Prep Baseball Report

WIAA State Finals: Day One Recaps

By: David Go
Staff Writer

No. 7 Nicolet vs. No. 2 Oak Creek

The outcome may have played out with relative predictability, but it took five innings for second-seeded Oak Creek to take control over the underdog Nicolet Knights. Oak Creek used a seven-run fifth inning to grab an 11-5 victory in Monday’s Division I quarterfinal finale.

Entering the fifth inning down 4-3, Payten Jibben led the Knights’ half of the inning with a triple to right field. UW-Parkside commit Nathan Hanel drove in Jibben with a line drive single to left.

Mack Endres doubled in the gap to bring home Hanel to give Oak Creek their first lead of the game.

Just a batter later, a Brady Rickert triple brought in two more. Hits from Cade Palkowski and CJ Trask led to three more runs and a decisive 10-4 lead.

Nicolet looked like the favorites early rather than the Milwaukee-area powerhouse Oak Creek Knights. Ben Ott, Gabe Nelson and Jake Wirth strung hits together off Jibben, giving the Nicolet Knights the upper hand with a 3-0 advantage. The Glendale-based team added a fourth run in the second inning on a single from senior Ben Ott.

But Jack Stuck and Nicolet left the door open ajar for Oak Creek, walking Nathan Schopf to lead off the bottom half of the second inning. Endres laced a single to score Schopf, and a few batters later Cade Palkowski drove in Endres to cut the lead to 4-2. Stuck then balked in Oak Creek’s third run of the frame.

A scoreless fourth set the stage for Oak Creek’s fifth inning outburst, which put the game out of Nicolet’s reach rather quickly.

The left-handed Palkowski ignited the victors’ offense with a 3-for-3 day, drawing two walks and driving in two while retiring the final six batters. Jibben struggled early on the bump but threw his final three frames without surrendering an earned run. The 17th-ranked senior scored twice in his 2-for-5 day. Endres and Rickert each drove in two from the bottom of the order for the winning squad.

Nicolet’s Ott went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, starting behind the dish until ditching the gear for the mound. He worked up to 90 mph on the fastball at 2400+ rpm with a true swing-and-miss upper-70s breaking ball.

The win was Oak Creek’s first since moving to spring competition following the 2018 season. They take on Sun Prairie on Wednesday with a trip to the state championship on the line.

No. 6 Hudson vs. No. 3 Sun Prairie

Sun Prairie East survived a late Hudson comeback effort as Drew Kavanaugh supported his cause with a walk-off single to earn the 4-3 win.

The senior Kavanaugh tossed all seven innings for the Cardinals. The Eau Claire football commit allowed three earned runs on four hits in the complete game, reaching base twice in his four plate appearances.

After a scoreless first from both sides, Sun Prairie East scratched across a second-inning run on a Gavin Meece groundout, scoring Isaac Wendler. Sam Ostrenga and Max Glusick reached to open the third, coming around to score the second and third runs of the game.

Ostrenga scored when Hunter Carlson’s throw on a stolen base attempt trickled into center field. Two batters later, Wendler knocked in Glusick on a single.

Hudson responded as Carlson picked John Hadley VI off second base to end the Sun Prairie East rally. Sam Abrahamson then hit the first home run of the tournament, depositing a Kavanaugh fastball well over the left field fence.

Hudson tied the game in the sixth, initially plating Carlson on a Jake Mataczynski sacrifice fly, followed by a Drew Kavanaugh balk.

The winning run scored with no men out in the seventh, as freshman Cam Glusick and Sam Ostrenga punched base hits to start the frame. The Raiders elected to intentionally walk Max Glusick one batter before the fateful single.

Ostrenga and Glusick each reached base three times in four plate appearances atop the Cardinal order, and Wendler finished 2-for-3.

Bradyn Bezanson took the bump for Hudson, allowing three runs across 4 ⅔ innings, reaching 85 mph on his fastball with some carry and run. The Maryville commit worked with three pitches that he could throw for strikes with his 5-foot-9 frame. The southpaw added two hits on the offensive side.

Abrahamson threw the final 1 ⅓ innings in relief of Bezanson, working up to 84 mph with a sharp, 11/5 curveball. Abrahamson displayed comfort in the box with power to go with above-average bat-to-ball skills.

Sun Prairie East’s win was the school’s first since splitting into east and west in 2022. They won nine Division I championships as Sun Prairie High School, most recently in 2021.

Hudson’s win earns them a matchup with the winner of No. 2 Oak Creek vs. No. 7 Nicolet, set to take place on Wednesday after the No. 1 De Pere vs. No. 5 Westosha Central contest.

No. 1 De Pere vs. No. 8 Menasha

Easton Arendt and the top-seeded De Pere Redbirds knocked out Menasha with a 2-0 win in the first round of the WIAA State Tournament on Monday. Arendt tossed all seven shutout innings in the win.

Arendt and Menasha’s Quinn Ludvigsen kept the game scoreless for the initial four and a half innings of play. Menasha threatened with a pair of base hits in the top of the fifth, but a Bryce Duszak fly out ended the short-lived rally.

Milo Upton led off the following frame with a walk, setting the stage for the game’s lone pair of runs. With Upton on first, right fielder Jake Weckwerth laid down a bunt at the cutout of the grass in front of home plate. A speedy Weckwerth rushed a throw from Duszak, the Menasha catcher, who subsequently threw the ball into right field. An unpredictable carom off the padded wall allowed Weckwerth to score the go-ahead run.

Three batters later, Madison JC commit Axel Donaldson knocked a base hit to drive in the second run.

The Winona State commit-Arendt retired six of the seven batters left in his way after his De Pere offense grabbed the two-run lead. He finished with four strikeouts, walking one while scattering six hits on 87 pitches.

Arendt worked 85-89 mph on his fastball, exhibiting carry through the zone up to 2403 rpm. His upper-70s slider showed two-plane break with control over the pitch. It’s a drop-and-drive delivery working to a ¾ arm slot.

Ludvigsen countered with six innings of zero-earned run ball, surrendering just two runs after the fifth-inning error. The Minnesota State commit struck out six and walked two, allowing four hits in the loss.

The win earns De Pere a date with No. 5 Westosha Central in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. A state title would be the first in school history.

No. 5 Westosha Central vs No. 4 Arrowhead

No. 5 Westosha Central kicked off the WIAA State Tournament with an upset, knocking off No. 4 Arrowhead in a 2-1 pitchers duel. Brody Schulte went the distance for the Falcons, allowing just three hits.

Westosha Central began the scoring in the third, taking advantage of a hit-by-pitch and walk issued by Arrowhead’s Peter Kussow to begin the inning. A Charlie Dietz sacrifice bunt advanced the runners before Jake Urban knocked in Mason Mitacek with a groundout. The Warhawks responded immediately, knotting the game at one with a Cam Carter triple to right field, scoring Brady Beck.

Schulte and Kussow traded zeroes after each team’s run-scoring third inning as each arm went one-two-three in the fourth and fifth innings, also tossing scoreless frames in the sixth.

Brayden Ramus relieved Kussow one batter into the seventh after the Louisville commit reached 100 pitches. The Falcons rallied off Ramus with a first-and-third, one-out situation for Mason Mitacek. The Westosha Central catcher grounded into a fielder’s choice that cut down Evan Leafblad at home, but the Falcons scored three pitches later on a passed ball to take the decisive lead.

Schulte worked around a leadoff walk to retire the side for Westosha Central, clinching the 2-1 win. The 73rd-ranked junior struck out three and walked three in his 102-pitch complete game. He sat 81-86 mph with his fastball, a pitch with heavy sink and arm-side run.

Kussow tossed six innings for Arrowhead, surrendering a lone run on two hits and two walks, also hitting three batters. He struck out seven, working 87-90 mph on the fastball with arm-side run. The slider is one of the best in the state at 77-81 mph, a high-spin offering that reached 2622 rpm. He also showed a changeup at 78 mph.

The win was Westosha Central’s first at the state tournament in more than two decades. They’ll face the winner of No. 1 De Pere vs. No. 8 Menasha at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.