Hello Fastpitch Followers
The 2016 season has been in the books for about six weeks. Now, everyone looks forward to a changing landscape for many teams as the WIAA Board of Control accepted and passed legislation that creates a five division model for high school fastpitch in Wisconsin.
The state’s governing body for high school sports had posted five divisions about a week and a half ago but not team assignments were posted until today. Many waited with anticipation for those to be posted.
I printed out all five divisional lists (they are not actual brackets). There a few surprises to those of us who had been doing research on school enrollments throughout the past season.
As people look through the list there are undoubtedly quite a few schools that are drooling, smiling and really eager for the 2017 season to begin in March. Most of the drool comes at the top of Division 3, 4 and five as a good number of teams at the bottom end of the old, four division bracket drop into the bracket with a higher number. However there are certainly other schools happy to see some traditionally strong powers no longer in the same division of play as their own school. They obviously have to be grinning ear to ear.
For instance – Mishicot made it to the state tournament this past season in Division 3 but now finds themselves near the top of Division 4. They won’t have to compete with the likes of Laconia, Random Lake, nor Mayville which now finds itself in Division 3.
Another example will be all the Division 3 teams that Grantsburg continually knocked out of tournament play throughout the years. Grantsburg is set in Division 4 and will be a tremendous force there. Of course they will still have to contend with Chequamegon which also moved down a division and Phillips who played the Pirates pretty tough as well. Athens and Thorp are in Division 4 and should contend for the sectional final berth up there. Thorp will be under new leadership as WFSCA Coach of the Year, Brad Ceranski has left Thorp for an adminstrative postion further south at Fall Creek.
Northwestern made the trip to the state final four in Division 4 this past spring but will now drop down to Division 3 so that has to be a welcome sight for them. Bloomer also finds themselves in Division 3 but in the same sectional as Northwestern so that will be an interesting matchup when it occurs. Kettle Moraine Lutheran, Nekoosa, Tomahawk, Dodgeville, Peshtigo, Chilton, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Platteville, Wisconsin Dells, Lake Mills also find themselves in Division 3. The final two strong contenders in Division 2 the past couple of years, Columbus and River Valley both drop down into the Division 3 in the Poynette sectional. There they will join up in what should be a tough half-sectional to get out of with the likes of Marshall, Waterloo, Brodhead and Poynette there as well. On the other side of the sectional bracket are Aquinas, Arcadia, Westby and G-E-T. I see Arcadia as the favorite in that half sectional and the Raiiders will not have to contend with Luther come tourney time as that private school has dropped down to Division 4 where they will really be tough.
Residing in Division 5 are a dozen private schools from cities such as Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Marshfield, Wisconsin Rapids, Burlington, New Berlin, and Wausau area .
Other noteable teams solidly in Division 4 down are Pacelli, and Horicon. Those three all find themselves in the Tri-County sectional and it’s a toss up among those three for early favorite to make it out of that sectional to Madison.
Shiocton has been tough the past couple of years and now finds itself also in Division 4. They will have to battle Mishicot from the other half sectional along with Algoma, Lourdes Academy.
Up in Division 1, there most likely was not much anticipation as the top 112 schools comprise the division and not much as has changed in those sectionals. Chippewa Falls and SPASH along with Hudson, Marshfield, D.C. Everest,and the Eau Claire schools are still locked up there. Look for SPASH to rule that one again but they could be tested by Chi-Hi, Hudson and perhaps a sleeper.
In Sectional 2 to be played at Kimberly you willf ind Hortonville, Bay Port, Kaukauna and Kimberly but there could be as surprise there as well.
There is a noticeable change elsewhere though. A look at the Oconomowoc sectional fionds some tough teams including two that were in Madison this past June – Oshkosh North and Watertown. I’m predicting that those two will be t he #1 and #2 seeds in that sectional. Only one can make a return to the elite 8.
The Burlington Sectional is a tough one with Union Grove, Westosha Central, Burlington, Janesville Craig and Fort Atkinson. Those are the top teams on my list there.
Menomonee Falls looks to be my favorite in the Waukesha North sectional at this time. Arrowhead, Mukwonago and perhaps another could contend there.
Germantown and Homestead are my favorites upt he North Shore at a site yet to be determined.
Finally in the Kenosha Bradford Sectional I look for Greenfield, Bradford and Indian Trail to be at the top of the lot. Of course surprises could happen there as well.
Finally in Division 2 – in the Meford sectional the top pitchers have graduated and Baldwin-Woodville will probably make their run to the sectional final. Things could get dicey for them there though as Rice Lake returns a large contingent including their pitching staff. Mosinee and Merrill could have some say in that half sectional though as could Medford.
The Delavan-Darien sectional will be wide open and top half contains McFarland, Sauk Prairie and Portage along with Mount Horeb. In the bottom we find Monroe, Turner, Delavan-Darien and Edgerton . I will give the early nod to Turner as they have a host of young players back from a team groomed by forner head coach and one of my heroes, Bob Sulser. Turner is most likely one of the smallest schools in the division as well.
In the 4th sectional to be played at Waupun the host will most likely walk through the competition and play for a return trip to the state tournament after a one-year hiatus. In the lower half loom that stalwarts with New Berlin West, New Berlin Eisenhower, and Whitnall. I’ll give the nod to West now but that could change come March.
So there you have my look and thoughts on the five divisions. What lies in store once the state tournament field gets set next June will be interesting as the schedule is so tight that any extra inning game or even a short rain delay could throw a wrench into the ever-turning spokes. People ought to be ready to roll with the punches as it will be a crap shoot in the first year. It could even turn out that some big changes will take place after just one year of this format at the state tournament.
Here are couple of other thoughts that people ought to be aware of.
At the state tournament it appears that the rules change in regards to regulation games, suspended games and the sort. This past state tournament two games that were in the sixth inning with one team leading by a comfortable margin were suspended and finished the following day rather than ending the game as in the NFHS rule book under Rule 4, Section 2, Article 2 on Page 42. If that is to be the case then we all ought to be aware of it. If all games are to be suspended when the run differential is less than 10 there ought to be no need for hurrying up or slowing down. I would think, and was told my a very high ranking WIAA Executive that this topic is one the coaches should be taking a look at. What are your thoughts? Let your conference rep and district rep know what you think. I’d think that deviating from the NFHS rule would require a waiver or something like that from the NFHS like was the case with the on deck circle issue that we experimented with for several seasons. Those are just my thoughts
So now you have more infomation to think about.
Have a great day and enjoy the rest of the summer softball season. Afterall, summer is for softball ya know!
Keep it Rising,