The Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association preseason rankings are often based on a hunch.
Votes are usually cast based on a program’s reputation, the success it had the previous season and how much talent is returning. It’s safe to say a voter in the southern part of the state wouldn’t know much about how a team like Superior or Bay Port was going to be and vice-versa.
Janesville Craig’s and Beloit Turner’s baseball teams both came into the season ranked in the top seven in their respective divisions. Craig was ranked fifth in Division 1, and Turner was sixth in Division 2.
And both teams, thus far, are living up to the hype.
Craig is 5-0 on the season and is steamrolling opponents. The Cougars have scored 61 runs in five games and allowed only eight.
Turner is 6-0 and has scored 49 runs in its last four games.
Craig garners preseason votes on reputation alone. The Cougars have won three of the last four titles in arguably the state’s best conference—the Big Eight—and have played at state in three of the last four years, including winning the 2015 D1 state title.
With three Division I players on this year’s roster, the Cougars were expected to be formidable once again, but head coach Victor Herbst said his team is ahead of schedule.
“The players that have put in legitimate offseason work are off to fast starts, and it shows the growth they have made from last season,” Herbst said. “We’re a seasoned group with nine seniors who lead in many ways, but the biggest way is how they go about their daily work to get themselves and their teammates better.
“And we returned our top two pitchers from last season, a luxury that you don’t get at the high level very often.
“Plus, we’re doing little things right early in the year that sometimes takes part of a season to develop.”
Craig sits atop the Big Eight this season with a 3-0 record but will be tested in the next 10 days. The Cougars are scheduled to host Verona (3-1) on Saturday before playing a home and home series with Sun Prairie (3-1) next week.
Turner has dominated in the Rock Valley the last decade. The Trojans shared to Rock Valley title last season with Jefferson and won five straight Rock Valley South titles before that.
Led by Cory Walker and Drew Ries, Turner is 6-0 in the Rock Valley—one game ahead of Jefferson and Whitewater.
Craig and Turner aren’t the only area teams to appear in the current state rankings.
Orfordville Parkview’s softball team, behind junior pitcher Remington Stark, is ranked fifth in the state in Division 4. The Vikings are 4-1 overall, with the only loss a 5-2 setback to Poynette—which is ranked first in the state in Division 3.
Remington has been nearly unhittable the last four games. She’s allowed only one during that span, struck out 17 against a good Turner team and struck out all nine batters she faced in three-inning 15-0 win over Monticello.
“She set some high standards and high goals in the offseason and has worked really hard to get there,” Parkview coach Ally Steinke said of Remington. “We’ll see how it goes, but we do have high expectations.”