Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 18 Altoona

By Andy Sroka & Maddox Durst
PBR Wisconsin Staff

The Wisconsin high school baseball season kicks off on March 28, opening day for regular season action under WIAA regulations. Over the next week, leading up to opening day, we’ll be publishing our team previews ahead of the 2023 spring season, touching on programs spanning all state classifications, counting down through the official PBR Wisconsin Preseason Power 25 Rankings.

Perennially, we’ve submitted a Preseason Questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our team-by-team preseason analysis. We also utilized some of the information published inside the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association's 2023 Yearbook, which is available for purchase here.

Our 2023 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Altoona
Preseason Rank: No. 18
2022 Record: 21-4
Conference: Middle Border
WIAA Division: 2
Head Coach: Craig Walter


Colin Boyarski INF Altoona 2023 UW-Eau Claire (football)
Evan Gustafson C/RHP Altoona 2023 Oregon State
Ben Kuenkel OF Altoona 2023 -
Trent Cornell MIF/OF Altoona 2024 San Francisco
Christian Varsho OF Altoona 2023 -
Kellen Smith UTL Altoona 2025 -
Cameron St. John 3B/OF Atloona 2025 -
Bennett Stokke RHP Altoona 2025 -


Evan Gustafson (2/5/23)

+ C/RHP Evan Gustafson (2023; Oregon State commit) had an eventful winter, as he was one of three prospects to represent the state of Wisconsin at the PBR Super 60 in February. Gustafson, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound catcher has become one of the best players in the state, really coming into his own these past couple years, setting the stage for a senior season to be remembered as he headlines an Altoona squad that has its sights set high in 2023. Gustafson, who was a member of Team Wisconsin at the 2021 PBR Future Games, has a sweet left-handed swing with barrel feel and innate strength that he gets to efficiently. He’s an excellent athlete and a multi-spot standout, and it’s helped him carve out a skillful profile and he’s continued to polish his defensive game. He’s equipped with premium arm strength at catcher, and naturally it translates well onto the mound, when required, for the Railroaders.


Cameron St. John (2/25/23)

+ 3B/OF Cameron St. John (2025) is built at a powerful 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and yet he glides for a player his size. He’s reached speeds as high as 19.4 mph en route to 7.12 and 7.05 times in the 60-yard dash at PBR events this winter, though it’s his right-handed bat that’s really astounded our staff. St. John has a vicious swing, and its ferocity to the eye is matched by the metrics captured during his rounds of batting practice that we’ve seen this year. St. John’s measured premium bat speed marks, averaging 81.7 mph, and it produced equally elite batted-ball characteristics, like a 105.0 mph max exit velocity, and his best struck ball traveled an estimated 400 feet earlier this month in Madison. He saw varsity playing time as a freshman, but he’s projected to do even more damage in his sophomore campaign, and we’re eager to see if he’ll make it so Team Wisconsin will carry a third straight Altoona player on its Future Games roster later this summer.


Altoona’s been a winning, under-the-radar gem in western Wisconsin in recent years, and it’s culminated in a particularly promising outlook for the 2023 season ahead. Head coach Craig Walter and the Railroaders are primed to be one of top teams in Division 2, as his roster is filled with star athletes and quality role players.

It all starts with Gustafson, as mentioned previously, as a two-way athlete for Altoona. His arm, bat, and work behind the dish will be important to the success of the Railroaders in 2023, and how far they can travel in the postseason as he sets the tone for the team in his senior season.

Altoona also brings back the most firepower in the Middle Border Conference in fellow seniors OF Christian Varsho (2023), who features a smooth, easy swing from the left side, first seen during this past summer, as well as INF Colin Boyarski (2023). Varsho sprays the ball all over the field and should be a capable catalyst to the team’s offense, as some of the players referenced earlier are more like the types to collect extra bases and drive in Varsho along the way. Boyarski is coming off of a 2022 where he put up big numbers, hitting .410 on the season, and granting Altoona some of the best depth among D2 lineups in the state, not just from this region of Wisconsin.

Christian Varsho (6/28/22)

INF/OF Trent Cornell (2024; San Francisco) is the other member of Altoona’s roster to have earned a roster spot on Team Wisconsin, where he spent the end of the summer last year. He’s a vocal, high-energy, competitive athlete with a versatile skill set who swings an aggressive right-handed bat. He’s a really strong 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, and he uses his strength to generate obvious power potential, though he has the situational awareness to pick and choose his spots to unleash big swings versus a dialed down, more controlled bat-to-ball cut. After hitting .385 for the Railroaders last year as a sophomore, Cornell will be asked to continue his production as a key bat inside this daily lineup.

Trent Cornell (7/27/22)

The sophomore St. John, UTL Kellen Smith (2025), and OF Ben Kuenkel (2023) will each also be relied on as contributors to this Railroaders offense. While we’re anticipating to see a jump in production out of the imposing St. John, the older players in this lineup will give him some breathing room that should allow him to acclimate to this varsity spring more comfortably.

While Altoona’s pitching staff is less ironed out, it’d also be unfair to call it a weakness. Gustafson is a catching prospect at the next level, but he’s plenty capable of operating like an ace of staff for his high school team. Varsho and St. John are similarly better position player prospects, but they’re also going to be able to contribute on the mound, most likely.

As just a freshman last year, RHP Bennett Stokke (2025) was very successful in his first season at the varsity level. Stokke utilizes a three-pitch mix that earned him a 4-0 record last season, and he reached an 83 mph high during a showcase this winter, while his slider and changeup looked like quality offspeed offerings. His arm will be important to the depth and eventual success of this upcoming Altoona squad, as they look to piece together an almost entirely new pitching staff.


Altoona came on the scene with a youthful group that earned themselves a Regional championship in 2022. Now, with a year of experience under their belt, the Railroaders look to take the next step in 2023 and make a run at the Division 2 state title. Few teams carry the kind of power potential as several of these Railroaders, and that includes the state’s D1 programs. Altoona is rostering one of the most potent lineups in the state, and we’re eager to see if it can power them to Appleton come June.

Make sure to follow @PBRWisconsin on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the 2023 season.

Find more information on the 2023 Railroaders below:

+ Team Website
+ Team Schedule
+ Team Twitter