When Nick Carpenter hit a walk-off against Lakeside Lutheran, he was building his case.
When Carpenter struck out seven batters in seven innings against Lodi, he furthered his case.
When the Lake Mills L-Cats swept the entire Capitol North with a perfect 10-0 record in the league, it was clear that the team’s top pitcher would win the Player of the Year award and that was confirmed in the end-of-the-year conference meeting.
“He was a horse for us,” Lake Mills coach Justin Annen said. “He took the mound and gave us a good chance every time he had the ball.”
Carpenter, who committed to play baseball for the UW-Stevens Point, was joined by three seniors earning accolades as well as first-team junior Riley Zirbel and second-team junior outfielder Hunter Buechel. Senior Spencer Hans earned first-team honors for his play at shortstop, senior Harley Jones earned first-team honors as a designated hitter and senior catcher Adam Mitchell earned second-team honors as a catcher.
“The five seniors we had, we all pushed each other and fed off of each other,” Carpenter said. “Harley was the energy in the dugout. Chili (Mitchell) helped hold down the fort behind the plate as a catcher. Spencer was really reliable defensively and we knew if they hit it near him he would make the play. J.T. did anything we needed — he would run down fly balls or come in and get a bunt down. …
“We all had our spots that we shined and certain things we were better at.”
Junior Alex Ryan was the lone Lakeside Lutheran player to earn first-team honors. Ryan helped carry the Warriors to a WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal berth picking up two wins in regionals. His path to next year’s player of the year seems to be between him and Zirbel, the unanimous selection.
“I was really proud of Riley getting unanimous outfield after he got first-team in the infield last year,” Annen said. “That was impressive to see. I thought he turned into a really good outfielder and coaches obviously agreed.”
Lakeside Lutheran had a pair of underclassmen selected to the second-team as well. Sophomore Gabe Uttech secured a spot as an infielder and junior Carter Schneider earned a spot as a utility player. Five Warriors earned honorable mention recognition: sophomore pitcher Nathan Chesterman, senior catcher Carter Buchta, sophomore infielder Ian Olszewski, senior infielder Michael Freson and junior designated hitter Logan Pampel.
At the top of the ticket, though, it was the unanimously selected lefty, who gave the whole conference fits.
“I would say going out there each pitch and tried to beat every single person individually was a big key for me,” Carpenter said. “Whether it was pitching or at the plate, I just tried to win everything and be better than everybody.”