There wasn’t a player in the MVC that controlled a baseball game like Tomah High School junior Connor Prielipp.
When his toe was on the rubber, the Timberwolves were nearly impossible to beat. That’s meant quite literally — Prielipp pitched 52 innings this season, and allowed earned runs in one of them. The other 51, runs only came across the plate with the help of errors. His 0.27 ERA looks like a typo.
Prielipp allowed 14 hits this season, just one for extra bases — a double in the only inning he allowed an earned run — on May 19 against Wisconsin Rapids.
Otherwise, Prielipp was as lights-out as a high school pitcher can be, and when one considers his offensive output in Tomah’s lineup as well, it’s easy to see why he’s been named the Tribune’s baseball player of the year.
The 6-foot-1 lefty was named the MVC’s pitcher of the year after tallying 60 strikeouts and allowing five hits and six walks over 29 innings pitched in conference play. He helped the Timberwolves to an 11-9 record and 7-5 MVC finish, which put them in a tie with Central for second place.
In the postseason, he blanked Central 1-0 with a two-hitter that featured nine strikeouts in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal.
“What he did was pretty remarkable,” said Tomah coach Ryan Brookman, who pitched for Tomah and UW-Whitewater before being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and spending a couple of seasons in the minor leagues. “He had high expectations coming in as one of the best players in his age group. He’s an intense competitor. He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t fear anybody out there.”
Prielipp’s ability to mix speeds and show pinpoint control — he didn’t hit a batter all season — kept hitters off-balance throughout the season. He had 97 strikeouts over his 10 appearances (eight starts). His 0.50 WHIP means it took opponents two full innings to get a baserunner against him. He added 16 hits and 18 RBI to his list of contributions.
The results speak for themselves, but Prielipp’s explanation of his dominant season is pretty simple.
“I just try to get strikes over (the plate) and trust my defense,” he said in the phone interview this week.
Prielipp’s ownership of a pitcher’s mound isn’t done yet this season, as he was in Florida with his club team — the Racine Hitters, based out of Caledonia, Wis. — playing in a tournament in Florida. Prielipp tossed a no-hitter on June 23, recording 11 strikeouts.
The club-team atmosphere is different for him, as he faces top talent from across the country, but Prielipp said he enjoys the traveling and seeing all kinds of talented hitters. He’s planning to be with the team for tournaments in Indianapolis and Missouri this summer before taking some time off.
His offseason work is just as important to his development as getting live at-bats. Brookman and Prielipp said strength training was a large part of the pitcher’s success this season.
“I take the weight room very seriously,” Prielipp said. “I’m working on my legs more than anything. That’s where everything comes from.”
Prielipp said he could feel a difference in the velocity of his fastball the stronger his legs became. But that won’t be Prielipp’s only focus as he prepares for his senior season.
College programs have taken notice of Prielipp’s performances the past two seasons, and he’s been taking visits to major programs. He visited five Big 10 schools last fall, and has plans to tour University of Virginia and University of Alabama this fall.
“(The recruiting process) is a bit overwhelming at times, but it’s exciting too,” Prielipp said.
With a talent core group of players returning and Prielipp leading from the mound, Tomah has a chance for a special team next season.
“Our sophomores and underclassmen are very good,” he said. “I want to get us back to sectionals, at least.”