You can’t call the recent Division 4 playoff runs by the Reedsville and Manitowoc Lutheran baseball teams March Madness, but perhaps May Madness would do the trick.
While it’s already June, the No. 4-seeded Lancers and the No. 2-seeded Panthers each advanced to today’s sectional openers — Lutheran (14-10) against No. 1 Johnson Creek (17-6) at Horicon and Reedsville (10-12) against No. 3 Oshkosh Lourdes/Valley Christian (13-9) at Burlington Catholic Central — by either defeating higher seeds or facing underdogs who had created bracket mayhem in the month of May.
Reedsville advanced by defeating No. 3 Brillion and No. 5 Mishicot while Lutheran moved on by defeating No. 5 Living World Lutheran, No. 1 Lake Country Lutheran and No. 3 Oakfield.
“(Johnson Creek) will be the best hitting team we have seen this year,” Lutheran coach David Uhlhorn said in an email. “However, most teams they have played are small schools and their conference appears weaker than ours, so averages may be inflated. … The Olympian (Conference) teams got us ready for these tough games.”
Leading up the game, the Lancers have been working on the basics — fielding and base running. Tyler Zastrow (7-4) will start for Lutheran. Teams are batting .256 against him and he posts a 2.90 ERA. He has struck out 65 batters with only 20 walks.
“Tyler has consistently given us a chance to win each outing he has,” Uhlhorn said. “Johnson Creek has played some teams that we have played and scores have been similar so it should be a good game. … I believe that in playoff baseball it is the ability to execute the basic plays and be able to defend basic plays that make the difference.”
For Reedsville, Adam Denor (5-2) will get the starting nod. Denor posted a 3.06 ERA during the season and held batters to a .247 average while allowing 24 walks to 35 strikeouts. Like Uhlhorn, Panthers coach Chris Krepline said he has been stressing game situations to his team.
“They are a similar team to us. They have a few guys that steal bases, some good pitchers and a few guys that are hitting well,” Krepline said of Oshkosh Lourdes/Valley Christian. “This year, we have been stressing defense and pitching. We have been working very hard on defense. We have been working all year on practicing game-like situations.”
Krepline added that, in order to win, the Panthers will be looking to their core of seniors to step up.
“Our senior group has done a great with leadership,” Krepline said. “I asked them early on, and the team, what they want out of the season and their senior year, and also what do they want to leave behind and how do they want to be remembered.”
After today, it might just be their upset victory to advance to the state tournament.