Beloit Turner’s baseball team has one more chapter to write in what has been a storybook season.
The Trojans are two wins away from the program’s second state title and first since 2001.
Second-ranked ranked Turner (25-3) plays West Salem (22-4) in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal game at 6 p.m. today at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
“We know who we are and what our capabilities are,” Turner coach Jeff Clowes said. “For us, it’s a matter of going up there and getting outside of the hype that comes with playing at state. We can’t get wrapped up in that, and I don’t think we will.
“All four teams up there are very good teams, or they wouldn’t be playing at state. And we’re running into a buzzsaw with West Salem. We’ll be facing a very good pitcher in (Alex) Jeranek and a very athletic team.”
West Salem won the Coulee Conference with a perfect 12-0 record, and like Turner its roster is senior-dominated. Braxton Ghelfi is the catalyst for the Panthers. The senior shortstop is batting .408 on the season and leads the team in virtually every offensive category. He has scored 33 runs, has 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts and has legged out three triples.
The Panthers are hitting .313 as a team and have a team ERA of 1.92.
Jeranek’s numbers are impressive. The senior right-hander is 10-1 with an 0.69 ERA. He has struck out 54 in 50-plus innings thanks to a fastball that has been clocked at 85 miles per hour.
“He throws hard,” Clowes said of Jeranek. “We’re going to have to have a good approach at the plate and stay aggressive.”
Turner counters with a lineup that has put up some gaudy numbers offensively. The Trojans are hitting a robust .353 as a team and are averaging 8.36 runs per game. Mitch Seager and Hunter Waldsmith are both batting over .500, while leadoff hitter Ethan Burns is hitting at a .420 clip with 45 runs scored.
Clowes remains undecided on who will get the start on the mound against West Salem. Waldsmith and Hunter Martindale are a combined 16-1 on the season and give the Trojans an impressive 1-2 punch.
Martindale started the sectional semifinal game against Catholic Memorial and went the distance in getting the win, while Waldsmith pitched the championship game and shut down Mount Horeb.
“They both looked great in their bullpen sessions, and I know both of them are chomping at the bit to get the ball against West Salem,” Clowes said. “It will probably come down to a hunch, because they’re both so close in ability and both deserve a chance to start.”
Regardless of how the Trojans finish the season, Clowes knows he has to say goodbye to a senior class that has made a huge impact on his life—on and off the field.
“I don’t want to even think about that,” Clowes said of the season and high school careers coming to an end for the seven seniors on the team. “They’ve done so much for this program and been such a big part of my life.
“It’s Fathers Day weekend coming up, and I’m going to get the chance to take a picture on the field with my son at state. It’s something I dreamed about but never knew if it would happen.”
Two more wins from Turner, and the storybook season would be complete.