The Lodi prep baseball team was coming into the 2020 season with its highest expectations since qualifying for the state tournament in 2016.
Blue Devil coach Rodney Curtis had a feeling this would be a special campaign, but he will never know after the WIAA cancelled all springs sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We knew with the pitching we had, we could make a serious move,” Curtis said. “We thought we had a shot at state the next couple of years. When you have three to four guys who can throw 80 miles per hour, you put high expectations in place.”
The season was cancelled before the Blue Devils had their first official practice.
“It is a tough situation,” Curtis said. “I’m down the middle with it. I wish there was a way we could have a season, but the reality of it is that it is necessary for the health of everyone. But, it doesn’t make it an easier.”
Curtis is especially heartbroken for his three seniors, Matt Brisky, Logan Richards and Dustin Nordstrom.
“I feel so bad four our seniors,” Curtis said. “We only have three, but that doesn’t make it any easier. All three were going to be starters for us.”
Richards was a second-team all-conference selection as an infielder last season, while Nordstrom also played a big role with last year’s team. Curtis was expecting Brisky to take a big step up this season after a great offseason.
Richards is one of four all-conference performers the Blue Devils were welcoming back this spring. Also back are juniors Carson Possehl, Carson Richter and Brady Ziegler.
Possehl was a first-team all-conference pitcher, while Richter and Ziegler earned honorable mention All-Capitol North as a catcher and infielder, respectively.
Lodi was 9-14 overall last season. They were 5-5 in the Capitol North to tie Columbus for third place behind Lake Mills (10-0) and Watertown Luther Prep (7-3).
“We knew we were going to make some noise last year with our young pitching,” Curtis said.
Despite not being able to meet in person, Curtis has been keeping in touch with his players this spring.
“We have not been able to talk as a whole team, but I take time each week to talk to three or four guys,” Curtis said. “We’re not just talking about baseball. We are talking about being stuck at home and how school is going.”
Curtis provided his players with drills and videos to work on by themselves at home.
“Baseball is one those things you can’t practice once, you have to put in the time. Whether we had a season or not, they have to continue to improve.”
The WIAA is allowing for a 30-day contact period this summer for spring sports teams. Curtis is working with his summer league coordinator to put together a summer schedule starting in July.
“We are not sure if the Capitol Conference is going to have anything, but we are going to move forward with scheduling our summer in the Capitol Lakes Baseball League,” Curtis said. “It gives us a chance starting July 1 to play teams like Verona, Madison La Follette, DeForest, Baraboo and Portage. We are going to try to pack as much into July as we can and want the seniors to come back and play with us. I want the seniors to have a chance to play with their teammates.”
Even with the lost season, Curtis is excited about the future of the program, especially with all the hard work his athletes have put in.
“The guys have taken on a big initiative to get bigger and stronger for baseball,” Curtis said. “The best part is that they have taken it upon themselves to do it.”