Sectional Tuesday has been circled on my calendar for months.
Really, it’s circled every year. As the day where four teams converge to play three games in one day, it’s well-known that it’s one my favorite days.
With a pair of area teams that were ranked No. 1 in the state for much of this season, it seemed Tuesday would be a busy day.
Gone now, however, is top-ranked Janesville Craig from the Division 1 Oconomowoc Sectional. And gone is top-seeded Beloit Turner from the Division 2 Baraboo Sectional.
Not that it will make Tuesday any less exciting.
Now we’ve got underdogs to pull for, and sometimes that’s even more fun.
Parker coming off crosstown upset
I remember sitting down for the season preview with Parker first-year head coach Kerry Michaels and then walking away having no idea how the Vikings would fare this season.
Along with a new skipper, they were faced with replacing about 85 percent of their lineup and pitching staff from a year ago.
There were a slew of new names on the roster, and most of those that were returning weren’t available to start the year. Carter Schneider, Casey Stone and Dalton Madsen all missed early portions of the season for one reason or another.
Parker took its lumps early on. It started the season 3-5, scoring one run or fewer in each of those losses, including a pair of 7-0 losses to Janesville Craig.
Credit the Vikings for staying the course. They followed by winning five of their next seven, including a 2-0 win at Middleton to begin a doubleheader, to gain a little confidence.
Parker suffered through two lopsided losses in early May but has otherwise been very competitive. Ten of the Vikings last 15 games have been decided by three runs or less.
Of course, the ultimate game during that stretch came Thursday in a regional final with crosstown rival Craig. Casey Stone limited the top-ranked Cougars to just three hits, and while Parker had just three of its own against Big Eight player of the year Mitchell Woelfle, they scratched out a run in the top of the seventh with two singles, a wild pitch and an error.
That was enough to send shockwaves through the state’s baseball community following with a 1-0 victory.
Now the Vikings are 13-13 and are two wins away from the state tournament.
That would make for one heckuva story.
Milton eyes first state berth
Of course, Parker will have to get to get by Milton first.
And the Red Hawks, considering they’ve never been to state, are trying to write their own storybook ending to an upstart season.
Head coach Kris Agnew told me midway through the season he wasn’t surprised by his team’s hot start. Milton rattled off nine straight victories to get to 10-3 at one point—this after winning just nine games total in 2018.
The Red Hawks cooled off, winning consecutive games just once since that 10-game winning streak ended.
But one need look no further than Tuesday’s box score to see they’re still dangerous. Perhaps Hartland Arrowhead wasn’t as strong as in the recent past, but the Red Hawks won 8-1 against a program that had been to three straight state tournaments, including reaching last year’s title game.
Milton is also one of the smallest schools, in terms of enrollment, in the Division 1 field.
Whether it’s the Red Hawks or the Vikings taking on Milwaukee Hamilton or Oconomowoc in the sectional final, a solid team with a feel-good story will be seven innings away from state.
Elkhorn advances as a five seed
Elkhorn needed to win two games just to get to a point where it could host a regional game.
The fifth-seeded Elks won 15-3 at fourth-seeded Fort Atkinson on May 23, then followed with a 3-2 stunner to knock out top-seeded Lake Mills.
When seventh-seeded Big Foot upset second-seeded Jefferson, as well, in the regional semifinals, it was Elkhorn that wound up hosting a regional final against the Chiefs.
And there, the Elks rolled to a 13-3 victory.
Now, instead of seeing a Beloit Turner team that spent much of the year at No. 1 in the D2 rankings, the Elks get second-seeded McFarland, which beat Turner, 1-0, Wednesday.
Elkhorn tied for third place in a Southern Lakes Conference littered with Division 1 opponents.
And the Elks are red-hot at the right time, winning nine games in a row to go from a below-.500 record to being 17-10 entering sectional play.
The Elkhorn boys basketball team went to state for the first time since 1987 just a few months ago.
The Elks baseball team could follow suit by making state for the first time since 1986 with a couple wins Tuesday.
Sectional Tuesday might not feature the high-powered area teams that were expected.
But a couple Cinderella stories sound pretty good to me.