Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 5 Bay Port

By Andy Sroka
Illinois & Wisconsin Assistant Director

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: Bay Port
Preseason Rank: No. 5
2022 Record: 21-10
Conference: Fox River Classic
WIAA Division: 1
Head Coach: Harvey Knutson


Cole Bensen RHP/INF Bay Port 2023 Wisconsin-River Falls (football)
Aidan Colombo RHP Bay Port 2023 -
Grant Gill C/1B Bay Port 2023 Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Connor LaBar 3B Bay Port 2023 St. Norbert College
Zach Lambert INF Bay Port 2023 -
Jacob Martell OF Bay Port 2023 -
Nate Messenger 3B/RHP Bay Port 2023 -
Brett Nysted OF Bay Port 2023 -
Henry Schreiner MIF Bay Port 2023 -
Charlie Zimmer 1B Bay Port 2023 Marian (WI)
Cal Casper UTL/RHP Bay Port 2024 -
Owen Frank OF Bay Port 2024 -
Dylan Heier C Bay Port 2024 -
Craig Kabat RHP Bay Port 2024 -
Carter Kallies MIF Bay Port 2024 -
Sawyer Larson OF/RHP Bay Port 2024 -
Charles Lawson 1B Bay Port 2024 -
Ethan Plog LHP/OF Bay Port 2024 -


+ 1B/RHP Brandon Black (2022; Wisconsin-Whitewater)
+ C/RHP Isaiah Grimm (2022; Marian, WI)
+ LHP/OF Ky Mueller (2022; Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
+ RHP/INF Theo Zeidler (2022; Bradley) 


Cole Bensen (6/26/22)

+ RHP/INF Cole Bensen (2023; Wisconsin-River Falls, football) returns as the team’s go-to arm, a role he stepped into last year following the injury to RHP/INF Theo Zeidler (2022; Bradley), who was Bay Port’s star player before getting hurt early in the season. Bensen, nonetheless, thrived and pitched 60 innings and finished his junior season with a 2.31 ERA, and he K’d 76 batters on the year. The Pirates also lost quite a few key hitters from a season ago, though few school retool on the fly like Bay Port does, though Bensen is expected to play a crucial role up the middle of the infield as well as the order. He hit .279 last year, but it’s reasonable to expect him offensive production to improve as a senior – and Bay Port is counting on it.


+ This one’s mostly just speculation, but RHP/OF Carson Hawley (2026) has proven himself to be capable of contributing at the varsity level early on in his prep career. He’s a high-level athlete and his most useful asset right away might be the glove and coverage he offers in the outfield. With that, he also swings a quick right-handed bat and he’s already an above-average runner that projects to impact games as a tool on its own. We also like Hawley on the mound, where he attacks the zone with low-80s velocity on a carry fastball, and he has a quality pair of secondaries that would keep more experienced players off balance even in the freshman’s first year inside the program. Generally, there are quite a few upperclassmen in Bay Port’s dugout which prevents younger athletes from seeing the field, but Hawley might emerge as an exception if not this year, then next.


Bay Port’s huge program is always one of Wisconsin’s finest, even in years in which they appear to be restocking on talent or after springs in which they graduated some key names. The Pirates rebuild on the fly, and expectations are always high, even following consecutive runner-up finishes at Division 1 state. In fact, you can look to last year’s second place finish as evidence of this. Bay Port’s 2021 group was particularly deep, and they needed a fleet of new starters to fill in the holes left open by their graduation and they were capably replaced, and they won 21 games regardless.

Now, the fresh faces and inexperience does tend to create some ups and downs year to year. Bay Port did not win the Fox River Classic in 2022, that was Ashwaubenon’s. But with that being said, they banded together in the postseason and returned to Appleton for their latest bid at a state title, coming home with silver medals, respectfully, instead.

The 2023 edition of the Pirates might not have the depth of seniors previous versions rostered, but Bay Port’s senior group is gifted, led by the ‘X-Factor’ Bensen. After him, C Grant Gill (2023; Wisconsin-Oshkosh) will help guide the pitching staff, which is probably the team’s greatest returning strength. Gill is a reliable receiver that Pirates pitching can confidently throw to, and Gill also added six extra-base hits in 2022, a number he can likely build upon in 2023.

Grant Gill (2/27/22)

More seniors are here like 3B Connor LaBar (2023; St. Norbert College), who recorded five extra-base hits of his own last season, and he’s another depth right-handed hitter to account for here, expected to start at third base. RHP Aidan Colombo (2023; St. Norbert College) should earn some innings, and 1B Charlie Zimmer (2023; Marian, WI) will help round out the daily lineup.

The seniors in the dugout will help plug some of the gaps, while a talented sophomore group will really be relied on to generate the offense and take on some of the heavy duty innings that follow Bensen’s outings. RHP Craig Kabat (2024) is one of the top uncommitted arms in the state, and he was excellent as a sophomore for Bay Port in 2022. He lived in the upper-80s in the late summer and fall in our looks, and he was equally as dependable to his teammates, regularly churning out lengthy starts and weak contact, aided by a tight slider and a changeup that plays off his heavy, sinker-type fastball well. Kabat reached a 90.4 mph max this past offseason at our Madison ID, and he makes up a dynamic one-two punch next to Bensen at the top of the staff.

Craig Kabat (9/25/22)

Look for LHP/OF Ethan Plog (2024) to break out this season. He was on the brink of breaking out at times in 2022, and at the Green Bay ID in late February, Plog sat 84-86 mph on a running fastball from a deceptive slot, and he spins an above-average breaking ball while mixing in a changeup he’s confident in to grant him three pitches as a valuable No. 3 option. Plog projects best on the mound, but he surprised us with his athleticism at that showcase, as a sub-7.00 runner who also connects for hard contact from the right side. So, he’ll be really helpful positionally this spring, too.

Ethan Plog (2/25/23)

Fellow junior UTL/RHP Cal Casper (2024) will also play a pivotal role in Green Bay this season for the Pirates, following up a sophomore season in which he hit .366 across 101 at-bats. He added strength to his build over the most recent offseason, and it could help him generate more authoritative contact this spring, manufacturing more run-scoring for an offense that might need it at times. Casper’s also a versatile defender, who has long been talented behind the plate, but he might be even more useful elsewhere on the diamond to help make up for the since-graduated talent Bay Port lost in its everyday lineup.

Cal Casper (2/25/23)

MIF Carter Kallies (2024) is another junior on this team that warrants a closer look. He’s an athlete with a clean, fluid left-handed swing that’s impressed us upon several different occasions in live game settings. OF/RHP Sawyer Lawson (2024) came away as a winner at the Green Bay ID, where he showcased well alongside some of his high school teammates. There, he measured some of the most consistent, loudest contact of the day from the right side, and he also has a loose arm that recorded throws up to 86 mph to home from the outfield, and it should also play on the mound. Sophomore RHP/3B Keagan Wheeler (2025) is one other underclassman to watch for, generating interesting spin on a low-80s fastball, and he swings an athletic right-handed bat as well.


It’s hard for most programs to bounce back after losing substantial contributors, especially following consecutive runs that carried them to the state title game – but Bay Port is unlike most programs. They restock on talent fairly comfortably, and this year’s team is without exception. They’re somewhat light on true run-creators on offense, but there are plenty of candidates that can help carry the load, and they won’t need too much given the talent that’s rostered on this staff. Pitching has helped Bay Port vault themselves to state these past two years, and they have the same ingredients to make it a third straight trip, and we’ll see if they can avenge the two graduating classes before this one.

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

Find more information on the 2023 Pirates below:

+ Team Website
+ Team Schedule
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