Ellsworth baseball prioritizes getting back to .500

By Reagan Hoverman
Posted 3/23/23

After a 2022 season in which the Ellsworth baseball team went 5-12 overall, now second-year head coach Brandon Voelker has targeted a .500 record as the major goal for 2023.

For Voelker, getting …

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Ellsworth baseball prioritizes getting back to .500


After a 2022 season in which the Ellsworth baseball team went 5-12 overall, now second-year head coach Brandon Voelker has targeted a .500 record as the major goal for 2023.

For Voelker, getting back to level in the win-loss column would be a signal that the Panthers’ program is trending in the right direction. Last season’s five wins were the most the Panthers have had since 2018.

Ellsworth won just three games in each of the 2019 and 2021 campaigns and finished either last or in the penultimate place of the league standings. Now, the Panthers look to make a considerable leap by getting back to .500 and out of the cellar of the Middle Border Conference.

“This year we want to get back to .500 baseball and get this program turned back around,” Voelker said. “Last year we stopped the decline in my eyes of where Ellsworth baseball was. Now it’s time to start building it back up.”

After losing seven seniors from last year’s roster including ace pitcher Urban Broadway, Ellsworth looks to three now-seniors to lead the Panthers to what they hope is their best season in nearly half a decade.

The impactful returning seniors include Anthony Madsen, Carter Pierce and Kaeden Graff, all of whom played vital roles on last year’s team. Pierce was the lone player of the trio to earn individual distinction, as he received Middle Border All-Conference Honorable Mention for his 2022 season.

“We’re going to have to lean on those three pretty heavily,” Voelker said. “Madsen was a .300 hitter last year and was near the top of our lineup. Carter Pierce is probably the best center fielder in the conference and was a mid .300 hitter last year. Kaeden stepped up at the end of last year and we’re going to rely heavily on him to eat a lot of innings for us on the mound.”

While those three will be the driving force of this year’s team, a talented and promising young freshman class has the Panthers’ coaching staff buzzing about the future of baseball in Ellsworth.

The freshman class includes a handful of kids headlined by three-sport athlete George Rohl, who made an immediate impact for both the football and basketball programs this year. For Voelker, the best part about the incoming class is that they’re already skilled and simply love the sport.

“The big thing that got me excited is that they love baseball,” Voelker said. “When you go from youth sports to high school sports, it’s a big jump. I’m excited because they’re pretty good and are fundamentally sound. We can get right into the nitty gritty instead of teaching fundamentals.”

Having a freshman group that is fundamentally sound and ready to play is a sight for sore eyes in Ellsworth, as last year’s Panthers team struggled defensively and had multiple games where they committed ten or more errors.

That inconsistency defensively hampered Ellsworth’s chance to be competitive in last year’s Middle Border Conference. Voelker spoke about how having a roster that is defensively stout usually translates to wins.

“We have to play defense better this year,” Voelker said. “If you look at the games we lost last year, there were a few of them where we had 10 errors and you won’t win games that way. If you can play defense in high school, you can play with anybody. We just need to limit errors.”

While the three aforementioned seniors have already solidified their positions on the varsity roster, nearly every other slot is up for grabs. Throughout the winter and into the spring, Voelker and his coaching staff discussed position battles and how competition fosters growth.

“We’re not afraid to start a freshman and put an upperclassman on the bench,” Voelker said. “They’re definitely the future of our program and I like where we’re sitting. We’re not afraid to make guys compete because it bodes well for us and makes them better players.”

A highly successful season for Ellsworth would be finishing top three in the Middle Border Conference standings. Ending the year in the middle of the pack with teams such as Osceola, Prescott and Saint Croix Central would be a step in the right direction, according to Voelker.

Altoona was the class of the conference last season, as the Railroaders were 21-4 overall and 13-1 in league play, which netted them a Middle Border Conference championship. Voelker spoke about how the conference might look this season.

“Altoona is going to be right at the top again and they’ll probably run away with it,” Voelker said. “Baldwin-Woodville is going to be really good and was the only team to beat Altoona in the conference last year. Beyond that, I think we can be in the middle of the pack and competing.”

Ellsworth’s pitchers and catchers have already reported for practice while the rest of the roster reports for the first week of full team practice on Monday, March 20.

The Panthers will ostensibly play their first game of the season at home against Mondovi on Thursday, March 30. That game is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Cancellations or postponements will be updated on the Middle Border Conference website.

Ellsoworth, Baseball, WIAA, Panthers, Middle Border Conference