Baseball Cards hope to surprise

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Matt Ballweg and Middleton's baseball team hope to surprise this spring./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Brent Jorgensen admits it.

Middleton’s new baseball manager has virtually no idea what to expect from his Cardinals this season.

Middleton graduated eight starters from last year’s Big Eight Conference championship team. And even though Jorgensen believes the Cardinals have the potential for big things, he won’t know exactly how Middleton shapes up with the rest of league — and the area — until the season gets rolling.

“Due to not seeing a lot of varsity competition last year and us having essentially a brand new team from last year, it's hard to predict how we will be in terms of the conference race and our postseason run,” said Jorgensen, who coached Middleton’s JV team a year ago. “However, I am optimistic about our team this year.

“We have a good amount of talent across the board, but very few players with varsity game experience. The challenge will be to turn our potential into proven success on the field. I expect us to compete in every game and for our team to improve each week throughout the season. Both of these things have come to be the norm in the Middleton baseball program.”

Jorgensen, who took over for the retired Tom Schmitt, will bring great energy and passion to the program. But with new faces at almost every spot on the field, questions certainly abound.

One constant figures to be senior center fielder Cooper Holewinski, Middleton’s lone returning starter from a year ago.

Holewinski was an honorable-mention all-conference selection last year after playing Gold Glove defense, as well as batting .294 with 19 RBI and 17 runs scored. Holewinski, a three-year starter, has committed to play at Madison Edgewood next season.

“He has great speed which makes him an asset in the field as well as on the bases,” Jorgensen said of Holewinski. “We are hoping that he continues to progress as a hitter and leader like he has in the previous two seasons.”

Junior Adam Casali was a role player last year who has the second most at-bats among returning players. A year ago, Casali played catcher, outfield and third base and batted .368 with 14 runs scored and nine RBI.

“His versatility and ability to drive the ball in both gaps will be a great asset for us this year as he will make an impact at any position he plays,” Jorgensen said. “Adam has made tremendous improvements in all areas of his game from last year to this year.”

Senior Dylan Carrington, who’s committed to Judson University (Ill.) next year, will take on a larger role and play somewhere in the infield. Senior Connor Smith will also see a more extended role at either first base or designated hitter.

“He's worked extremely hard in the last 12 months to give himself the best opportunity for a successful senior season,” Jorgensen said of Smith. “Both Connor and Dylan are great team-first players who represent our program well on the field.”

Senior Remington Lockwood, who has committed to play at Mount Mercy University (Iowa) next season, will also be expected to contribute as either a catcher or infielder.

“He brings an extra level of grit and toughness to our team,” Jorgensen said of Lockwood.

Middleton also has several newcomers that will be fighting for playing time, including senior Matt Esser, as well as juniors Casey Hodgman, Jacob Meinholz, Ben Collier, Josh Stumpf, Brooks Kalscheur and Jacob Fargen.

“We have voids at shortstop, third base and both corner outfield positions that need to be filled,” Jorgensen said. “However, it's hard to say exactly who that will be right now. As you can see, there is quite a bit of competition for those spots so time will tell who ends up playing regularly at those positions.”

Senior Matt Ballweg will anchor the pitching staff after an impressive 2018 season.

Ballweg received honorable-mention all-conference honors last year after going 6-1 with a 1.93 ERA.

“Matt is in his second year as a starting pitcher on the varsity roster and is our most experienced returning pitcher,” Jorgensen said. “He has worked extremely hard over the last few years to put himself in position to be successful on the mound. He will be one of our top pitchers in 2019.”

Juniors Josh Stumpf and Logan Schultz will also be competing for more innings on the mound.

“We have a fairly deep, yet inexperienced group of pitchers,” Jorgensen said. “Last year both of these guys got a few innings as pitchers on varsity, but will need to rise above the newcomers to see a more expanded role.”

Sophomore Quinn Hodgman and senior Hunter Schram are two newcomers that could also factor in.

Janesville Craig is the preseason favorite in the Big Eight, while Sun Prairie and Verona are expected to challenge.

Jorgensen believes his team can make its share of noise. And Jorgensen said the support he’s received since taking over for Schmitt helped the Cardinals get 2019 off on the right foot.

“The transition has gone about as well as I could have hoped for,” Jorgensen said. “I've received great feedback, support, and positive comments from various people throughout the community and have had a tremendous amount of help and support from all of the other coaches on staff currently, previous baseball coaches, the parents, (athletic director) Bob Joers, Jason Pertzborn, and Tom Schmitt.

“Thanks to them, I feel that I've been able to hit the ground running and am looking to continue to build our program from within. I'm fortunate to be in a position where we have a dedicated baseball community and outstanding support from a variety of different levels. I also want to send a thank you to the youth programs of Cross Plains and Middleton for their role in supporting my transition to being head coach.”

 

 

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