Baseball Cardinals hope for big year

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Brady Schmitt and Middleton's baseball team are hoping for a big season./File photo

One of Tom Schmitt’s favorite pictures is from 2003.

Schmitt, Middleton’s rookie manager at the time, had just led the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 1 state championship. And there’s a shot of young Brady Schmitt, who was just 3 at the time, with a baseball from the title game and Tom with the state championship trophy.

Brady is all grown up now and one of the leaders of the 2018 Cardinals. And there’s nothing Tom Schmitt would like better than to win another championship with his youngest son playing a key role.

“That would be a storybook ending,” Tom Schmitt said.

While the odds of winning a title for any team are slim, Middleton should be poised for a big season.

The Cardinals went 9-9 in the Big Eight Conference and 13-14 overall last year. But Middleton improved dramatically as the season went on, won six of its last eight games, and reached the sectional semifinals before dropping a 2-1 decision to Tomah.

Middleton returns the majority of that team and figures to challenge league favorites Janesville Craig and Sun Prairie.

“These guys have played lot ball together,” said Tom Schmitt, whose team played four games in St. Petersburg, Fla. this week. “We’re all excited about the year.”

Middleton’s pitching staff should be a strength.

Brady Schmitt went 5-1 last season with a 1.63 ERA and was named second-team all-Big Eight Conference. Schmitt struck out 31 batters, walked just 13 in 43 innings and threw a no-hitter against Madison East in May.

“He pitched better than we anticipated,” Tom Schmitt said of Brady. “He doesn’t throw the hardest, but we knew he’d throw strikes and compete.”

The rest of the staff should be solid, as well.

Senior Carsen Schulz was off to a solid start last season when he underwent Tommy John surgery. Schulz is still rehabilitating from that injury, but could return later this year.

Seniors Luke Ballweg and Derek Reisdorf worked their way up to No. 2 and 3 in the rotation by the end of last year. Sophomore Logan Schultz and junior Matt Ballweg could also factor in.

“We have good arms and good depth,” Tom Schmitt said. “Even with some injuries, I think we’ll be OK. We have five or six pitchers in the sophomore class that might get an opportunity.”

Middleton’s offense should be strong, as well.

Senior Alan Roden, a four-year varsity player, will power the Cardinals’ attack. Roden led Middleton with a .459 batting average last year and also ranked first in on-base percentage (.530), slugging percentage (.600) and OPS (1.130). Roden was first on the team in home runs (two), RBI (16) and hits (39), second in doubles (four) and third in runs scored (16).

Roden, a University of Creighton recruit, has played catcher his first three seasons at MHS. But Middleton shortstop Joel Ticknor is out at least a month with an elbow injury, so Roden will move to shortstop for the time being.

“Oh, he can do it,” Schmitt said of Roden. “He’s a special kid, a smart kid.

“I told him at the start of the year that it was a lot of fun watching him play basketball this winter. Now I’m excited to have him for another year of baseball.”

Senior Zach Shipley earned honorable-mention all-conference honors last season. Shipley ranked second on the team in hits (23), tied for second in doubles (four) and tied for third in RBI (14).

Shipley played first base, designated hitter and catcher and excelled at them all. With Roden moving to shortstop, Shipley will open this year behind the plate.

Brady Schmitt and Schulz will man first base. Senior Nolan Kelliher and junior Dylan Carrington are vying for time at second base, while senior Noah Casali will play third base.

Luke Ballweg will play left field when he isn’t pitching, junior Cooper Holewinski will play center and senior Nick Michaels will be in right.

“I think they can all go get it,” Tom Schmitt said of his outfielders. “They all have strong arms and good bats.”

Tom Schmitt has led Middleton to state seven times in his first 15 seasons. In 2016, Tom Schmitt and his son, Brennan, reached the state tournament together.

Now, Tom Schmitt would love to make his final year with Brady unforgettable and reach another state tournament.

“We played better as last year went along and we’ve got a lot of those guys back,” Tom Schmitt said. “I just think we have a lot of maturity and another year of growth, which is going to help us a lot.”

 

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