Have the Ithaca Bulldogs scored more than their opponents or limited their foes with pitching and defense? It may be difficult to argue whether the Ithaca Bulldogs are better armed at the plate or on the mound in their effort to win a WIAA State D-4 baseball title.
Ithaca begins its quest in a semi-final game against Rib Lake at approximately 10:30 a.m. Wednesday near Appleton. The winner will play the winner of the semi-final between Spring Valley and Rio on Thursday for the state championship.
The Bulldogs, 22-3 on the season, enter the State Tournament with a seven-game winning streak.
They are potent offensively. They have averaged more than 10 runs per game and have 12 wins by 10 or more runs.
Led by junior Jacob Huebsch’s .453 batting average, the Bulldogs have a team batting average of .355. Eight of the nine Bulldogs in coach Jeff Hilleshiem’s expected lineup are hitting over .300.
They’ve hit with power, too. Eight of the nine have hit home runs including three by Aaron Kepler, the team’s only senior. All nine have at least two extra-base hits. Leadoff man Joey Clary leads with 11 while Kepler is next with 10.
Eight of the nine have at least 10 rbis. Five have driven in at least 20 runs including Ross Ghastin with 28 and Huebsch with 25.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have been stingy defensively. They have allowed three or more runs four times.
At the heart of the defense has been the pitching. It takes two pitchers – at least two with the pitching rules – to win a championship. The Bulldogs have six with impressive credentials.
Jacob Huebsch, who is expected to start against Rib Lake, leads a staff of six pitchers – all of whom have winning records and earned run averages of less than three.
He’s 10-1 with an ERA of 1.38. He’s allowed only 34 hits in 71 innings. Meanwhile, he has better than a 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio (114 strikeouts and 22 bases on balls).
Nolan Clary is 3-1, and Luke Oelke is 5-1. Aaron Huebsch, Joey Clary and Ross Ghastin are each 1-0 for the season. All have allowed fewer hits than innings pitched and have more than twice as many strikeouts than walks.
“It’s a good staff, especially for a D-4 school,” said Hilleshiem, “and they’re all back next year.”
Should the Bulldogs win their semi-final game, to whom will Hilleshiem turn? It’s a dilemma that Hilleshiem hopes to be confronted with. Freshman Aaron Huebsch could get the call again after an impressive performance in last week’s sectional title game.
“He’s really come on,” the coach said. “He’s been throwing extremely well and with him pitching, it means fewer position switches among the others.”