Ten MHS baseball players named all-Big 8

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton's Alan Roden was named first-team all-Big Eight and earned all-state honors, as well./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

The case can certainly be made that Tom Schmitt — the only man to ever lead Middleton’s baseball team to a state championship — is the finest manager in school history.

It could also be argued that Alan Roden is the best player Schmitt ever coached.

So it was fitting that both Schmitt and Roden were honored when the Big Eight Conference handed out its postseason awards recently.

Schmitt was named the league’s manager of the year after guiding the Cardinals to a share of the conference title, their first since 2010. Roden earned first-team all-conference honors and was second in the voting for league player of the year honors.

“It was a nice honor made possible by a hard working group of kids that were out to accomplish what others thought they could not,” said Schmitt, who stepped down as the Cardinals’ skipper at the end of the season. “Picked fourth in the preseason, we worked to prove ourselves and along with that comes recognition.  

“I have always told our kids that individual honors don’t happen without strong team and teammates. This is no different. If our kids don’t go out and win games and the conference title this honor goes to some other coach.”

Roden, who will play next season at Creighton University, was a huge part of Middleton’s success.

The senior standout moved from catcher to shortstop this season and did so with aplomb, committing just three errors all season.

In Middleton’s 18 conference games, Roden batted a league-best .519, had a .594 on-base percentage and an .815 slugging percentage. Roden had 28 hits, 10 doubles, three triples, 24 RBI and 21 runs scored. Amazingly, Roden also struck out just once in conference games.

Overall, Roden batted .465, had a .556 on-base percentage and a .721 slugging percentage. Roden finished the year with 40 hits, 14 doubles, 28 RBI, 31 runs scores, struck out just twice all season and drew 15 walks.

Roden was also selected a first-team all-state infielder by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association, and played for the South team in the WBCA All-Star Classic.

“Alan made a tremendous team first decision when he switched to play shortstop,” Schmitt said. “After three great years of playing catcher he played his senior year at a position he had not played. Being the smart athletic athlete he is he made it look like he played shortstop for his whole career. 

“Playing as a middle infielder he was able to make plays, cover and direct the defense as well as he did from behind the dish. Many times there are growing pains with a new position player, Alan went at it with a great attitude and work ethic to be the best and make our team defense really good. 

“A .519 batting average is a testament to his discipline, approach and ability to hit a pitch. Alan went out and finished a stellar four-year varsity career posting his best numbers and helping his team win a conference championship. Without his team first attitude, work ethic, leadership and ability, the Cardinals would have been … a middle of the conference team. He will be missed in many ways by the Cardinal baseball program.”

In all, Middleton had 10 players earn all-conference honors.

Senior pitcher Brady Schmitt and senior outfielder Luke Ballweg joined Roden on the first team. Senior second baseman Joel Ticknor, senior first baseman Carsen Schulz and senior “at-large” player Zach Shipley earned second-team honors, while junior pitcher Matt Ballweg, junior center fielder Cooper Holewinski, senior infielder Noah Casali and senior utility player Nolan Kelliher were all named honorable-mention all-conference.

Brady Schmitt went 5-0 in the league and 6-1 overall. His ERA in conference games was 1.06 and he had a 1.82 ERA for the season.

Schmitt threw 33 innings in Big Eight games and had 27 strikeouts and just five walks. In 50 innings for the season, Schmitt struck out 37 and had nine walks.

Schmitt had the most first-team all-conference votes among all league pitchers and he represented the South team in the WBCA All-Star Classic.

“Brady was the model of a pitcher,” Tim Schmitt said. “Some guys throw hard and can use velocity to make hitters chase bad pitches.  Brady understands how to get hitters off balance and chase pitches that have movement. 

“His ability to keep the ball down and change speed was his best quality as a pitcher.  He had many key wins against teams that were stacked with good hitting line-ups.  When opposing coaches tell you after a game he pitched, ‘it is fun to see a pitcher pitch’, that is very gratifying comment to hear.”

Ballweg batted .393 in the league with three doubles and 17 RBI. He had a .406 on-base percentage and a .446 slugging percentage.

Overall, Ballweg batted .414, had a .455 on-base percentage and a .494 slugging percentage. He also had seven doubles and 21 RBI.

“Luke put together a very solid season,” Tom Schmitt said of Ballweg. “The Big Eight had a good group of outfielders and for him to be in the top-four was a testament to his dedication to getting stronger and taking quality batting practice, toss and tee work. 

“When he had a chance to get big hits for our team he did on a consistent basis. His approach at the plate changed this season: he was much more disciplined, he used the whole field and had a really good approach with two strikes.”

Ticknor was hurt early in the season, but played at an extremely high level after returning.

Ticknor batted .444 in the league with a .575 on-base percentage and a .519 slugging percentage. Ticknor scored 15 runs in conference games and had five RBI.

Overall, Ticknor batted .463 with a .569 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .500. Ticknor also scored 22 runs and had seven RBI for the season.

“It would have been really fun to have had Joel healthy for the entire season,” Tom Schmitt said. “Good athlete that brings energy and swagger to the lineup. Having him in the leadoff set up our offense. Very good base runner who put pressure on opposing defenses.”

Schulz batted .370 in Big Eight games with a .455 on-base percentage, a .418 slugging percentage and 19 RBI. In all games, Schulz batted .341, had a .404 on-base percentage, a .481 slugging percentage and drove in 26 runs.

“Carsen sacrificed much of his offseason preparing and getting healthy to play his senior season,” Tom Schmitt said. “He was the leader that showed kids what it takes mentally and physically to work back from injury and play with injury. He even made a position change to first base. I was very impressed with his determination to play this game of baseball, never giving up when he could have. It speaks a lot about his character as a person.”

Shipley batted .463 in the league with a .517 on-base percentage, a .519 slugging percentage and 12 RBI. In all games, Shipley batted .379, had a .432 on-base percentage, a .425 slugging percentage and 17 RBI.

“Zach performed very well as our catcher,” Tom Schmitt said. “His blocking and receiving skills were excellent. 

“In a conference that has many Division 1 college recruits, Zach performed as good as many. Having a hard working, quality young man makes it easier to coach a team. Zach will succeed with his work ethic and willingness to learn and make himself and team better. His improvement was a big factor that allowed us to win a conference championship.”

Schmitt had the following comments on his honorable-mention all-league players:

• on Nolan Kelliher: “He’s a passionate baseball player. His versatility helped solidify our line up on a daily basis.”

• on Noah Casali: “His defensive skills shined many times this year. He also had good power at very opportune times.”

• On Matt Ballweg: “He was a very good No. 2 pitcher for us. He gave us many quality starts and wins. He has a good mix of fastball and breaking ball to get hitters out.”

• on Cooper Holewinski: “He progressed as a defensive outfielder through the year. He has very good range to cover the gaps and increased his ability to throw runners out. He had a very good hitting second half to the conference season.  He has a big upside with the focus and passion for baseball he possesses.”

  

 

 

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