Burlington softball players and coach Gary Caliva hoist the sectional title plaque in celebration May 31 in Wilmot. (Earlene Frederick/SLN)

 

Dare I say the Burlington High School athletic program is becoming the Golden State Warriors?

The New York Yankees?

Heck, even the New England Patriots?

Superlatives should be thrown around for this mid-to-large sized learning establishment.

There are approximately 1,130 students at Burlington High School – give or take – based on semesters, transfers, unforeseen circumstances and other scenarios.

Let’s say the average sports team has at least 15 kids on varsity, with football and track major exceptions of course.

That puts the ballpark figure of athletes in any given calendar year at around 350 students, or slightly less than one-third of the school population. That’s about 18 WIAA sanctioned varsity team across fall, winter and spring sports seasons.

Burlington coach Scott Staude (left) and Trey Krause share a laugh after Tuesday’s sectional championship. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Did you know that a good 80 to 90, or an impressive 25 percent, of these student-athletes advanced to state in their respective crafts?

And not only did they go to state, but also made their mark.

The Burlington girls volleyball team won the state title, along with individual champion Hayden Halter, the Demons wrestling squad was a point away from a chance at a state title.

Fast-forward to Tuesday night, and the renewed tradition of success continued, in resounding fashion.

In a mere five days the Burlington softball team claimed its first sectional championship since the Ronald Reagan administration, and the baseball team followed suit with its first state tournament berth since…since…the Donald Trump administration.

A 6-3 victory over Kenosha Tremper punched the baseball ticket, and an 11-1 rout of Kenosha Bradford opened the nine-hour, three-game action-packed Kenosha Tremper Sectional.

Yup, it’s barely a thing anymore, and we’ve come to expect head coach Scott Staude, pitching coach Bob Lee, good ol’ Shafe (David Sheffer) and the boys of spring to get to state and make noise like usual.

Two years removed from the school’s first state title, the Demons are back for a third consecutive season, this time with a close-knit cast of characters that shout from the dugout the entire game and turn mannequins into an extra teammate, ripe with arms made of cups, a conference title T-shirt and mesh shorts.

This group of “other guys” doesn’t necessarily boast a bona fide, box office star like some of the players of years past, but team chemistry, a willingness to learn and constant improvement shine through.

These Demons are winners of 12 of their last 13 games and could legitimately make noise in Appleton Tuesday.

The greatest strength, beside an exceptional coaching staff and mental toughness, is pitching, where roughly 10 kids can take the mound.

Trey Krause and Trent Turzenski, who combined to allow three runs in 12 innings of dominant baseball in two wins Tuesday, can go up against anyone at state.

 

Ladies combine all ingredients

Much like the we-first, me-second baseball team, the members of the softball team rely on each other, and leadership by example permeates with big hits, strategic bunting and stingy defense.

The Lady Demons will play Thursday against Chippewa Falls at 12:30 p.m. at Goodman Diamond on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and it’s the first time Burlington will battle for the crown since 1988.

Josie Klein, Jaina Westphal and Ashley Schmalfeldt provide the power at the top of the lineup, Jenna Schmalfeldt, Gracie Peterson and Maddie Berezowitz fly around the bases with supreme speed and Bridi Allen, Emily Zuleger, Alexandria Naber, Kya Kafar, Hannah Ketterhagen, among others, all play their roles like accomplished thespians, with a mind automatically set to “How do we help the team?”

The positive energy, something girls like Klein and Westphal have preached all year, resonates to the bench, where dynamos like Leah Zinnen, Caitlyn Matson and Sophia Gonzalez encourage teammates through constant chants and songs.

Like the boys, the softball team’s depth is so good, any girl on the bench can be plugged in to contribute at any given time.

Two teams, one common goal – win state.

It’s easier said than done, but don’t be surprised if the squads continue to overcome the odds this week.

Burlington baseball poses with its title plaque Tuesday at Kenosha Tremper. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

It’s a wonderful time to be a fan of the game played with four bases, a pitcher’s mound, outfield and infield, no matter the size of the ball.

What matters is the fight in the dog, and with two teams peaking at the right moment with extended win streaks (boys six games, girls 11 games), local sports fans can no longer take Burlington sports teams for granted when they make state, passing them off as a small-town or “lucky” team.

It once meant everything just to be invited to the dance, but now they’re in the running for king and queen.

Every sport, every season, every student-athlete that put in that hard work, sacrificing personal lives and even work to get in those extra cuts in the cage, or that extra burpee, or mile run, or even laps in the pool – this week is for you.

The Burlington Demons continue to thrive as one of the area’s – and the state’s – top programs.

On May 31, after Jaina Westphal fielded a grounder at second base clean and fired to Kya Kafar for the final out, teammates rushed Josie Klein at the pitcher’s mound. (Earlene Frederick/SLN)

 

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