Waunakee junior catcher Nate Stevens’ production was evident all season — at the plate and behind the plate.
And Stevens turned an outstanding season into a memorable one on the road to a state championship.
The Arkansas recruit blasted three home runs and drove in 10 runs in two WIAA Division 1 sectional victories. He then collected two hits, including a triple, and an RBI and made a key pickoff throw during Waunakee’s 3-1 win over Hartland Arrowhead in the Division 1 title game June 14 at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
“He is one of the top two or three players in the state of Wisconsin,” Waunakee coach Spencer Lee said. “He has a scholarship for a reason. He’s done what he did all year; he came up with big hits. He’s a big-time player.”
Stevens, a unanimous first-team Badger North Conference selection for the second consecutive year as a catcher, wound up hitting a team-leading .512 this season, with eight homers, 38 RBIs and 26 runs scored. That despite several teams pitching around him.
The left-handed hitting Stevens tied the program single-season record with the eight home runs this season. He broke the single-season RBI mark in the state title game when he knocked in the Warriors’ second run of the game – the team’s first run in a two-run sixth inning.
For his efforts, Stevens was named the Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area Baseball Player of the Year for 2018.
The state title was the first for Waunakee in baseball.
“It just sums up all the hard work and dedication,” Stevens said. “We were at practice every single day, working for this moment. It’s amazing.”
Many of the Warriors’ upperclassmen knew each other since childhood and several played T-ball and Little League together. Stevens described winning the championship as a “surreal moment” for the entire group.
“Since we were little we dreamed of this moment and now we’ve got it,” Stevens said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Others considered for the honor included Janesville Craig senior catcher Jacob Campbell and Jefferson senior infielder Ian Drays.
Coach of the year
Waunakee’s Spencer Lee was named Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year for 2018 after leading the Badger North co-champion Warriors (21-6) to the Division 1 state title, the school’s first in program history.
The Warriors defeated Eau Claire North 12-8 in a state quarterfinal, Green Bay Preble 3-1 in 11 innings in a semifinal and Arrowhead 3-1 in the final.
“I knew it was going to be a grind,” said Lee, in his 22nd season. “I knew it was going to be hard. And our guys rose to the occasion. They never, ever had a second of doubt in any of these (state) games.”
While the coaching staff and the players believed they could win the title, Lee said he figured Waunakee likely was considered one of the teams not expected to earn the gold ball. He said the team repeatedly heard it wasn’t good enough, big enough or fast enough and that it didn’t throw hard enough. But that, he said, just fueled the Warriors’ fire.
“They have heart and they have guts like no team I’ve seen before,” Lee said. “They expect to win. They believe in themselves and they believe in each other.”
Also considered for the coaching honor were Jefferson’s Greg Fetherston, Mineral Point’s Jordan Tibbits , Johnson Creek’s Marc Blakeley and Janesville Craig’s Victor Herbst.
Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area Baseball Team
Pitchers: Trevor Tietz, sr., Watertown (Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association first-team all-state, Badger South Conference first team, Badger South player of the year); Ryan Brost, jr., Jefferson (WBCA honorable-mention all-state, Rock Valley Conference first team); Randon Dauman, sr., Columbus (Capitol North Conference first team, Capitol North player of the year); Jake Millard, sr., Wisconsin Dells (WBCA honorable-mention all-state, South Central Conference first team).
Catcher: Nate Stevens, jr., catcher, Waunakee (Badger North first team, helped lead team to WIAA Division 1 state title)
Infielders: Alan Roden, sr., Middleton (WBCA first-team all-state, Big Eight first team); Ian Drays, sr., Jefferson (WBCA second-team all-state, Rock Valley first team); Riley Ripp, sr., Waunakee (WBCA honorable-mention all-state, Badger North first team, Badger North co-player of the year, helped lead Waunakee to WIAA Division 1 state title); Luke Malmanger, sr., Janesville Craig (WBCA third-team all-state, Big Eight first team).
Outfielders: Nick Herbst, sr., McFarland (WBCA second-team all-state, Rock Valley first team); Brady Schipper, sr., Stoughton (WBCA third-team all-state, Badger South Conference first team); Dylan Nevar, so., Wisconsin Dells (WBCA third-team all-state, South Central first team, South Central player of the year).
DH/Utility/At-large: Jacob Campbell, sr., catcher Janesville Craig (WBCA second team all-state as catcher, Big Eight Conference first team, Big Eight player of the year).
DH/Utility/At-large: Connor Manthey, sr., catcher, Columbus (WBCA honorable-mention all-state as utility, Capitol North first team).
Pitchers: Dillon Livingston, sr., Beaver Dam; Jared Carney, sr., New Glarus; Brady Schmitt, sr., Middleton; Taylor Jansen, sr., Sun Prairie.
Catcher: Max Barreau, sr., Lodi.
Infielders: Bryce Duhr, sr., Wisconsin Heights; Derek Lee, sr., Waunakee; Dan Blomgren, jr. Janesville Craig; Justin Swanson, so., Johnson Creek.
Outfielders: Alex Oakley, sr., Sun Prairie; Carson Holin, sr., Sun Prairie; Jimmy Klein, sr., DeForest.
DH/Utility/At-large: Tyler Denu, jr., Mount Horeb; Liam Stumpf, fr., Mineral Point.
Pitchers: Mitchell Woelfle, jr., Janesville Craig; Ben Nordloh, sr., Waunakee; Dillon Nowicki, sr., Stoughton; Austin Wolfe, sr., Wisconsin Heights; Tyler Chadwick, so., Marshall; Brennan Dolwick, sr., Lake Mills; Dustin Pampel , sr., Lakeside Lutheran; Tyler Aasen, sr., Evansville; Zach Cady, sr., River Valley; Grady Gorgen, so., Mineral Point; Blake Flynn, sr., DeForest; Jacob Pape, sr., Sauk Prairie; Jordan Bailey, sr., Janesville Parker; Micah Overley, jr., Janesville Craig; Jackson Wendler, jr., Madison Edgewood; Mike Zande, jr., Monona Grove.
Catchers: Ty Hamilton, sr., Sun Prairie; Drake Baldwin, jr., Madison West; Justin Baehler, so., Mineral Point; Payton Flamme, jr., Wisconsin Heights; Kolton Koch, sr., Monona Grove; Jaden Johnson, jr., Edgerton; Sam Urquhart, sr., Evansville; Brady Butler, sr., McFarland, Travis Hudack, sr., Wisconsin Dells.
Infielders: Connor Cullen, sr., Beaver Dam; Nathan Adelman, sr., Reedsburg; Jack Zander, sr., Sun Prairie; Grady Geishert, sr., Wisconsin Heights; Denver Evans, jr., Cambridge; Reece Leistikow, sr., Marshall; Jacob Slaney, sr., Barneveld; Thomas Hartlieb, jr., Madison Edgewood; Tyler Damon, sr., Oregon; Zach Jones, sr., Watertown; Lucas Schramm, sr., Waterloo; Spencer Hans, jr., Lake Mills; Trent Casper, jr., Columbus; Dan Bruce, sr., Lake Mills; Eric Pillard, sr., Lakeside Lutheran; Nathan Hebbe, jr., Jefferson; Dylan Anchor, jr., Wisconsin Dells; Jarrett Fueger, sr., Waunakee; Evan Anfang, sr., Jefferson; Joey Dolphin, sr., Mineral Point; Curtis Cox, jr., Mineral Point, Mason Kirchberg, fr., DeForest; Bow Hartwig, fr., Johnson Creek; Ean Reichert, sr., Johnson Creek; Joel Ticknor, sr., Middleton; Noah Berghammer, sr., Janesville Craig, Kyle Connell, sr., Sun Prairie; Carsen Schulz, sr., Middleton.
Outfielders: Ryne Fueger, jr., Waunakee; Will Connors, sr., Waunakee; J.J. Brennan, sr., Janesville Craig; Luke Ballweg, sr., Middleton; Noah Zimmerman, sr., New Glarus; Brock Riege, sr., Marshall; D.J. Geishert, so., Wisconsin Heights; Duncan Schult, sr., Barneveld; Carson Timberlake, sr., Oregon; Ryan Hayden, sr., Watertown; Alex Ryan, so., Lakeside Lutheran; Joey Kalafut, sr., Columbus; Hayden Iverson, sr., Lake Mills; Zach Weber, sr., Dodgeville; Hayden Pratt, sr., Deerfield; Sam Sieloff, sr., Madison Memorial; Zach Johnson, jr., Johnson Creek; Josh Beier, sr., Mount Horeb; Tucker Teskey, sr., Verona; Sam Garvoille, sr., Janesville Parker; Adrian Montilva, jr., Madison East.
DH/Utility/At-large: Stephen Lund, sr., Verona; Joe Hauser, so., Sun Prairie; Jack Krumbach, jr., Madison Memorial; Trent Porter, sr., Beloit Memorial; Andrew Nimtz, sr., New Glarus; Luke Follmann, sr., Madison Edgewood; Kevin Gorman, jr., Poynette; Dylan Musiedlak, jr., Wisconsin Dells; Clark Schmaling, jr., Janesville Craig; Connor McGowan, sr., Verona; Zach Shipley, sr., Middleton; Kade Bohlman, sr., Janesville Parker.