March 2017

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Baseball Cards young, but gifted

In a perfect world, Middleton baseball manager Tom Schmitt would welcome back nine starters this spring.

He’d have a pitching staff loaded with experience, a lineup packed with proven hitters and a team jam-packed with proven commodities.

But that’s not the world Schmitt and his Cardinals live in.

Middleton will be one of the most inexperienced teams in the Big Eight Conference, and perhaps the area. But don’t expect that to discourage the Cardinals one bit.

While Middleton’s group is green, Schmitt and the Cardinals always have great expectations. And Middleton — which opened its season this week with a pair of games in Florida — will have high hopes again in 2017.

“It’s always good to have some definites,” Schmitt said. “It’s a good challenge, too. We know we might have some early bumps, but I expect to see them progress a lot this year.

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Boys basketball cupboard far from bare

One of the finest senior classes in school history is gone.

A group that helped produce back-to-back 19-win seasons. A class that included two all-state players in Tyree Eady and Storm Murphy and a four-year varsity contributor in C.J. Fermanich.

So, the 2017-’18 season will undoubtedly be a challenging one for Middleton’s boys basketball team, right?

Don’t tell that to Cardinals’ head coach Kevin Bavery.

“I think we’re going to be the surprise of the Big Eight,” Bavery said. “No one will expect us to be in the mix of top teams with all the players we graduate.”

Before we look ahead at a group Bavery believes will surprise, let’s take a final look on the gifted group that’s exiting the program.

Middleton finished the year 19-6 overall and was third in the Big Eight Conference at 13-5. The Cardinals lost to just three teams all season: Madison Memorial (three times), Beloit Memorial (twice) and Sun Prairie.

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Softball Cards swinging for the top

Perry Hibner looks up and down his Middleton softball roster and loves what he sees.

There are two experienced pitchers returning to anchor the Cardinals’ staff.

There are five returnees that earned some form of all-Big Eight Conference honors in 2016. And the newcomers are bursting with potential.

But Hibner fully understands that no matter how good things look now, nothing is promised over the next three months.

“On paper, we have a really good returning nucleus,” said Hibner, whose team begins its Big Eight Conference season April 3 against Sun Prairie. “But you don’t win games on paper.”

Middleton found that out the hard way a year ago.

The Cardinals went 16-9 overall and finished fourth in the Big Eight Conference at 11-7. Middleton defeated each of the three teams that finished above it in the league, but also lost to several teams that finished below it.

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Great expectations await boys track team

Joe Line’s debut season was one to remember.

Now, Middleton’s boys track and field coach hopes the encore is just as exciting.

The Cardinals won their fourth straight Big Eight Conference title last year. Middleton followed that up with a second place finish at the WIAA Division 1 state meet, the best finish in school history.

As a new season begins, the Cardinals have a bevy of goals. Among them is to capture a fifth straight conference title and shine at state once again.

“The Big Eight is very strong with Verona, (Madison) La Follette, and Madison Memorial,” said Middleton coach Joe Line, whose team begins its season April 1 at the Madison West Relays. “These teams always have very talented squads and their coaches put them in the right positions. 

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Girls track team thinking big

Cory Christnovich isn’t shy.

Middleton’s girls track and field coach knows the Big Eight Conference is loaded once again. Christnovich understands teams like Sun Prairie and Madison Memorial bring back talented, experienced rosters.

But Christnovich fully expects his Cardinals to be the Big Eight’s best outfit for a second straight season.

“I fully expect to compete for the conference title again and to keep it for a second straight year,” Christnovich said.

Middleton did exactly that last season in Christnovich’s first year taking over for long-time coach Tara Franklin. The Cardinals won the Big Eight Conference meet, finished first at regionals, second at sectionals and fifth at state.

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Girls basketball team will look much different

It was a special senior class, a special team.

And that’s what made the end so hard.

Middleton’s girls basketball team saw its season end with a 49-47 overtime loss to DePere in the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals last Friday. And with it, the careers of seniors Bria Lemirande, Alyssa Lemirande, Carlee Lemirande, Alexis Thomas and Katrina Anderson came to a close.

That group played a large role in Middleton reaching the state tournament two of the past three years. And in the four years the quintet was in the program, the Cardinals won three Big Eight Conference titles and went 86-17 overall (.835).

This season, Middleton went 23-4 overall and shared the Big Eight Conference title with Sun Prairie at 16-2.

“It was a special class,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “Beyond the obvious statistical contributions, they were a joy to coach. They had a passion for the game and really enjoyed playing and competing. 

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Heartbreak for MHS girls

ASHWAUBENON — Bria Lemirande, in control of so many games throughout her career at Middleton, found one thing she couldn’t control on Friday night.

Her emotions.

Lemirande, one of five seniors on the roster and the team’s four-year starting point guard, saw her career end after a 49-47 overtime loss to De Pere in a WIAA Division 1 girls basketball state semifinal game at the Resch Center.

“It’s a really bad feeling,” she said through tears that rendered her speechless earlier in the postgame press conference. “I just feel like we had the potential to go all the way this year. Falling short, it’s not how I wanted it to end.”

Middleton had a chance to win the game in regulation and tie the game in overtime, but couldn’t connect. With the game knotted, 41-41, with 9.1 seconds left in regulation, Bria Lemirande couldn’t score in the lane and Alyssa Lemirande’s runner just before the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim.

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