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Four More Division 4 Pre-Season Team Previews for today

03/07/2019, 12:45pm CST
By Bob Tomlinson

Athens, Wisconsin Heights, Lancaster and Brookwood

Wisconsin Heights

Division 4 – Enrollment this year is 224 – Sectional 4 at Mineral Point
Conference – Capitol South (along with Belleville, Cambridge, New Glarus, Marshall, and Waterloo)
Head Coach – Dennis Wood – 17th Year – Assistant Coach is Scott Wood

Wisconsin Heights head coach Dennis Wood is in the midst of his second stint as head coach of the Vanguards. This spring with mark the 17th season overall for him. Wisconsin Heights has watched their enrollment drop dramatically over the years from right around 400 to an enrollment of 224 this schools year. That limits the number of kids that are available and Wisconsin Heights the softball program has had to battle a huge emphasis on club volleyball in recent years. Still, Wood resurrected the program so much so that in truth the nickname for Wisconsin Height softball ought to be the Phoenix. When Dennis took over the program for the second time it followed a year when there was not a softball team at the school. If memory serves me correctly he recruited 11 girls that first year. Within another year he had them hustling and playing well. Now, some of the Vanguard players have been playing on various area summer teams and getting more experience and better by the year. At least two of this year’s standouts spent time with one of the Poynette summer teams. Wood welcomes back two all-conference pitchers in Tayler Kraemer and Kelsie Drager. Catcher Miranda Keith, another returning all-conference player returns and will anchor the duties behind the plate. Jada Wood holds down the second base position and has been an all-conference selection two years running and Kourtney Mercer is the other returnee who was named all-conference last season. Only one starter graduated from last year’s team that finished second behind Marshall in the Capitol South. With solid strength “in the circle” and a stalwart catcher the Vanguards promise to be a load for every team they tangle with. Wood says that the experience the girls have will surely be one of their strengths. “We will work on some continuity,” and see how the pieces fall into place,” said the coach.
Publisher’s Note: I often get asked why the Vanguard school name is Wisconsin Heights. In the fall of 1964 the school districts of Mazomanie and Black Earth were able to set aside some rivalries and build a new high school halfway between the two communities along Highway 14. The name Wisconsin Heights was tagged as a suitable one because Battle of Wisconsin Heights during the Sauk Indian war took place near there. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia.( The location of the battle is confirmed in the Township (Exterior) Notes of U.S. Deputy Surveyor John H. Mullet. The range line (between Roxbury (Section 19 of T9N, R7E) and Mazomanie (Section 24 of T9N, R6E) was surveyed on October 23, 1832, just three months after the battle. Because of this record, there is contemporary and sworn proof of the battle site's location.)

So there you have it.


Division 4 – Enrollment this school year is 161 Sectional 3 at Markesan
Conference –Marawood North (along with Chequamegon ,Phillips, Prentice and Rib Lake)
Head Coach – Craig Diedrich – 19th Year –  (258-113) 9 conference titles, 6 regional titles
Assistant Coaches: Chris Czech, Emily Czech, Dean Frick and Stafani Karl

Softball has been strong since the day Craig Diedrich took charge of the program. A successful men’s fastpitch player himself, Diedrich brought a level of knowledge and understanding that a career in the men’s game could provide. His teams have won nine conference titles and six regional titles which means the Blue Jays have competed at the sectional level six times. They are always searching for that first time in a Final Four. Ask any coach that has to compete with Athens and they will tell you that basic fastpitch fundamentals are always a strength as are the position players on the defensive side of the game. Pitching is always a work in progress at most schools and Athens is no exception. The one exception to that exception is that Diedrich is great at getting work inside the circle to progress and improve. When the ranking committee convened at Chula Vista and was listing Division 4 teams for the watch list I quickly mentioned Athens only to get a couple answers surrounding the pitching circle. We didn’t list Athens initially but we have added them after I made a few more phone calls and emails. The Blue Jays return four Marawood North All-Conference performers this season. Kenadi Diedrich, Carley Lipinski, Shawna Belter and Paula Lira will lead the Blue Jays into and through the season. Kenadi Diedrich also was a post season all-district selection. My contacts tell me that Allison Wolf is another Blue Jay to be reckoned with by all their opponents. When Coach Diedrich looks at the Marawood North Conference he believes that his team will again be in the thick of things. He also sees Phillips and Chequamegon as tough conference foes. At the sectional level the Blue Jays will have to contend with always tough Pacelli, a team based out of Stevens Point.  The bottom line? Look for the Blue Jays to be right in the thick of things all season long. After-all, a quick look at the Athens page on the WIAA School Directory lists their nickname as the Fighting Blue Jays.
Pubisher’s Note: I witnessed a battle between a Blue Jay and a Hairy Woodpecker at our suet feeder outside our breakfast nook window last week on one of those cold, cold days. It was a feather busting show but in the end the woodpecker flew off, only to land in a tree in the yard -- whooped by that Fighting Blue Jay!


Division 4 – Enrollment this school year is  271 – Sectional 4 at Mineral Point
Conference – Southwest Conference (Nickname is The Arrows)
Head Coach – Katie Landon – 3rd year – (22-24)
Assistant Coach is PJ Connelly

The arrows have historically been a strong program in the southwestern part of the state and also on a statewide basis. They have been to the Final Four three times (2006, 2009, 2010) finishing as runner-up in 2006 to Grantsburg 6-2 in 12 innings. This season Head Coach Katie Landon will lead the Arrows into battle against some strong SWC competition as Dodgeville returns a strong contingent of players that played for a sectional title last season. Landon will look to 2017 honorable mention all-conference player Lindsey Wolf to lead the way. “I believe our baserunning is one of our strengths this season as our hitting improved as the season went along a year ago,” said the coach. Of course If more arrows reach their targets while at the plate and get on base more often they  will be able to create some issues for their opponents.


Division 4 – Enrollment this school year is 191 - Sectional  3 at Markesan
Conference – Scenic Bluffs
Head Coach is Kelly Wallace – 6th Year (60-50)

The Falcons’ head coach says that the toughest opponents in the Scenic Bluffs in 2019 should be Necedah and Cashton while the sectional level produces  favorites Cochrane/Fountain City and Onalaska Luther. Head Coach Kelly Wallace expects to be strong behind the plate as well as at first base and shortstop. Brookwood is an annual participant in the Poynette Fastpitch Jamboree where they have done well against the competition they are paired with for the day. This season will be no different.
Publisher’s Note: Today’s Division 4 teams  (4) completes the previews that have been received from a statewide request of all 80-81 schools in that division of play. We published Laona-Wabeno’s preview earlier this week so that make a total of 5 Division 5 coaches who have returned the survey. That is a 6% return which is just a few percentage points below our yearly return average in all divisions of play.

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