Middle Border Conference spring sports races beginning to take shape

With several of the Middle Border Conference seasons nearing their midpoint, the contenders and pretenders are beginning to show where they stand. Here’s a rundown on where the MBC races stand and what could happen in the rest of the season.

MBC baseball
Pierce County rivals Ellsworth and Prescott were expected to be the main rivals for the MBC title and they have fully lived up to expectations. At the end of this week the Panthers and Cardinals were tied at the top of the MBC standings with 5-0 standings.
Ellsworth has a dynamic 1-2 pitching tandem in Brady Schroeder and James Georgakas. Ellsworth has been crushing most of its opponents this season.
Prescott hasn’t been as dominant this season, but the Cards are definite gamers. Billy Brookshaw is the defending conference MVP and he’s making a good case for winning another of those honors, hitting .586 (17-29) with 13 RBI and 13 runs scored.
With Mike Lytle, Jake Hintz and Connor Loutsch, the Cards have three pitchers who can be matched up against any top starter, and Brookshaw has been used as a closer this season.
Baldwin-Woodville is the other team that has emerged as a team that has hung with the leaders in the conference. Senior Tyler Heitmann has been a huge reason why. He’s been an overpowering pitcher who’s been recording double-digit strikeouts in most of his starts.
Osceola and New Richmond can’t be overlooked as teams that could knock off a contender. Alex Freese has emerged as a solid top pitcher for the Chieftains and Bryce Byl can be a commanding hitter. New Richmond senior Nate Jones is getting his pitching groove back after running track last season, recording 13 strikeouts in a shutout of Somerset last week.

MBC softball
Baldwin-Woodville is the unquestioned kingpin of the conference after returning the team intact that won the conference and finished second in the state this season. Pitching is the dominant position in softball and the Blackhawks have a star in sophomore pitcher Abby Klopp. She allowed seven runs in the first half of the conference schedule, striking out 76 batters in 45 innings. At the plate, the Blackhawks don’t have an easy out in the lineup.
Ellsworth is a very strong second team in the conference, led by pitcher Halle Hatch.
Prescott, New Richmond and Somerset are teams that have shown they could finish in the upper half of the conference standings this season.

MBC boys track
Is this the year that New Richmond’s reign ends as the king of the conference? It certainly could happen.
New Richmond hasn’t been able to develop the number of strong events that was the trademark in the string of the Tigers’ championships. Seniors Eli Kelley, Tyler Cran and Colton Simpson could be event champions at the MBC meet on May 15 in Osceola. If the Tigers are going to continue their reign, they need more athletes to step up.
There are plenty of possible contenders to take over as boys champion. Somerset, Ellsworth, Prescott and Osceola, all have to be viewed as legitimate threats to take over the top spot. They all have top athletes who could win individual events. Somerset is led by Robbie Lang, Robbie Flom, Jake Wishard and Luke Praschak. Prescott has multi-event threats in Sam Smith, Matt Pechacek and Cole Hauenstein. Ellsworth is led by Alex Campbell, one of the best field event producers in the area, and distance runner Matt Priest. Osceola needs big days from Jake Etter and Lincoln Howard.
Depth may be the deciding factor in the meet. The coaches will be putting their top athletes into individual events to try maximizing points. So the second line athletes who get put in the relays could be the ones who decide the conference meet.
While Baldwin-Woodville, Amery and Durand won’t likely be in the competition for the team title, they have athletes who will have an impact. Amery’s Ryan Johnson and Durand’s C.J. Schade are the leading contenders in the throwing events. Baldwin-Woodville’s Zach Addyman is a threat in several events. Durand’s Jed Dodge will be in the mix in the distance races.

MBC girls track
Every running event should produce a great finish in the girls MBC track meet. Starting with the sprints and all the way through the distance races, there is thrilling talent on the track.
It starts with the sprints. New Richmond’s Kat Keller swept the 100, 200 and 400 last year. That doesn’t guarantee anything this year. Keller is running better than ever, but so is Osceola’s Aimee Rice-Strand. All three of these races should be classics.
The middle distances could help New Richmond’s chances. The Kelly sisters (Morgan and Maddie) should be productive here. Morgan has been running well in the 800, 1600 and 3200 and Maddie has been similarly successful in the 400, 800 and 1600. They give veteran Tiger coach Judy Weiss some strong options, helping the Tigers to have excellent chances in the longer distance relays.
The distance races buoy Osceola’s chances. Sophomore McKenzie Fortier has been putting leading times in the 1600. She’ll likely get major challenges from Prescott’s Victoria Simones and Morgan Kelly.
The hurdles are a definite strength for Ellsworth, with the Kuhl sisters (Lydia and Tacia) back as top threats. Their main threat will be Somerset junior Sarah Northey, who has improved substantially this season.
While there are definite favorites in the running events, there is a raft of contenders in nearly every field event. There are a dozen girls who are capable of leaping beyond the 15-foot mark to place in the long jump. There are a half dozen or more who could jump beyond 32 feet to place in the triple jump. At least that many have the capability to jump above the 5-foot mark to place in the high jump.
Osceola looks to have the top prospects in the shot put, while Ellsworth’s Abby Ristow is quickly coming back from injury to be the top threat in the discus. Somerset’s Sarah Krig looks like a clear favorite in the pole vault.

Girls soccer
Hayward is the defending conference champion and the Hurricanes look like a good bet to earn that distinction again. Superior has improved drastically and looks like the main threat to Hayward’s title hold.