Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 22 Markesan


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer, Associate Scout

On Tuesday, April 21, the WIAA Board of Control asserted to cancel all 2020 spring competitions, baseball included. While saddened for the graduating class of 2020, the PBR Wisconsin staff will do its best to highlight what could have been this spring, in what was set to be an exciting campaign filled with intriguing storylines to know and players to follow.

We published our ‘Watchlist Squads’ post on Monday, April 20, spotlighting almost 20 need-to-know programs that fell short of official ‘Bubble’ or Power 25 status for our preseason team rankings. We also declared 18 more programs official ‘On the Bubble’ teams, teams that earned sincere Power 25 consideration.

Today, we continue our countdown to No. 1, the top-ranked team on the PBR Wisconsin Preseason Power 25. We’ll be releasing a team a day in our lead-up to No. 1, and we’re onto No. 22 this evening.

Team: Markesan
Preseason Rank: No. 22
2019 Record: 22-6
Conference: Trailways West
WIAA Class: D-3
Head Coach: Dean Slark
Playoff Run: D-3 Runners-Up
2019 Final Rank: On the Bubble
Returning Starters: 7
Returning Pitchers: 3 

OUTLOOK

Both the state’s 2019 Division-3 champs and runners-up are slotted next to each other on our Preseason Power 25, at Nos. 22 and 23, respectively. We’re giving the Hornets the ever-so-slight preseason edge for the seven premium returning bats as well rostering one of the top D-3 players in the state: RHP/SS Bryce Leedle (2021).

Bryce Leedle (3/15/20)

Leedle has been one of our break-out juniors of the winter, after a stellar ‘pen thrown in our Madison I.D. event back in March. There, he was up to 89 mph with the feel to spin a tight, sharp breaking ball. Even before this leap in velo and pure stuff, Leedle was carving in the Trailways West and beyond, with 73 Ks in 45-plus innings, and a 0.55 ERA. His emergence is especially important to the Hornets, given that the team lost both their most important bat and arm, Shane Ryan (Central Michigan), to graduation. Ryan pitched in over 60 innings and he punched out more than 100 in his senior spring, all while slugging .607 with three homers.

But Leedle is prepared to pick up the pieces in more ways than one, beyond his new role as the No. 1 on staff. He himself hit .358 as the team’s starting shortstop and he’s an all-around athlete who can lead the Hornets in 2021, when baseball is back. When Leedle’s pitching, he’ll be aiming at Sage Stellmacher’s glove, a 6-foot-2 junior with a lean, lanky build that brings some upside to the plate. He’s already an above-average defender who swings with some looseness and bat strength, and he’s previously demonstrated a feel to hit at the varsity level, having hit over .400 as the team’s starting catcher in his sophomore year.

Sage Stellmacher (3/1/20)

Fellow juniors 1B Gavin Gilbertson, INF Mason Crossman, and INF James Triggs would have also helped fill out this everyday lineup for Markesan’s hopeful return trip to state.

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT

While the aforementioned juniors will help the Hornets battle back in 2021, the 2020 spring presented this program with its best chance to hoist the D-3 title, even after graduating someone as integral to the team as Shane Ryan. The spring 2020 helped Markesan return two more all-conference selections to its lineup and rotation: OF Josh Boening and INF/RHP Cayden Plagenz. Boening hit .402 in his junior season and Plagenz hit .262 and also K’d 29 in 23-plus innings. He and the junior Gilbertson were all set to back Leedle up in the rotation and were capable of making it an effective trio.

The same three each pitched in the state title game last year and were eager to redeem themselves and the Markesan program in 2020 – we were looking forward to the potential rematch.

RELATED CONTENT