I had some phone calls today with questions about the recently released wissports.net/wfsca softball coaches poll. For the first time in more than two decades, The Fastpitch Chronicle is not ranking teams this season. I have given way to the coaches poll. In tonight’s FPC Fastpitch Bulletin I will take a look at the first rankings on the web.
Let’s start with Division 1 – If I and my team of rankers were ranking teams we would have had Kaukauna at #1 in the pre-season and would still have them there so on the #1 spot there is agreement. Oak Creek may be ranked #1 by the Journal/Sentinel but our team would have last year’s Division 1 runner-up to the Ghosts, the Sun Prairie Cardinals at #2 because they came an umpire’s call from taking the ghosts to extra innings last year and have some great athletes back, primarily sophomore pitcher/slugger Tayler Baker back along with the Royle twins, Sophia and Isabele,catcher Chloe Knoernschild, infielder Ellie Rademacher and even more. After a 4-0 and start and a 4-0 win over SPASH I think the wfsca rankers had better watch Marshfield closely. Oak Creek is right up there because they have Riley Grudzielanek in the circle and with a bat in her hands as well along with some other top-notch kids. Cedarburg is looming large for all of Division 1 as Paytn Monticelli is now back and throwing well. The Badger recruit was sidelined early in the season but has been back lately. Cedarburg and Preble split a twinbill on Saturday. Hortonville will be in the mix in that part of the state and we’ll never rule out SPASH. Chippewa Falls is certainly always in the mix and is off to a 6-0 start but has only played two Wisconsin teams, both in Big Rivers twinbills. Their other two wins came on an early season trip to Orlando where they beat an Idaho Team (Bishop Kelly 5-4) then blew out a team from South Fayette, Pa 11-1. The coaches have Indian Trail at the #8 spot but we’ll see how they fare against Oak Creek and Grudzielanek.
In Division 2 the coaches that voted have Freedom ranked #6 but my people in that neck of the state say they may be better than 6th. A big win over a Denmark team people expected a bit more of is a good win. Another perennial powerhouse up there is Luxemburg-Casco who is 3-0 and New London is 5-1 and ranked 5th. I thought early on, if you read my pre-season watch list that Mosinee would make some waves in North Central Wisconsin and theyh are now 4-0 and ranked 9th and that is probably where I’d have them I were ranking right now. Sauk Prairie at 4-0 is ranked 3rd but an extra inning 12-11 win over Reedsburg yesterday has ?????? swirling through my mind. I think the book is out on the Eagles. Jefferson does have Claire Beck this year (graduated) and they are giving up some runs that make me cringe a little when it comes to a top 10 in D2. It’s good to see LaCrosse Logan doing well but they are giving up a lot of runs to be ranked in a top 10 poll. They were beaten in their last game out by Tomah coached by my good men’s fastpitch friend Dan Wall. I am not intimating that Tomah is a top 10 team though. I do not know enough about Wisconsin Lutheran, ranked #10 by the WFSCA coaches voting to comment.
In Division 3 there are some good teams. My top team is Baldwin-Woodville with Smetana in the circle. Batters will hard- pressed to be considered hitters in games they face her, they’ll just be batters. The coaches have Lakeside Lutheran ranked #3 after they were beaten 12-1 by Poynette and had trouble on the defensive end of things. Prairie du Chien is ranked 8th and may be better than an 8 team. Columbus’ 14-7 loss to Lakeside on Tuesday would drop them out of the top 10 on most ranker’s list I’d think. Peshtigo was one of the four state tournament entries last year and has played just one game according to wissports.net but has some strength in the circle. The question will be, can they produce more offense against good teams than they did a year ago? Brodhead belongs in the top 10 as does Prescott for now but and River Valley will come on but the big question is Dodgeville, the defending state champion. The Dodgers are 5-6 but four of those losses came on a southern trip. The real test is tomorrow (today if it’s Thursday when you read this) when they make the trip up to Spring Green to take on arch-rival River Valley. By 7:30 pm tomorrow we’ll know if that 5-6 record is valid or if they are a contender again. If I know Gene as well as I think I do, they’ll be right there. Mayville and Campbellsport are on my closely watched list. Mayville sports a 4-2 win over Holly Lowenberg and Poynette and had 8 hits against the all state pitcher. However, they lost to Wally’s team at St. Mary’s Springs but I think Wally’s team is also a sleeper that nobody should look past. They looked pretty at Poynette a couple of weeks ago. And by golly don’t look past a Wautoma team that features a dynamic pitcher when she’s in the moment and keep your eye on Amherst as well. They will both factor into that sectional tournament .
In Division 4 Mishicot deserves to be at the top spot but a one-run win over a well-coached Random Lake club means that RL belongs on that wfsca list as well. I’d take them in a head-to-head game against several of the teams the coaches have listed in their top 10. Grantsburg is my pick to be #1 of I were ranking. They just took on a very good Superior team and although beaten 7-1 on 6 or 7 unearned runs (according to my sources) trailed just 2-0 in the sixth. Boscobel has a pitcher in Gretta Grassel that is good enough to win a state title if they can score runs in close games against solid teams. Then there is Horicon and one should never best against the well-coached Marshladies. They have a pair of WFSCA Hall of Fame coaches on that staff that know this game well. There are other teams in Division 4 that need to be noted. Take Phillips for instance. Once a doormat, a coaching change has catapulted them into a force in the far, north-central part of the state and now into state championship contention. Hurley is almost as far north in Wisconsin a person can get and still has a tremendous amount of white stuff on their field. They are back up in Division 4 and Coach Kivisto will have them ready to go when things start heating up. Don't count them out this year as Jim has announced that this will be his final season after 34 and having started the program. Randolph and Deerfield are good teams and both got ranked. A pair of Bairds in Randoph are a tough duo for teams in this division and Deerfield has always been a tough opponent dating back to Barry's tenure there (beat us in 2009 in regional final with two runs. Barry by the way, is now coaching at Bryant & Stratton in the NJCAA ranks.
In Division 5 I’m wondering which coaches have failed to realize that Blair-Taylor a state tournament team for several years in a row is not in Division 4 this year. They are 7-0 and have a pitching staff as deep as a rabbit hole in blow sand. Oakfield will always be in the conversation as long as Oakfield has a softball program and so will Pacelli although there were beaten yesterday. Athens under head coach Craig Dietrich has things going thus far at 5-0. Chippewa Falls is one of the larger communities in Division 5 and McDonell is always tough. I’d never bet against Juda/Albany as long as head coach Bill Davis is calling the shots. A pitcher himself, he does a great job of training his kids on that team. Belmont and Highland, two tough rivals from the southwest who both appear in the wfsca first rankings. Highland is at #5 and Belmont is at #6. Don't miss the games between those two teams if you are able to get there. The wolf lying in the background waiting to pounce in this division is a team that has been dominant in Division 4 lately with at least two trips to the Final Four. Perhaps the coaches in this division that did take the time to rank failed to look at Sectional 1, Group A when the were doing their research. At the very bottom of Group sits Thorp, a program that was at the Final Four three times since 2016 and had a shot at a fourth time if not for COVID-19. The Cardnals are 2-1 right now with a 23-22 loss to Mosinee (a team I wrote about here-to-fore in Division 2) and they have outscored their other two opponents 33-0. Assumption is one of the larger-city small schools who is always a tough out. The D5 coaches who ranked sit them at #3 and if I were voting in the that division I would have had them in my top 5 right now. Almond-Bancroft is listed in the 8th spot at 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 74-9 but today finds a game that will tell the story about them and Stevens Point Pacelli (another small school from a large community). Those two schools are pitted against each other this afternoon.
There are some great games coming up including some tomorrow (the 21st). In the Capitol North Poynette Travels to Lake Mills. Lake Mills snapped a long conference title streak from Poynette last year by splitting a pair of 1-0 games with the Pumas and beating Columbus twice while Poynette split with Columbus. The Pumas nipped Lake Mills in the sectional semi-final in Lake Mills. It will be an interesting and hopefully great game to watch for fans.
In the middle north central part of the state a matchup tomorrow also looms big for Prescott and Baldwin-Woodville. Prescott recently lost to Ellsworth 7-5 while Baldwin-Woodville lost an early game to Grantsburg back on March 28th in a game that Morgan Smetana did not play in. Smetana led B-W to the Division state title game last June losing when Jefferson nipped them by scoring two in the seventh. Smetana from our reports is headed for Winona State in the fall to play softball there.
Last night Marshfield sent a message statewide when they shutout SPASH in a 4-0 win to charge early in the Wisconsin Valley Conference. We will keep out eyes on that conference race throughout the season.
On Friday and Tuesday battels between the two top teams in the Rock Valley, Jefferson and Brodhead were played. On Friday, in what I call a pretty high scoring game between two clubs with good pitching Brodhead bested Jefferson 7-5. Then yesterday they met again and this time 15 more runs were scored when Jefferson beat Brodhead 9-6. That’s 27 runs in two games between those two. I found myself wondering just what the deal was or still is.
Brodhead has beaten the Division 3 9th ranked team in River Valley 2-0 and has a May 2nd date in Poynette with the currently ranked 4th Pumas.
In the Southeastern part of the state the Journal/Sentinel has Oak creek ranked as the area’s #1 club and the Knights garnered enough votes by however many coaches actually vote to be ranked #2 behind the top-ranked Ghosts of Kaukauna.
Hey, I have some other things to work on tonight – a 12-Under Tournament to be played on May 14-15 here in Poynette, organizing a first through sixth grade summer girls’ softball program our PFO took on this year and beginning work on our 10th annual Poynette Summer Jamboree Fastpitch tournament June 17-19.
Have a great day!
Keep it Rising!