Road-tested Legion team finds its way to state
Thanks to a couple roster defections just before the season began and without a place to call home, coach Ron Pohlman was leery of his team's grueling 35-game schedule.
But a funny thing happened on the way to what was supposed to be a sub-par season. The mix of Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker players bonded immediately. And playing virtually every game on the road didn't seem to matter as the wins piled up quickly while the floodwaters went down slowly in Riverside Park.
"This has been a very rewarding season for me," Pohlman said. "To see these kids come together as a team and play the way they have sure makes it fun to put the uniform on.
"There are really no superstars on the team and no individuals. They've played as a team all season and everyone wants everyone else on the team to do well."
Janesville (21-9) has done well enough to advance to the Class AAA State Tournament. In advancing to state for the first time since 1999, Janesville will open the double-elimination tournament Saturday at 10 a.m. against De Pere.
With Riverside Park underwater, Janesville was able to play only one game all season on its home field. That meant no concession sales and no Five-Star Tournament. Janesville's original 35-game schedule had to be trimmed due to a lack of places to play.
"It's been tough because it costs money to go to state or any other tournament we've played in," Pohlman said. "But I haven't heard any complaining. The kids have just gone out and played ball.
"I think more than anything all the road games made us a closer team. The chemistry is so good on this team, and that's a big part of our success."
Janesville enters the state tournament on a roll. The team scored 47 runs in five games en route to the Burlington District title. Twelve players are batting .300 or better, including B.J. Scharenbroch, who leads the team with a robust .436 average. Scharenbroch, a 2008 Parker graduate, leads the team with 41 hits, 30 runs and five triples. Janesville is batting .356 as a team.
Matt Beyer and Brodie Meehan have supplied the power. Beyer has seven home runs and Meehan is right behind with six. Both players have a team-high 30 RBIs.
"Hitting was a big question mark coming into the season, but we've really hit the ball pretty well all season," Pohlman said. "We've got 19 home runs, which is a lot, and 58 stolen bases. That's a pretty good combination."
Garrett Morris will pitch the opener at state. The righthander is 9-1 on the season with a 3.08 ERA. Morris has struck out 56 batters in 50-plus innings of work, and according to Pohlman, had only one bad outing all season.
"Garrett's a bulldog on the mound," Pohlman said. "He just keeps coming after you and seems to make the right pitch when he has to.
"And the rest of our pitching has been pretty consistent, too. Our guys have thrown strikes, not walked many and let the defense behind them make plays."
Janesville won't be among the favorites at state, but Pohlman said that would work in his team's favor.
"For some of these kids, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Pohlman said.
"I want them to have fun and enjoy the experience, and they will, but they also know they're going up there to play ball.
"We've already beaten Genoa City and Kenosha, and those are two of the better programs in the state. Now we get the chance to play some of the other heavyweights."