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Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 8 Waupun


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: Waupun
Preseason Rank: 8
2018 Record: 25-2
Conference: East Central
WIAA Division: 2
Head Coach: Derrick Standke
Playoff Run: State Champions
2018 Final Rank: 5
Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers: 4

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment

Caden Bronkhorst

WI

Waupun

2019

RHP


Reece Homan

WI

Waupun

2019

SS/RHP


Baron Bucholz

WI

Waupun

2020

OF


Jarrett Bucholz

WI

Waupun

2020

OF


Keegan Hartgerink

WI

Waupun

2020

C


Vaughn Williston

WI

Waupun

2020

RHP


Brayden Sanders

WI

Waupun

2020

INF/RHP


KEY PLAYERS LOST

Brendan Bille, RHP (Rock Valley JC)
Bryce Burmania, C
Jak Lenz, INF
Caleb Sauer, 1B/RHP

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

Junior Vaughn Williston is a big 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander who was, technically, on the varsity staff last spring but his role is set to expand exponentially in 2019. He actually recorded the final out in the state title game with the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate but coaxed a pop fly to left field for the final out of the D-2 championship game. Williston recorded an ERA of 1.77 in his limited looks, and he looks prepared to tackle a spot on the staff as its No. 2 arm, potentially, especially after the graduation of Brendan Bille, who’s currently at Rock Valley.

Williston is also capable of using his size in the left-handed batter’s box, though it remains to be seen just how many at-bats he’ll receive on a day-to-day basis.

X-FACTORS

This is going to be the fourth spring that Reece Homan will start on varsity. He was injured in the team’s sectional title game in 2018, robbing him of the chance to directly influence the Warriors’ run to the Division-2 championship. He’s well-accustomed to hitting over .300 and perennially leads Waupun in extra-base hits and home runs. Homan’s mighty bat in the middle of this order is going to set the tone for a lineup that’s going to be missing a couple of the since-graduated players on last year’s squad that spurred the offense in his absence.

He’s also going to be picking up some additional innings on the mound, and has some upside as a 6-foot-4, 190-pound two-way prospect. He’s ranked inside the state’s top 150 on its Class of 2019 rankings and is among the more interesting prospects without a commitment on the board.

Reece Homan (3/12/17)


OUTLOOK

This team is going to look a lot like the one that has made it to the past two D-2 state title games, and won last year’s championship. Despite missing its most productive bat throughout the state tournament, the Warriors still had it in them to push past Ellsworth in the semifinal and shut out Jefferson – a team that put up 14 runs in the previous round.

This junior-heavy squad is still going to be led by two seniors on both sides of the ball: Homan and the big righty Caden Bronkhorst, the one responsible for nearly going the distance in the title game. A pitch limit prevented Bronkhorst from earning the complete game shutout in the D-2 championship game, but for all intents and purposes, the uncommitted senior halted a red-hot Jefferson offense to go ice cold. He K’d nine in 6.2 innings and allowed just four hits, two walks, en route to the win.

Bronkhorst was the go-to arm on this staff all season long in 2018 and went 8-1 on the year all while grooming an ERA of 1.46. His return to the ace slot is going to allow the Waupun juniors to comfortably adjust to expanded roles, despite playing a big part on last year’s championship team.

Caden Bronkhorst (3/12/17)

With Homan hungry to return to the middle of the order, both Baron and Jarett Bucholz, the two other first-team all-conference players on this roster, are set to cushion the senior in the order. The two juniors will occupy both corners of the outfield in 2019, just like last year. Baron, a three-year starter, will settle into the left field spot while Jarrett will take over right. Jarrett led the team in hits and batting average (.411). Of the holes created from graduation last spring, these two should be able to take on larger roles to generate offense.

Junior backstop Keegan Hartgerink hit in the three-hole in the title game and should allow Waupun to have the depth and experience to make a third straight championship appearance possible. He hit .295 as a sophomore and is poised for a breakout year, according to head coach Derrick Standke. Also, two-way talent Brayden Sanders is going to be the one asked to add to his workload most, as compared to 2018. He stepped up big for the Warriors down the stretch when Homan went down injured in the sectional championship game, taking over the starting shortstop role, but is going to be asked to eat more innings on the staff this spring. He had a 0.44 ERA in limited looks on the mound in 2018 and hit .258 as a sophomore.

The Warriors have a dependable and stable pair of seniors to light the way to another Grand Chute trip and are set to be supported by a talented 2020 class that can lift them to the opportunity to defend the D-2 title.

BOTTOM LINE

While pitching is this team’s absolute strength, the depth and experience in the lineup will also help Waupun get back to state in 2019, despite being led by a handful of juniors. This team went 25-2 last season – undefeated in conference play – with the right concoction of impact seniors, talented juniors, and capable fill-in sophomores. While such a run might not be practical to expect in 2019, Waupun’s pitching makes them the heavy favorites to glide through the East Central again, helping achieve more June glory.

The senior tandem of Bronkhorst and Homan can make it so Waupun brings in a fourth straight conference title, with their eyes set on the ultimate ending to their prep careers.

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

Find more information on the 2019 Warriors below:

+ Full Schedule
+ GameChanger
+ Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN