Prep Baseball Report

WIAA Playoffs: Postseason Chat

By Steve Nielsen & Andy Sroka
Wisconsin Staff

Technically, the WIAA playoffs began last week for Division-2, D-3, and D-4, but the playoffs begin in earnest today, with the D-1 bracket kicking off and the top seeds in the remaining classifications begin their march to Grand Chute this afternoon.

Steve Nielsen, the Illinois/Wisconsin Scouting Supervisor, and myself, Andy Sroka, a staff writer/associate scout, have had our fingers on the pulse of this high school season. We’re taking the time today to share some of our predictions on how we feel this postseason is going to turn out, sharing insight on all four Wisconsin classes.

We’ll be keeping a watchful eye on the postseason for the next few weeks, leading up to the state tournament. You can follow @PBRWisconsin for daily updates and weekly predictions, news, and notes on how the 2019 playoffs are playing out.

Here’s our predictions as the postseason starts statewide today.


1. When it’s all said and done, which teams are going to be lifting their respective state titles on June 13 at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium?


+ D-1: There’s absolutely no easy answer here. I’m tempted to select Kimberly, because of their sturdy senior core. Craig, the top-ranked team on our Power 25, has the least treacherous path to a state quarter or semifinals. But I keep coming back to Burlington. A top-of-the-rotation senior tandem like righty Trent Turzenski and lefty Trey Krause is exactly the kind of one-two haymaker that can carry a team deep, deep into the playoffs. And the Demons aren’t one-dimensional, either. They’re not solely relying on there ace A and B to take them there.

While Turzenski and Krause shoulder a load on offense, too, they’re backed up by fellow seniors Jason Adams, Michael Rozell, and Riley Palmquist. And juniors Dalton Damon and Kale Dietz have been swinging red-hot bats over the last couple of weeks as well – and Dietz is also sporting a 1.62 ERA as the third man in the rotation.

Burlington has the pieces, though their path Sectional No. 8 and beyond is among the toughest in the tournament.

+ D-2: I believe the D-2 bracket to be the most fun bracket. There’s a ton of authentic contenders, though it may take a little time for them to find each other in the tournament. It’s actually a shame that two of the best D-2 programs, West De Pere and Waupun, share a group and could meet as early as the sectional semis.

But, to answer this question, I actually believe it’s going to be those same West De Pere Phantoms that take home the Division-2 trophy. They’re the No. 2 team on our Power 25 because they’ve been so overwhelmingly dominant this spring and they haven’t lost since April 26. Ben Hampton, the junior southpaw with a West Virginia commit, has been carving this spring, and so has senior lefty Connor Langreder, who’s headed to Northern Illinois in the fall. Few teams on the D-2 side can rival this kind of one-two combo, and the Phantoms have the bats to back this pair up. Junior Cameron Dupont, as well as sophomores Joshua Blount and Kaden Kosobucki, make up the middle of this order, while Hampton typically leads things off. Seniors sandwich the underclassmen which provides a steady flow of reinforcements, too. It’s a great squad with depth all around. I don’t see how anyone can beat them the rest of the way.

+ D-3: The D-3 scene is murkier, and there’s actually no teams within this class currently ranked on our Power 25. I’m wondering about Prairie du Chien, personally. The Blackhawks won 16 games this spring, lost just twice, and haven’t dropped a game since late April. Since that loss on April 25, PdC has allowed just three runs in their eight games combined – six shutouts along the way. They were a sectional finalist last spring and return much of the pieces that made last year’s run happen, including the conference MVP, senior Gavin Gillitzer, a Wisconsin-La Crosse commit.

Gillitzer stars at the plate and on the mound for the Blackhawks, and it’s always nice to have the best player in the area on your team in a race to state. Fellow seniors Grant Martin and Hunter Davis help make it so Gillitzer doesn’t have to go it alone on offense, either.

+ D-4: Finally, the smallest division in the state has two of the top teams, pound for pound – and it’s feasible the two will meet in the state championship game. Webster, last year’s D-3 champs, were sent back down a class for the 2019 season with most of their championship team still intact. They’re undefeated this spring, at 24-0, and ranked No. 8 on our Power 25, led by head coach Jarrod Washburn and his two sons: senior RHP/OF Jack Washburn, an Oregon State commit and one of the top prospects in the state’s 2019 class, and Owen, an uncommitted two-way sophomore beaming with potential.

There’s a whole other ensemble of players here, too, like West Virginia commit RHP Hunter Rosenbaum and C Trevor Gustafson, a Minnesota-Duluth recruit, which makes the Tigers one of the most formidable forces in the state. Mineral Point is the other D-4 team on our Power 25, also undefeated, but I can’t bring myself to bet against what the Tigers have in their dugout – and it goes beyond pure talent.


+ D-1: I’m anticipating a Burlington vs. Janesville Craig Championship game, with the Cougars coming out on top. The Demons beat Craig rather easily, 7-1 in a regular season contest back in April, a game that saw both teams use a full staff of pitchers. This time around I see the Cougars taking home the hardware in a game for all the marbles.

Craig has just two blemishes on their 2019 record, one to Burlington, and dropped the regular season finale to Madison Memorial. They’ve handled most of their regular season opponents with relative ease and have the tools to do so in the postseason, considering they have one of the easiest routes to get to Grand Chute and claim the title, at least on paper.

+ D-2: For me Division 2 has one the deadliest teams in the state, and I would likely pick them even if they were still D1. West De Pere dropped down to D2 this season after the expansion of summer teams, and has the talent to compete with any team in the state. Their biggest advantage likely comes on the mound where they send a pair of high-end southpaws to the bump and come playoff time, pitching typically wins.

+ D-3: Lake Country Lutheran has just a 17-6 record, but arguably play one of the tougher schedules in the D-3 Division. The Lightning have D1 wins under their belt, including a win over now Power 25 team Pewaukee, one of the favorites in D2. They also have one of the top seniors in the state in Purdue commit Tyler Brandenburg. Brandenburg pulls two-way responsibilities for LCL and his bat may be one of the more feared in the state to go along with Jack Leverenz and Simon Dembiec, a middle of the lineup trio that is hard to get through without giving up some damage.

+ D-4: It would be hard to pick against Webster in almost any division, let alone D4. As Andy mentioned they’ve moved down from D-3 after the summer baseball merge, and boast a lineup filled with next level prospects. There’s nothing more to say about the TIgers that Andy didn’t already. And are the clear cut favorite at D-4.

2. Which team do you believe is poised to make an underdog-type run?


Even though they’re a No. 2 seed, with a bye today, I feel like the SIinger Owls have a run to Grand Chute in them. Mapping out Sectional No. 4, where they occupy, there are no Power 25-ranked teams. The No. 1 seed is an untested Manitowoc Lincoln program and the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds are the two West Bend programs – talented, sure, but they’ve both had their fair share of troubles this spring.

As for the Owls, they’re not exactly simmering entering this postseason, losers four times in their last five tries, but they’re talented. I saw them test No. 5 Whitefish Bay twice in the middle of April, winning once and narrowly dropping game two. Had they closed May and the regular season out stronger, we might be talking about them more. And coincidentally, they allowed the Lincoln Ships to come back and score a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh last Thursday to win, another game they should have won. They’ll want a rematch.

Slinger has arms – like Alec Strupp and Hruz Wagner – and one of the area’s best and most natural bats, Logan Mantz. Given their field, I could see the Owls heating up and working their way to the sectional semis or title game, and maybe even beyond.


Sun Prairie is in the position of the hunter vs. the hunted this year. The Cardinals seem to always be near the top of the Power 25 year after year, but this year they are extremely youthful and have hovered near the bottom of the Power 25 all year. They play one of the toughest schedules in the state and that should have them battle tested for a potential long playoff run.

They will be working out of a rather favorable side of the bracket as well with only four of the 24 teams in those two sectionals that have even made the Power 25 once. Their biggest test would likely come in the form of their season opening matchup with Waunakee in which the Warriors walked-off Sun Prairie with a Joe Hauser home run, I’m sure that one still stings for Coach Hamilton and his group.

3. Which teams could be on upset alert today and on Thursday?


On the D-1 side, there are a handful of No. 1 seeds that don’t want to see particular No. 8 seeds head their way on Thursday. Waunakee dropped a game to Verona earlier this month, so they’d much rather see Oregon, a team they’ve beaten twice. Should Eau Claire Memorial beat La Crosse Central today, Stevens Point wouldn’t want to run into sophomore ace Vincent Trapani, if things worked out that way. And Burlington won’t have it easy against a talented Westosha Central squad, despite their 9-12 record, though they have already lost to the Demons twice this season.

Today in D-2 action, defending champs Waupun will oppose Plymouth. These two split their two-game set on May 14 and 16, so it’ll be interesting to see how this works, since they’re so familiar with each other.


If your going by sectional seedings, Manitowoc Lincoln at a No. 1 seed with a 14-10 record on the year is a likely pick to be "upset" or the first one-seed to go down.

To me Waunakee is the team to watch for a potential slip up. They've been on a bit of a slide since holding down the No. 1 spot for the first six weeks of the season. While they finished off the regular season on a high of five consecutive wins, prior to that that lost six of ten including a loss to Verona who they could potentially see in their first playoff game.

4. Which team has the toughest road to state championship game?


Kimberly, ranked No. 3 on the Power 25, shares Sectional No. 2 with fellow ranked programs De Pere, Bay Port, Hortonville, and Green Bay Preble. Should any of those teams come out on the other side as sectional champs, they’d take on the winner of Sectional No. 8, featuring Burlington, the reigning summer champs Muskego, as well as all three Kenosha-area programs: Bradford, Tremper, and Indian Trail. All of these aforementioned teams have spent at least some time on our state rankings this spring – and most of them still have a spot.

No team in either sectional will have any time to coast, but Preble may have it the toughest.


Since Andy touched on the toughest D-1 sectional, I’ll look to the D-2 side, where Sectional No. 4 hosts four of the eight D-2 teams in our state rankings, and all four residing in the bottom half of that sectional. Union Grove and Greendale, the respective No. 1 seeds in that half, would likely have to get through one another to get to Grand Chute. On the top half, in Union Grove’s side of the bracket, you’ll also find this round’s major matchup: No. 23 Pewaukee against No. 13 Catholic Memorial. The No. 2 and No. 3 seeds are squaring off in Pewaukee today, at Waukesha County Tech.

5. What are the best storylines heading into this postseason?


I believe integrating the spring and summer seasons into one high school campaign has been a success. What’s even more exciting is what’s to come, what we’ve been waiting for. I’m excited to see how far traditional summer powerhouses like Oak Creek, Franklin, Pius XI, and the latest and final summer champs Muskego can go in these playoffs. It’s refreshing to see these heavyweights back in the spring tourney and I believe it’s made the D-1 field that much stronger.


Repeat performances. All four of last year’s title winners are No. 1 seeds in their respective Divisions and have a strong chance of capturing a repeat title. While D-3 will for sure have a new champion, last year’s winners, Webster could see last year’s D-4 winners, Athens, as soon as the state semifinals. Waunakee and Waupun are both sitting in prime positions to go back-to-back as well.

6. Any player breakout candidates of the playoffs?


Having seen Whitefish Bay a couple of times this spring, it’s easy to see why they’ve been climbing the Power 25 all season. The Blue Dukes have this great mix of young and hungry talent surrounded by effective seniors leading the way. We’re going to have to get used to hearing about freshman Louisville recruit Michael Lippe and sophomore corner infielder Brady Marget, but this D-2 tournament stage is the perfect spotlight for them to shine brightest and become even more well-known.


Webster has been the talk of the D-4 division, but Mineral Point is knocking on their door this year, and could be the Tigers stiffest competition. Much in large part to sophomore Liam Stumpf. The 2021 grad pulls double duty both with the bat and on the mound and is moving up the PBR player rankings in his class. Stumpf has 11 home runs on the season with a .456 average and has struck out 56 batters in 38-plus innings pitched, posting a 1.28 ERA. Stumpf has a big fastball that can reach the upper 80s, something the Tigers likely haven’t seen all year and could be one of the more anticipated D-4 championship games, if it all plays out.