From the Duck Pond back to the WolfPack

Cole Downing, Sports Editor

Madison College Wolfpack Baseball didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things last year, posting a regular season overall record of 45-14, and going 9-1 in their conference. Good enough to make it all the way to Oklahoma again for the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series tournament, and even go four games deep before getting eliminated.  

That World Series elimination marked the end of last season and school year. So onward most students and players alike marched into the summer offseason…most. For Wolfpack Baseball players Zach Storbakken and Luke Hansel however, the summer instead marked the beginning of a whole new season here in America’s Northwoods region…Mallard’s season.  

“…it was still a great experience. We had the goal of getting to the World Series again anyways, so the fact that we even got back there was really big for us as an organization and college in general to get back to our roots.” Madison College starting pitcher Luke Hansel commented regarding last season late after a Mallards victory during this summer.   

Through their work at the plate and on the mound respectively, Storbakken and Hansel were big leaders of the Wolfpack’s success. On the hitting end Storbakken led the team in several categories with some highlights of his stat line including a .382 batting average, eight home runs, 46 runs batted in, and 65 hits total, all in just 170 at-bats. And from the pitching perspective Hansel toted high numbers of his own, some of which being a 3.10 earned runs average, 31 strike-outs, just two home runs allowed, and an 8-1 win-loss record across 49.1 innings pitched spread out over 10 games total.  

Impressive numbers, especially considering this was their freshman work. So, it made sense for the duo to take the opportunity to taste some higher competition during the summer in preparation for an even more convincing year two. And so on to the Madison Mallards Stadium, a.k.a. the Duck Pond, they went.  

The Madison Mallards are a team inside of the Northwoods League, a massive summer baseball league for college players to come play in from across the country. It’s conducted similar to the MLB model, even featuring an approximately 70-game regular season, and it currently holds 23 teams primarily based in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. This makes the Mallards and the rest of the teams comparable to official minor league ones.  

Therefore, this was kind of a big deal for Storbakken and Hansel to achieve this higher stage of competing against some the nation’s best collegiate players by swapping out their navy blue and grey jerseys for royal blue and crème yellow ones. Especially considering they’re coming from a two-year school whereas many other players are from four-year ones. Oh, and they’re both Wisconsin natives, which is always a nice added bonus for local hype.  

“Definitely competition, consistency of competition for sure. You’d see some guys from junior college and our [Madison College] season here in this league, but every guy is just like the best guy we’d face. So it’s tough for sure but definitely a good challenge.” Zach Storbakken replied talking about the biggest difference between the Wolfpack and Mallards seasons, emphasizing the struggle he faced getting acclimated and comfortable early in the summer games.  

However, Storbakken and the rest of the Ducks roster did eventually get their legs under themselves. Only going 16-18 in the first half of the Northwoods season due to late arrivals, troubles settling into the new environment, and trying to establish ideal line-up and field positions. Yet power-surging in the second half to a 23-14 record to make for a 39-32 overall on the regular season and a low seeded playoff spot which they took full advantage of. Soaring to the Northwoods league’s final four before finally ending the summer in a loss to the Traverse City Pit Spitters, who then claimed the league championship.  

All and all, a fun and furthering detour for the infielder and pitcher. Both posted respectable numbers throughout the summer league and are looking forward to using this special experience to take their Wolfpack performances to the next level this upcoming spring season because of it. 

We’ll have more on Storbakken, Hansel, and the rest of the Madison College baseball team later on as the start of the season gets closer. 

In the meantime, check out the Madison College athletics website for news and updates on all things Wolfpack sports related, and GO WOLFPACK!