Baseball: Ellsworth’s electric arms guide team to state tripEach high school baseball team usually has one pitching ace, but Ellsworth has two and that’s a big reason why the Panthers reached the state tournament for the first time in school history this season.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
Each high school baseball team usually has one pitching ace, but Ellsworth has two and that’s a big reason why the Panthers reached the state tournament for the first time in school history this season.
Junior James Georgakas and senior Brady Schroeder have helped carry Ellsworth to new heights and the team expects the same Wednesday when it opens the Division 2 state tournament against Racine St. Catherine’s at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, Wis.
Georgakas held West Salem to four hits in a 4-1 complete-game victory in the sectionals and Schroeder delivered an eight-strikeout, three-hit 5-1 victory over Somerset to clinch a state tournament berth.
So Panthers head coach Steve Block has a difficult decision to make on who to give the ball to in the opening game of the state tournament, right?
“I think it’s an easy decision,” Block said. “We’re not completely done with ours, but whatever type of pitcher they struggle with the most is the way we’ll go with it.”
Opponents have struggled against both for the majority of the season. Ellsworth did not allow a run in its first four games and only gave up four through the first seven games.
“It’s really nice because most teams don’t have two good pitchers that can go throughout the year and we’ve been lucky to have that for two or three years now,” Georgakas said.
Georgakas, a left-hander, relies on his control and curveball rather than overpowering hitters. Schroeder is also more of a control pitcher, but keeps hitters off-balance with a deceptive changeup, that he says is his favorite pitch.
Those arms and a lineup that can hit all the way through have put the baseball team on the forefront of the minds of the people of Ellsworth.
“We had a lot of fans and a lot of people showed up that never come watch baseball,” senior catcher Brandon Voelker said. “Just to see it’s not all about wrestling, it’s not all about everybody else. They know that we’ve put in a lot of work.”
The lineup has come through with clutch hitting throughout the season. Ellsworth is most dangerous with two outs and that showed in its regional game against Durand. The Panthers were down to their last strike with two outs, trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh when Schroeder drove in Dennis Schutz with a single. Ellsworth came back and won the game 5-4.
That comeback win inspired the team and filled it with confidence for the sectional round.
“I said to them there’s no way we’re losing after that because that’s as close as you can get,” Block said. “That was our test and we dug ourselves out of a huge hole. I just thought we were so close to the edge and we’ve beaten three pretty good ball clubs since.”
The Panthers went on to beat Altoona, West Salem and Somerset, surrendering just two runs in three games.
Ellsworth started building confidence last summer after playing in the Gopher State baseball tournament at Midway Stadium in St. Paul.
“I think what really got us to believe was last summer when we competed for the Gopher State championship,” Schroeder said. “It may not be the same competition as it is here, right now in the spring season, but it got us to believe. Even in the playoff setting and the championship setting, playing at the St. Paul Saints stadium, it got us to believe. It got us prepared.”
Block has also prepared the team. He’s making his first state tournament appearance since 1997 when he coached Prescott. Block won his first state title in 1994 with Prescott, before many on the Ellsworth team were born.
Racine-St. Catherine’s has gone 25-1 and hasn’t lost in its last 21 games. Its last loss came April 12, the fifth game of the season, against Heritage Christian. The Angels advanced to the state tournament after a 5-4 win over Delavan-Darien and an 8-1 win over Big Foot in the regionals. Racine-St. Catherine’s beat Waupun 4-3 and University School 7-0 in sectionals.
“I think in a perfect case scenario we win 3-1, 3-2 ballgame,” Block said. “If we score more, great, but our goal is going to be to hold them to three or less and let our offense do something.”