Toppers open with loss at Badger

Burlington baseball coaches (from left) Brian Horn and Tom Krause talk with Catholic Central head coach Jim Friend after the teams faced each other in a rare scrimmage March 27. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

Jim Friend is making waves in the local baseball community.

After several attempts to play against crosstown rival Burlington, but to no avail, the third-year head coach didn’t give up.

In an olive branch of inclusion and sheer love for the game, Friend and Burlington coach Scott Staude finally reached an agreement for a controlled scrimmage to kick off the 2018 campaign.

But a contest against a school more than 10 times its size March 27 began the rhetoric that the Catholic Central baseball team isn’t the little guy on the block anymore.

That’s because even though the Toppers fell, 5-2, at Division 1 Lake Geneva Badger, a much-improved squad from last year’s sectional run, Catholic Central held a 1-0 lead through three innings and didn’t relinquish a 1-1 tie until the bottom of the sixth.

As has been the case in the Friend era, errors doomed Central. The Toppers committed two.

But senior pitchers Luke Heiligenthal and Charles Robinson combined to allow four hits and one run through four innings before newcomer John Huffman relieved Robinson in the fifth.

That’s when the Badgers put up a four spot on the young hurler.

Catholic Central out-hit Badger, 10-9.

New to varsity, Jimmy Keeker went 3-for-4, while Robinson and Tyler Swanson each added two hits.

Frank Koehnke was 1-for-3 with an RBI triple.

For Friend, this year is about the seniors, as Robinson, Koehnke, Tyler Rieck and Chad Zirbel all made first or second team all-Metro Classic Conference in 2017.

Robinson, a second baseman, was named first team all-county, and third baseman Koehnke was second team.

Marcus Robinson and Chas Miles round out the key returning players.

Catholic Central must replace all-MCC honorable mention Jordan Kopak, along with Connor Wegge, Austin Neuhaus, Bryce Hocking and Kyle Goethal.

“Our weakness is depth,” Friend said. “But our strength is our seniors. We are looking forward to any hurdle that comes our way.”

With only 22 players in the entire program, the Toppers will rely on their talented seniors to overcome a middle-of-the-pack record in 2017.

Friend is joined by assistant coaches Adam Walkowski, Steve Bartlett and John Fisher.




April – 9: at Williams Bay. 10: SHORELAND LUTHERAN. 12: at Shoreland Lutheran. 16: at Faith Christian. 17: MARTIN LUTHER. 19: at Martin Luthern. 24: at Thomas More. 26: THOMAS MORE. 27-28: Racine County Showcase at Burlington HS, Beaumont Field. 30: FAITH CHRISTIAN. May – 1: RACINE LUTHERAN/PRAIRIE. 3: at Lutheran/Prairie. 8: at Dominican. 10: DOMINICAN. 15: KENOSHA ST. JOE’S. 17: at St. Joe’s. 18: RACINE PARK.