Prep Baseball Report

Top 10 Stories of 2023: No. 1 Denmark, Miller Notch Third Straight D2 State Title

Maddox Durst
Staff Writer

At the end of each calendar year, the PBR Wisconsin staff reflects back on the 10 most intriguing headlines that surrounded the baseball scene in the Badger State. Through the end of the month, we will break down the most impactful storylines from an eventful 2023 campaign, ending with our No. 1 story revealed Dec. 30.

Three years. 89 wins. Three straight championships.

Those are simply the facts for head coach Bill Miller’s Denmark program since the 2021 season. His group had a chance to earn a third straight title amongst Division 2 competition – looking to etch Denmark’s name with three other teams in WIAA history who had accomplished the feat.

Denmark has reigned supreme against the Division 2 field for the past three seasons. Now playing at Bradley, RHP Brennen Miller (2021; College of Lake County CC) – son of Bill – was a main piece in their first state championship run. His class was simply the start of this extreme success, as all teams had just returned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you make the playoffs, we get an extra three weeks, four weeks of practice every year,” Miller said about how this run benefitted him as a player. “That builds up, like you look over the last three years, we've had 12 extra weeks of practice compared to some other teams in the state.”

The Vikings’ success comes from preparation within those practices – ultimately leading to execution on the diamond under the bright lights. We saw it again from Miller – in his 31st year at the helm – and his coaching staff at Fox Cities Stadium.

The road to state was a little different for Denmark this past spring, as the Vikings had to overcome numerous deficits in their four games leading up to their trip to Appleton. They secured one-run wins over Luxemburg-Casco (6-5), Wrightstown (6-5) and Notre Dame Academy (5-4) – before earning a 2-0 victory over Chilton in the Sectional Final to ultimately punch their ticket to the state tournament.

Miller credited his team for remaining resilient, as they were experienced and understood the impact of execution on both sides of the ball – going back to those extra days and weeks of practice.

“We feel that we try to cover everything that we can possibly cover in practice so that they're ready for it in the game when it does come up,” Miller said.

In Appleton, RHP Lucas Miller (2023; Wisconsin-Whitewater) – a two-way star all season – took care of business on the mound against Jefferson in the state semifinals. The right-hander got out of jams and struck out seven batters in 5.2 innings of work. For the third straight season, the Eagles year ended at the hands of Denmark – this time in the semifinals with a 7-0 loss.

C Rheis Johnson (2023; Saint Mary’s - MN) and INF Izaac Dittmer (2023) each chipped in an RBI to push the Vikings past Jefferson in their largest margin of victory in this playoff run.

A day later, Denmark took the field against a Division 2 counterpart that had matched their success in the 2023 season: St. Thomas More.

The game found itself in a pitchers’ duel for its entirety due to the efforts from RHP Ethan Ovsak (2023) and RHP Samuel Mommer (2024; Wisconsin-Parkside). Ovsak was ultra-efficient as the starter – hitting 100 pitches during his ninth inning of work. He was removed after 8.2 innings – holding an electric Cavalier offense to two runs, along with keeping his team in the game.

Denmark – after both teams tallied a run in the ninth – scored the eventual game-winning run in the 11th frame. OF John Wertel (2023) singled with one out in the inning, and crossed home plate after an error on the infield by St. Thomas More. It gave the Vikings a 3-2 advantage, and they refused to look back.

A resilient bunch, as they sprinted in shallow left field in celebration after RHP Jaycob Dittmer (2024) forced a pop fly to end the game. The strong support from the Denmark crowd was heard throughout Fox Cities Stadium that late afternoon, as their Vikings had just won their third straight state title.

“Impressed with the way they went about everything, from practices to game prep,” Miller said about what made this championship team successful. “They never lost focus, which the season gets to be long sometimes and they just went on every day, preparing themselves to put themselves in position to win.”

The Vikings overcame three errors of their own and took advantage of the Cavaliers’ miscues on the defensive end to ultimately pull away. The Division 2 State Title battle proved to be the game of the year in the WIAA in an intense, lively environment.

For some seniors – such as Johnson, Ovsak and Miller – it was their third ring they had earned in as many years. A true testament to their dedication, and the positive mark they left on the Denmark community since the 2021 season.

Recently, it was announced that Miller was stepping away from the program at Denmark. While he is not necessarily finished with coaching baseball, the WBCA Hall of Famer leaves the Vikings with legendary numbers.

Miller’s overall record in 31 years at Denmark was 516-225. He notched that 500th victory in the middle of this past season, in addition to tallying 11 conference titles and five state tournament appearances.

A legend – not just among northeast Wisconsin – but throughout the entire Badger State in the baseball and prep sports community. His work on the diamond has not been overlooked, as we are excited to see where his future in the game takes him.