA. His seniority and experience are welcome for a team and rotation void of 2019 influence. However, the difference-makers are likely junior righties Carson Fluno and Alec Schmitz. Fluno has front-line stuff, with an 86-87 mph fastball  and hard curveball at 75-76 – he’s more than physically being capable of stepping into an ace-like role. Schmitz is a steady competitor on the mound. Last fall, Schmitz showed starter capabilities and sat in the 82-84 mph range.

If these three are able to coalesce like we project they will, this staff can allow the Cardinals’ young offense the time to jell properly, in order to set up another chance to win the Big Eight, and then some.

OUTLOOK

The Sun Prairie Cardinals, early on, will be focused on one thing: getting their young talent up to varsity speed. They have an abundance of talent in their junior and sophomore classes, many of whom have the skillset to find homes at the next level, and in high-end programs at that.

This team is going to lean heavily on its 2020 and 2021 classes, which could, in turn, help them play hungry and with a chip on their shoulder.

Liam Moreno and Carson Shepard represent two of the most talented sophomores in the entire state, and were good enough to earn some time on varsity as freshmen in 2018. Moreno’s bat is his calling card, as evidenced by a .308 average in his introduction to varsity action. He’s a natural in the right-handed batter’s box, with an excellent feel for the barrel returning a year of experience under his belt. A year older and stronger, look for Moreno to shoulder more of the offensive load as a sophomore, potentially finding a home in the middle of this lineup.

Liam Moreno (3/10/19)

As for Shepard, the middle infielder is a wizard with the glove and is among the best defenders in the state’s 2021 class. His bat has continued to improve, in front of our staff, and he profiles to spark the top of the lineup one day. While he might not be there just yet, his development on offense this spring is nonetheless critical to the success of Sun Prairie. Look for Moreno’s and Shepard’s classmates Caron and Durlin Radlund to help reinforce this lineup as sophomores, too.

Juniors Matt DePrey and Spencer Bartel both have middle-of-the-order potential and should be run-producers for Sun Prairie in 2019. Again, this lineup has some growing to do and DePrey and Bartel represent two of the older, more experienced players on this roster – despite being just juniors. The senior Bennett Halblieb is one of the few 2019s set to receive a significant chunk of playing time, so look for his left-handed bat to help steady this inexperienced lineup.

Having earned a share of the Big Eight last spring, Sun Prairie is looking to win its first back-to-back titles since the 2013-14 springs. It’s a lively, talented group of juniors and sophomores set to compete against teams with far more experience, but that’s what is going to make this Cardinals team fun to follow.

BOTTOM LINE

You can’t exactly teach in-game experience, so it’s fair to expect the young Cardinals to experience some growing pains throughout their 2019 season, but at the end of the day, this roster is among the most talented in the state. Coach Hamilton has to be looking forward to getting his hands on this young group, one that is capable of challenging for the Big Eight title for at least the next few years, as long as its 2021 class is around.

Sure, this program graduated a ton of talent in 2018, and we may be giving them more preseason credit than most, but don’t be surprised to see this young and hungry squad of new, not-yet-familiar faces challenge for more than just a Big Eight title. There’s talent here that other programs just might not be able to keep up with.

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

Find more information on the 2019 Cardinals below:

Full Schedule
Team Website
GameChanger
Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN