Categorized | Technology

State baseball: Despite turnover Marquette qualifies for second straight year

Peter Ahn wasn’t in the mood to look ahead.

Marquette’s baseball team had just suffered a 2-0 loss to Menomonee Falls in the state championship game last season, and the last thing on his mind was how the Hilltoppers were going to replace 12 seniors.

“At that point, I really wasn’t looking forward to the season,” he said. “I was a little bummed about the game.”

But despite losing its top three pitchers, all four infielders and two outfielders from a year ago, Marquette is back in the state tournament. The 26-7 Hilltoppers face 19-8 Kiel in the semifinals at 11:35 p.m. Friday at Kapco Park.

RELATED: WIAA state baseball tournament

“I didn’t think we’d have the year that we’ve had,” Marquette coach Sal Bando Jr. said.

The only starters from the state final lineup who returned were Peter Ahn, an infielder who is a Michigan State recruit, and catcher Ryan Hecht, who will play at Division III Colby College in Maine.

But Marquette gained three players who spent their first three seasons on travel teams — including Division I recruits Pat Sisk (Furman) and Zach Nogalski (UW-Milwaukee) — and also got key contributions from six others who had very little or no varsity experience.

“We had heard rumblings about some of these (travel-ball) players returning for their senior year, so I thought we had some potential offensively with Ahn returning, and I knew this kid Pat Sisk could hit,” Bando said.

“I knew nothing about Zach Nogalski and he’s had a good year for us and is an all-state candidate. And our best defensive player is a senior named Brandon Hafemann (another travel-ball newcomer), who has played every day at second or short for us.”

Marquette already knew what it was getting in Ahn and Hecht.

Ahn leads the team in several categories, including batting average (.457), runs batted in (42), runs (37) and doubles (11). Hecht is hitting .349 with 23 RBI, 18 runs and nine doubles.

Players such as Sisk, however, could not even attend the state tournament last year because he was busy competing with the Racine Hitters. In fact, he found out the Hilltoppers qualified for state via Twitter while in an Atlanta hotel room at another national tournament.

“It was actually tough because some of my best friends played for Marquette,” Sisk said. “I saw (baseball) more as a job. I had goals pretty much since I started baseball, and that was to play Division I. It felt like I had to travel.”

But since Sisk, Nogalski and Hafemann already committed to colleges, there was no need to miss out on their final chance to play in high school. Hafemann will attend St. Mary’s University in Minnesota.

“The way that the team has accepted me has been amazing,” Sisk said. “I don’t think I’d have half the season I’ve had so far had it not been for the support of everybody. To be able to compete at state with all my best friends with ‘Marquette’ on our chest is just really surreal.”

Sisk’s .453 batting average and 35 RBI are second on the squad, and his five home runs are tied for tops with Ahn. Nogalski has a team-high 49 hits and is third with a .434 average to go with 35 runs. He is also 5-2 as a pitcher and will start on the mound Friday.

“He’s got, without question, the best stuff on the team,” Bando said.

Other new contributors include junior Zach Schmidt (.423), a hockey goalie who put off hip surgery to be on the baseball team, and senior Rob Gueldner, who owns a .363 average as the team’s No. 7 hitter will play at UW-Platteville. Senior Austin Trowbridge’s batting average is .346 after five varsity at-bats last year, and he is 6-0 with a 2.04 earned run average on the mound.

“There’s a lot of guys that have better stuff than him, but he’s a tough kid that likes to compete,” Bando said. “We’re always in the game when he pitches.”

Junior Niko Kershner (.318) is the eighth Hilltopper with a batting average over .300, and pitchers Andrew Zeidler (3-1) and Cole Schaefer (2-0) also have filled in.

Marquette’s coach was not even sure Zeidler would pitch again after his first game of the season.

“He slowly pitched his way into our rotation and really finished the season as our No. 2 pitcher,” Bando said. “He threw a complete-game shutout in the sectional final.”

Article source: http://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/high-schools/2017/07/20/state-baseball-tournament-despite-turnover-marquette-qualifies/493384001/

Comments are closed.

Call Now: 877-642-5321 ` ` . .