South central Wisconsin opens the regular season starting Mar. 31, and it looks like the area will see some good baseball in all four divisions.
The Wisconsin Baseball Coach’s Association poll contains at least one local school for each division, and there are many who may be contending for a state title come June.
Although it is too early to tell, Division 1 schools Middleton, ranked No. 2, and Sun Prairie, ranked No. 4, both have a senior core surrounded by talented new comers. Middleton, the defending Big Eight champions, lost in the WIAA semifinals last year, but the experience gained by the returning starters will be a key strength if they want to compete with Sun Prairie.
Sun Prairie finished third in the Big Eight last year, and they lost in the quarterfinals of the WIAA state playoffs. They have some returning starters with experience in a difficult conference. Last year, three Big Eight schools went to state, and it looks as though these two will have a chance to return.
Madison Edgewood is ranked No. 4 in Division 2, and they have high hopes to defend their state title. It won’t be easy. Prairie du Chien is ranked No. 3 and will be looking to return to state since their 2008 championship appearance. Also joining the competition will be Rock Valley powerhouses No. 5 Beloit Turner and No. 7 Jefferson as well as No. 10 Mauston. With all the competition, the season will be very important. The better seeds in the tournament will have a slight edge.
In Division 3, defending Northern Capitol champion Watertown Luther Prep is ranked No. 1. As it stands, they have key returning starters from last year’s success with the experience of playing some tough teams in last year’s tournament. They are the favorites to win the conference, and they should win enough to receive a nice seed in the tournament.
Finally, Barneveld and Southwestern are ranked No. 6 and No. 8 respectively in Division 4. Barneveld made it to the WIAA semifinals last year, and both teams will contend in their conferences. Barneveld plays in the tough Six Rivers conference, while Southwestern will need to play at a high level in the SWAL, where six teams finished at .500 or better.