A .347 team batting average.
Nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts.
A pitching staff with a WHIP hovering around 1.00.
As the end of the regular season approaches in high school baseball, all the numbers are adding up to 1 for Janesville Craig’s baseball team. As in, No. 1 in the state in the Division 1 coaches poll with a bid for a fourth trip in five years to the WIAA state tournament looming.
No team has solved Mitchell Woelfe up to this point in the season.
The junior right-hander, who is committed to play for Air Force, entered the weekend with a perfect 9-0 record. He had allowed 42 hits and 12 walks in 51 innings and sported a 0.69 ERA and 1.06 WHIP (Walks plus hits per inning pitched).
“The defense is making plays out there, but my work in the offseason is definitely paying off,” Woelfle said. “Work out five days a week after summer ball. I started picking up throwing in November. Then, I do something called weighted balls, started throwing them in January—weighted balls on Wednesday and bullpens on weekends.”
That work has led to five earned runs allowed in those 51 innings.
Woelfle, who said he changed his grips a bit, has thrown mainly a mix of fastballs and curveballs. He’s thrown four complete games and has 57 strikeouts.
He is closing in on Steve Bleck’s program record of 23 career victories. Bleck had 13 wins in 1999.
Woelfle’s top competition for Big Eight Conference player of the year likely resides right in his own dugout.
Senior shortstop Dan Blomgren has set the tone for a Craig offense that averages 8.5 runs per game.
Blomgren, who is committed to Michigan, entered the weekend hitting .442 with a team-best seven doubles, three triples and two home runs.
“I’ve been seeing the ball really well, especially the last couple games,” said Blomgren, who nearly hit for the cycle in Tuesday’s victory over Madison West. “Before that, I was thinking too much in the box. Now I don’t think as much and just hit the ball.”
Blomgren is getting on base at nearly a 60% clip and has an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 1.391. For a bit of perspective, Milwaukee Brewers slugger Christian Yelich has an OPS this year of 1.196.
Blomgren was moved up to the leadoff spot earlier this season and has scored 26 runs and driven in 19. He’s also 10 of 12 in stolen base attempts and has a .946 fielding percentage
Certainly Blomgren and Woelfle are not doing everything themselves.
Here are some of the more head-turning stats the Cougars have put together:
- Craig batters have struck out 67 times (3.5 per game) and have walked 111 times, a ratio that is more likely to swing the other way for most high school teams.
- Conversely, Craig pitchers have struck out 120 batters and walked just 36.
- The pitching staff’s WHIP is a scant 1.04.
- In a day where small ball seems to be nonexistent, the Cougars have 33 sacrifices (including 20 sac bunts) in 19 games.
“Coaches really harp on doing everything right, doing all the fundamentals,” Woelfle said. “We field off our own hitters (in practice) every day, which helps.”
- All nine batters in the typical starting lineup have driven in at least 10 runs.
- They have a first-year starting center fielder, Eric Hughes, who is batting nearly .400 with eight extra-base hits. And a new catcher, Clark Schmaling, who has been impressive behind the plate and has scored a team-high 28 runs. And a freshman, Gavin Kilen, hitting north of .350. Just to name a few.
- And Craig has stolen 78 bases and been caught just nine times (89.7%).
“Our running game has been superb,” Blomgren said. “Even our dirt-ball reads have helped us out in getting extra bases, and then the next guy comes up and gets the job done and knocks him in.”
Obviously, statistics cannot carry a team to a state tournament on their own. That will be especially true as the Cougars attempt to navigate a sectional with a much different landscape than the past several seasons.
But given the numbers through the regular season, it comes as no surprise that the Cougars have wound up with a winning formula that has landed them back atop the state rankings.
“A bunch of kids had to step up this year, and they did,” Blomgren said. “We all came together, and it’s nice.
“I knew we were going to be good. But I didn’t know we were going to be this sound.”