KIMBERLY, Wisc. (WBAY) Cool, calm, and collected—that’s how the defending Division I baseball champs, the Kimberly Papermakers, are feeling headed into their 5th straight state tournament appearance.
As you can imagine, there's plenty of outside expectations for a state title repeat, and it'd be easy to get caught up in the hype but that's never been their focus.
“We don't feel that pressure,” Kimberly Head Coach Ryan McGinnis. “I think what we feel is an urgency to get better every day, and I think when you're focused on that and focused on improving yourself and your team, you know, I don't know that you feel any pressure.”
For team with no seniors, it’s no surprise improvement has been the major emphasis, and the junior class is a prime example of that growth.
“They’re a young group, “Coach McGinnis said. “The fact that they've grown and matured and have started to understand that discipline and the focus it takes to truly pay attention to all the details, so that's what's real special about this growth.”
“A lot of the junior class has picked up a lot of the leadership roles,” catcher Beau Schumacher said. “Helping out some sophomores that we have on the team, but Coach McGinnis has helped us out a lot with that kind of just trusting our stuff."
The Papermakers certainly have had to trust the process as of late. Their season nearly ended in the sectional semifinals before they put together a late inning rally that ended in a walk off, two-run single against Hortonville.
“Sectional, that was a little heart-wrenching, not heart-wrenching, but close a little nerve-wracking,” Connor Chitko said. “Yeah, I think we are good.”
“Sections was really exciting, obviously a lot of big plays, a lot of excitement going on,” Beau Schumacher said. “Obviously winning it so we could go to state that's the big thing."
Now that their tickets are punched comes the hard part. Kimberly will face another perennial powerhouse in Green Bay Preble to open up at state.
“I know they have some real talented players and a team that has had an unbelievable run especially the last two yearsyou know going undefeated last year that ended at the state tournament and then three losses,” Coach McGinnis said. “We'll have our hands full and it will be a great environment, two teams that really love to compete.”
“Yeah they are a really good team,” John Nett said. “They have some really good pitching and some really good hitting, and we will be ready for them, and we know we will get their best shot."
Before the competition gets underway, the team is taking a moment to soak it all in.
“Just great atmosphere out in the fox cities stadium, real nice field, real good atmosphere,” Beau Schumacher said. “The fans come out lot of people cheering us on real fun time.”
The state tournament starts on Tuesday at Fox Cities Stadium. Kimberly will take on Preble following the game one of the DI quarterfinals which starts at 8:00 A.M.