Sports

Sat
31
Mar
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Baseball Cardinals hope for big year

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.

Sat
24
Mar
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No respect? No worries for softball Cards

Perry Hibner is just fine in the Rodney Dangerfield role.

Hibner, Middleton’s third-year girls softball coach, knows that most pundits won’t pick his Cardinals to win the Big Eight Conference this spring.

But Hibner doesn’t mind the Dangerfield-like, “no respect” treatment.

“We will be in the mix,” Hibner insisted. “I don't think anyone will pick us to win the conference, but that's OK. Games aren't won on paper. I know we will improve and I feel like we can play with anyone in the Big Eight.”

There are a number of reasons for Hibner and the Cardinals to be so optimistic.

It starts with first baseman Jessica Parente, catcher Brianna Buss and third baseman Ashley Bindl, who all received all-conference honors last year.

Parente, a first-team all-Big Eight Conference player, was second on the team last year with a .446 batting average. Parente led the Cardinals with 20 RBI, was third with nine doubles and had one home run.

Sat
24
Mar
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Boys track team wants to keep the bar high

They’ve won the Big Eight Conference meet five years in a row.

They have three top-five finishes at state in that time and four top-20 showings.

Middleton’s boys track and field team has been a model of excellence in recent years. And the Cardinals, who begin their season Saturday at the Ripon Invite, expect more of the same this spring.

“We expect to win conference and have a strong showing at state,” Middleton coach Joe Line said. “Our main goal is to work hard, but to stay healthy as well.”

Middleton’s only finish outside the top-20 at state since 2013 came a year ago, when the Cardinals were 28th. But several Middleton athletes were injured, a major reason why the Cardinals’ slipped at state. 

Sat
24
Mar
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Girls track team aiming high

Strength in numbers.

That’s what Middleton’s girls’ track and field team is hoping for this spring.

The Cardinals have a record 112 girls out for track. And when Middleton begins its season Saturday at the Ripon Invite, the Cardinals hope their large crew will embark on a special season

“I’ve been going through old track results and 20 years ago (1998 season) there was about 30 girls on the team,” Middleton coach Cory Christnovich. “That is a huge jump in numbers, but a testament to the previous athletes and coaches that have made Middleton track and field the success it is.”

The Cardinals have become one of the top programs in the state over the past two decades. And Middleton could be poised for big things again this spring.

The Cardinals were fourth at the Big Eight Conference meet last season and 57th at state. But Christnovich believes his team is ready to jump up several notches.

Thu
15
Mar
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Hall comes calling for Kind

Jeff Kind was a first-year teacher at Cuba City back in 1978. And due to the diminutive nature of his paycheck, Kind signed up for as many coaching jobs inside the building as he could find.

“Freshman football, freshman boys basketball and assistant baseball … and my contract to teach and coach all of those was for $9,400,” Kind recalled. “When I got my first job at Cuba City, it was almost a necessity because they paid you so poorly.”

Coaching has always been a labor of love for Kind, who found his calling in girls basketball and has been Middleton’s head coach since 1992.

The game has always loved him back, as well. And recently, Kind received the ultimate prize.

Kind was named to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. There will be a ceremony on Sept. 29 at The Wilderness in Wisconsin Dells.

Thu
15
Mar
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Future looks bright for boys basketball team

Nearly an hour after Middleton’s boys basketball season had ended, several Cardinals were still lingering inside Waunakee High School on March 3.

Middleton’s players and coaches exchanged hugs. They found parents, girlfriends and family members and embraced.

No one wanted to leave.

That’s because Middleton — despite a mediocre 13-11 record — became a tight knit bunch that would have loved another game or two together.

“We were proud of our kids, no doubt,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “It might sound cliché, but it really was true with this group, as myself and my varsity staff truly looked forward to every day we were able to spend in the gym with this group.

“High character kids with great work ethics and bright futures. As coaches we are clearly the lucky ones to have this opportunity to spend time with and hopefully have a positive impact on these student-athletes during the season and moving forward.”

Thu
15
Mar
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Brunker, Roden named all-Big 8

They were Middleton’s dynamic duo this winter.

Both did a little bit of everything — and helped the Cardinals enjoy a solid season.

And senior forwards Brogan Brunker and Alan Roden were recently honored for their terrific years.

Brunker was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference, while Roden was named honorable-mention all-league.

“I'm happy for and proud of both of these young men,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said.

Brunker led the Cardinals in scoring at 18.1 points per game. He also scored in double figures in 20 of the 21 games he played.

Brunker was second on the team in rebounding (4.6), shot 55% from the field, 41% from three-point range, 74% from the free throw line and averaged 2.2 assists per game.

Brunker was joined on the first team by Sun Prairie’s Marlon Ruffin and Jalen Johnson, Madison East’s Keshawn Justice and Madison La Follette’s Donnell Gray.

Thu
15
Mar
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Dunn, Tanin named all-conference

Middleton’s girls basketball team had a pair of players earn all-Big Eight Conference honors.

Senior guard Haley Dunn received third-team all-conference honors. Sophomore forward Sitori Tanin was named honorable-mention all-Big Eight.

Dunn was third on the team in scoring (6.2) and fourth in rebounding (4.1). Dunn led the Cardinals in assists (1.8), was second in steals (1.9) and shot 74.4% from the free throw line.

“Haley was probably our most consistent defender and just played steady and dependable on offense,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “She hit some big shots for us throughout the year and was always ready to compete.”

Tanin led the Cardinals in scoring at 9.0 points per game and tied for the team rebounding lead (5.3). Tanin also led Middleton in blocks (1.2) and steals (2.5).

Sat
10
Mar
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Waunakee ends Middleton's year

WAUNAKEE — Everything seemed to line up perfectly for Middleton’s boys basketball team last Saturday.

There were just 3 ½ minutes left in the Cardinals’ WIAA Division 1 regional final at Waunakee. And seventh-seeded Middleton — in the midst of its finest performance of the season — held a 58-54 lead and appeared poised to stun the second-seeded Warriors and the rest of the basketball world.

Then it all came crashing down.

As they say, reality bites.

Waunakee went on a game-changing 8-0 run and never trailed again. The Warriors — who made a remarkable 22-of-22 free throws in the contest — knocked down eight in the final 54.7 seconds and rallied for a thrilling 68-63 win.

“We had them right where we wanted,” said Middleton standout senior forward Brogan Brunker. “You win some and you lose some. But we fought, left it all out there. Nobody was expecting us to come in and beat them except probably us.”

Sat
10
Mar
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At last, baseball combines two seasons

For more than 50 years now, the WIAA would crown state baseball champions every spring.

Roughly six weeks later, the WIAA would hold a second state tournament and identify a summer champion.

This odd practice began in 1965, when the WIAA felt it was necessary to have both spring and summer baseball seasons. For the last several years, Wisconsin was the only state in the union to have some of its teams play in the spring and the rest play in the summer.

Thankfully, this antiquated, outdated set-up will soon come to an end.

The WIAA Board of Control unanimously voted to end summer baseball last week. Its final season and last state tournament will be this summer, then a move to only spring ball begins in 2019.

“It’s time,” said Middleton coach Tom Schmitt said, who has led the Cardinals to seven state tournaments and the 2003 spring state title in 15 seasons. “It’s definitely overdue.

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