For the last two seasons, Hunter Waldsmith has been perfect. The Beloit Turner right-hander is 16-0 on the mound, including a 9-0 record as a junior this past season for the Rock Valley South-champion Trojans, who were a WIAA Division 2 state qualifier.
Waldsmith finished with a 1.83 ERA in 2017 with two shutouts and 55 strikeouts in 56 innings. He started nine games and went the distance in six of them, earning second-team all-district honors.
“Hunter gained a lot of velocity on his fastball this season and developed a very effective slider,” Turner coach Jeff Clowes said. “That made it tough for hitters to adjust, because he could throw all of his pitches for strikes on a consistent basis.
“But I think what really stood out with him was his presence and demeanor on the mound. He never got rattled.”
Waldsmith also thrived at the plate. He hit .494 with a school-record 46 RBI and shared Rock Valley South player of the year honors with teammate Mitchell Seager..
Hunter Martindale combined with Waldsmith to give the Trojans a dynamic duo on the mound. The 2017 graduate finished 8-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 50 innings.
A right-hander who was honorable mention all-district and plans to play at Carroll College, Martindale finished with four complete games and got the win over Mount Horeb in the sectional title game to send the Trojans to state.
“Hunter’s confidence really grew as the season went on,” Clowes said. “The difference for him was his curveball. That pitch was his out pitch and one that he threw for strikes at any point in the count.
“He took the ball for us in so many big games, and because of his competitive nature and work ethic had a great season.”
Martindale also had a productive season at the plate, batting .333 with 30 RBI and an on-base-percentage over .400.
As a sophomore, Mitchell Woelfle went from a player expected to get a taste of life on the pitcher’s mound to being one of the top starters in the Big Eight Conference.
Woelfle tied for the lead with five wins in league play, and he went 7-1 overall with a 1.43 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings. He had a WHIP under 1.00 and tossed three complete games.
“You could just tell his confidence kept getting better and better,” Herbst said. “He went about his business and kept progressing, and by the time it got done, we felt really good every time he was out there.”
Woelfle was a first-team all-Big Eight selection and a second-team all-district choice.
Ethan Burns capped off an incredible senior season at Turner with another outstanding campaign on the diamond. An all-conference running back on the football team and a starter on the basketball team that won a conference title and advanced to sectional play, Burns earned first-team recognition at catcher for the second straight season and was a second-team all-district pick.
The Carroll College recruit scored a school-record 46 runs and batted .425 with on-base percentage over .500.
“He was such an asset at the top of our order,” Clowes said. “His patience and ability to work the count paid off in a big way. And because he is such a fierce competitor, that rubbed off on all of his teammates.
“Defensively, he made it tough for teams to get any kind of running game going. He threw out 14 of 18 runners.
“Catchers are not usually your best athlete, but on our team that wasn’t the case. He did so many things well.”
Evan Spry closed out his standout career at Janesville Craig with a senior season worthy of second-team all-state honors.
Spry, who will play at Creighton, typically played third base when he wasn’t on the pitcher’s mound but showed his versatility in filling in at first if needed.
He hit .407 with a team-high three triples to go along with five doubles and a .500 on-base percentage.
Spry also fought through a shoulder injury to go 5-0 on the mound with a 2.42 ERA and 30 strikeouts in nearly 35 innings of work.
“Evan was our silent leader,” Herbst said. “The second half of the season, he was swinging the bat as well as anybody.”
Last year’s Gazette player of the year, Jack Blomgren, continued to be a menace to opposing teams at the top of the Craig lineup during his senior year.
Blomgren, who will play at Michigan, hit .325 but had an on-base percentage near .500 thanks to a team-high 26 walks. Nearly every walk or single essentially turned quickly into a double, as Blomgren stole 33 bases in 33 attempts and scored 35 runs.
When not playing shortstop at an elite level, Blomgren filled in as a stopped out of the Cougars bullpen. He threw 27 1/3 innings, striking out 35 hitters and posting a 1.02 ERA.
He was a third-team all-state selection.
“Jack, like he’s been for three years now, was our catalyst,” Herbst said. “He’s constantly on base and is such a threat to steal that it changes the entire complexion of the game.
“He was one big pain on the base paths.”
We understand that Austin Kraus received first-team all-conference and honorable mention all-state status as an outfielder. But to shoehorn Kraus into a single position would be a disservice to his game, so we’re putting him in the all-area infield.
Kraus spent time at every position on the diamond for Craig this season except catcher and first base. He’s headed to Madison Edgewood after posting a .375 batting average with 29 RBI and 30 runs scored during his senior season.
Hitting out of the No. 2 spot in the order, Kraus stole 20 bases in 23 attempts and struck out just six times in 95 plate appearances.
“We could put him anywhere and he never said a word,” Herbst said. “He just went out and produced.”
Jet Weber helped lead the Elkhorn Elks into the Division 1 Verona Sectional. The 2017 graduate and Indian Hills Community College (Iowa) recruit batted a robust .473 and played a solid shortstop.
“Jet’s a great player with a great work ethic,” Elkhorn coach Jon Anzalone said. “I felt coming into the season that he was very capable of putting up big numbers offensively, and that’s what he did.
“And his defense was outstanding. He made the routine plays look easy and had great range.”
Mitchell Seager was a first-team all-state outfielder and one of 10 finalists for the WBCA state player of the year. One look at his ridiculous offensive state, and it’s easy to see why.
He hit .521 during his junior year, with a school-record 48 hits, 42 RBI and 44 runs scored. He had an on-base percentage of .625 and stole 14 bases in 14 attempts.
“Mitch has been being groomed for this since he was in grade school,” Clowes said of Seager’s success. “He’s got a textbook swing, is fundamentally sound and has great hips.
“His patience at the plate was great, and once he really started hitting the ball with authority after kind of a slow start, he was unbelievable for us. He turned a lot of walks into doubles, and defensively he was outstanding in center.”
Janesville Parker’s Sam Garvoille blossomed during his junior season, earning second-team all-Big Eight honors in right field.
Garvoille led the Vikings with a .364 batting average and OPS north of 1.000. He had seven doubles, three triples and a homer, scoring a team-high 22 runs and driving in 10.
He also became a steady contributor on the mound for a Vikings team searching for pitching help. Garvoille went 3-4, but his record was a bit deceiving considering he finished with a 2.82 ERA.
“As a sophomore, he came on pretty good as a hitter. So I expected him to hit like that,” Parker coach Brian Martin said. “Our biggest wild-card was on the mound, and I think as the season went on, he turned himself into a pretty good pitcher.
“And he’s a great outfielder. Overall, just a very solid player.”
The Evansville Blue Devils were runner-up in the Rock Valley North this season, and Sam Urquhart was a big reason why.
The senior-to-be led the team in hitting and was one of the top defensive outfielders in the area.
Urquhart hit a team-high .470 for the Blue Devils, hitting fourth in the lineup.
“Sam is a very athletic kid that is so versatile because he can play so many positions,” Evansville coach Brian Cashore said. “He was not only a great outfielder, but I really felt like one of the best catchers in our conference when I used him back there.
“He’s got a strong arm and reads the ball very well. He saved us some runs by tracking down fly balls that you wouldn’t have thought he could get to.”
No player fits the utility bill better than Jason Curtis. The 2017 Whitewater graduate did a little bit of everything for the Whippets, including posting an 8-2 record on the mound with 71 strikeouts in 59 innings and an ERA of 1.78. Curtis earned first-team all-Rock Valley North honors.
At the plate, Curtis hit over .400 and struck out only three times all season.
“Jason had a great, great season for us both pitching and offensively,” Whitewater coach Jim Pease said. “To have the kind of record he had pitching in a conference like ours, and with the schedule we play, is really impressive.
“He’s going to play at Rock Valley College in Rockford, and he’s going to be a great asset for that program because he is so versatile and can play multiple positions.”
Chase Davis capped off an impressive four-year varsity career at Milton with a stellar senior season. Tine Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne University recruit hit .433 in the Badger South Conference with a .553 on-base percentage.
Defensively, Davis stifled opposing teams’ running game with his strong arm behind the plate.
”Chase is one of the most purely gifted players I’ve been around in a long time,” Milton coach Kris Agnew said. “He’s got that sweet left-handed swing, and because he’s so athletic he will be able to play any position they want him to at Fort Wayne.
”He was a great team leader for us, not only on the field but off of it as well. He worked hard and put in the time to make himself into a very good player.”