Former West Salem hockey standout and 2018 Wisconsin Mr. Hockey, Jack Gorniak, has decided to return to the ice for a fifth season.
Gorniak graduated this past semester with a major in Economics, but he will go back to Madison to start the Sports Leadership Master’s Program. This will allow Jack to play another season for the Badgers.
While playing for the Badgers, Jack has recorded 17 goals and 33 assists. Two of those goals have been game-winners. This past season, he scored five goals and assisted on another 10 in a down season for men’s hockey at Wisconsin (10-24-3 record). The year before, Jack recorded six goals and seven assists as the Badgers won the regular season conference title and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
During his high school playing days, Gorniak was a two-time all-state performer and was also named to the all-state honorable mention team during his Sophomore year. In his Senior season, Gorniak led West Salem/Bangor with 31 goals and 61 points and they made a State Tournament appearance.
After his Senior year of high school, he was drafted in the 4th round of the NHL Draft (123rd overall) to the Montreal Canadiens. NHL rules state that a team has the rights to a player up until 30 days after they leave college. So, we will have to wait at least another season until we find out what is in store for Gorniak’s post-college playing plans.
A couple of individual standout seasons have led UWL to the WIAC tournament once again, with a legitimate chance at a NCAA tournament bid. After a loss from Oshkosh on Monday, the final day of the regular season for the WIAC, the Eagles jumped from into third place and will avoid a first round match-up with top-seeded UW-Whitewater. Now, they will take on UW-Stevens Point in the first round. Still, a very difficult opponent. Those three teams lead the way in the WIAC and Eagles Head Coach Chris Schwarz saw it that way as soon as the WIAC schedule began:
Coach Schwarz is going to need guys like Jack Olver to continue to step up if he wants a shot at that WIAC championship. Olver had another incredible season at the plate hitting for a .442 average. That number is good for the sixth best single season batting average in Eagles history! By the way, Olver also has the highest batting average ever at .491 last season. Olver also leads the team in doubles, on-base percentage and sacrifice hits. He is second on the team in runs scored, home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. Coach Schwarz knew that he could hit since high school, but it was just about finding a spot for him:
The only reason why Olver didn’t lead the team in the categories above is because of a guy named Mac Born. Born leads the team in runs, triples, homers, RBI, and slugging percentage. He is also second in average, doubles, and sacrifice hits. Born’s 14 home runs this season is good for second all-time in a single season in school history. He trails ex-Milwaukee Brewer Vinnie Rottino’s record by just a single homer. Born has also collected 60 RBI this season which is also second all-time behind Justin Anderson’s incredible record of 83 back in 2016. Born, like Olver, is a second-year freshman and now has 110 RBI in his career. That number is already 12th all-time. He is just 44 behind Taylor Kohlwey’s career record. Of note: Born and Olver still have a chance to improve on these numbers as they count postseason stats in the record book. Which means they have at least two more games to add to their totals.
Maybe the most important thing about these two players- they are the only ones to play (and start) in all 39 games this season.
Now they will have to lead their team into a double elimination gauntlet. They will kick off the WIAC tournament on Thursday at 10 am against Stevens Point. The tournament is at Whitewater this year with the Warhawks winning the regular season title. If the Eagles lose game 1, they will face elimination later that day. Win or lose, it is a quick turnaround that will make or break your season.
Tatum Grass has been with the Wisconsin Badgers football team since 2019 as a walk-on player. Now, he’s on scholarship.
Grass, a junior, took a redshirt season in 2019, but quickly found his niche as he played in all seven games in the Covid-shortened 2020 season, with a strong showing on special teams. Last season, it was more of the same as he played in all 13 games and became a leader on the third unit. It’s not the ideal spot to be, but when you are working behind future NFL draft picks, Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn, it is difficult to crack the rotation. But, Tatum made special teams his thing, and Colten Bartholomew, Wisconsin State Journal, says that is how he earned the trust of his coaches:
That trust showed in the Badgers Spring Practice when Tatum was working exclusively with the first team defense. From Day 1 to the final day on April 22, Grass was on the field with the defensive starters, even with Inside Linebackers Coach, Bill Sheridan, switching up the rotations.
Nobody will really know until preseason camp if that usage will result in him being a starter come opening week, but that paired with being put on scholarship are great signs towards Grass becoming the next big contributor in the Badgers linebackers room.
At Holmen, Grass was an honorable mention all-state at both defensive end and tight end by Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and Associated Press as a senior. He was also named first-team All-Mississippi Valley Conference and MVC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and was selected to the All-Region team twice by the WFCA. During his Senior season, he collected 14 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. On the offensive side of the ball he had 20 receptions for 325 yards and a touchdown in eight games.
UW-La Crosse softball has captured its first regular season WIAC title since 2010 with a 13-1 conference record. It is only the second time UWL has won the WIAC and when they did it in 2010 they went undefeated at 16-0. Now, they once again earn the right to host the WIAC tournament this weekend and get the first round bye.
The Eagles started the season strong at 12-5 in the non-conference with 13 of the games coming in a one week span down in Florida over spring break. Then, two weeks off because of the poor weather was not ideal for the Eagles who were trying to keep up momentum. When they finally got back on the field it was at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, who was ranked 17th at the time, in rainy and cold conditions. They played them close, but lost both games by scores of 2-0 and 8-5.
Then came the grueling WIAC schedule in which they played 14 games in less than a month. The Eagles started the conference schedule with a loss at home to UW-Eau Claire. It was their third straight loss right in the middle of the season that dropped their overall record to 12-8. Things were not looking all that great. Well, that is until they rolled off 13 straight wins to end the regular season. And it fittingly started with a walk-off homer by Jordyn McCormack to beat those Blugolds.
McCormack led the team all season at the plate hitting .430 with 12 doubles, five home runs, and 29 RBI. She had plenty of help around her from Kyra Lard (.393), Kendra Leis (.367) and Hailey Jibben (.333).
The pitching was just as good.
Elise Weinzierl, the reigning WIAC pitcher of the week, racked up eleven wins this season on a minuscule 1.41 ERA and she also collected three saves. Remington Stark did similar things out of the bullpen with a 1.53 ERA and a 9-2 record in 23 appearances (no starts). The Eagles only needed four pitchers all season because of the success they had. The other two hurlers, Ally Eden and Madi Lee, had ERA’s of 2.80 and 3.06, respectively.
UWL will look to continue that dominance this weekend at the North Campus Field where they will host the double-elimination tournament. With the first round bye, they do not know their opponent yet, but they do know they will play at 2pm on Friday afternoon. They will need to win at least three games and no more than five to double up on WIAC titles.
If they can reach that goal, they will earn the automatic NCAA bid for just the fourth time in school history. They have a great chance to do it, but also a huge target on their back come Friday.
The University of Wisconsin La Crosse baseball team has aspirations of a WIAC title and a legitimate chance at the postseason this year thanks to an experienced, but young core of leaders.
In the early going, the Eagles are 11-6 overall and 6-2 in the WIAC thanks to a four-game sweep of Finlandia a couple of weekends ago. UWL knows they can play a long season and because of that has played some tough competition in the non-conference down in Florida. That includes a two top-10 teams in Rowan University (NJ) and Webster University (MO), losing those games 9-0 and 7-4, respectively. However, while getting their early season games in down in Florida, it allowed them to get good looks on the depth of their pitching staff, according to Head Coach Chris Schwarz:
And Schwarz should be happy with what he has seen through 17 games from a number of his pitchers. Chris Seveska (1.72 ERA) and Alex Mach (1.76 ERA) lead the team in earned run average so far, and they are well under an extremely impressive 2.00 mark. And both are just Sophomores with plenty of time to continue getting better. Another Sophomore, Jacob Bryant, might be the best pitcher on the staff. He has thrown the most innings of any Eagles pitcher (28) and still has an ERA that most pitchers would beg for at this level (2.89). Surprise, surprise, two more Sophomores Alex Redman (4.29) and Brady Schmitt (4.76), as well. This pitching staff is young and really good.
The top hitters on the team are young, too! Freshman (although, second year playing) Jack Olver leads the team in batting average (.523), hits (34), doubles (9), runs batted in (25), slugging % (.754), on-base % (.539) and has only struck out five(!) times in 76 plate appearances. It is an impressive start for Olver and something that Coach Schwarz said he is carrying over from last season:
Again, it is not just a one-man show at the plate for the Eagles. Yet another Sophomore, Jack Kelly hits .360 and is on base 43% of the time while striking out just once more than he was drawn a walk. And a couple of other Freshman are leaving their marks alongside Olver. Mac Born is hitting .324 with three homers and 21 RBI (both second on the team behind Olver), and Anthony Vivian is hitting .278 and bringing some pop over the past few series with five home runs to lead the team to go with 17 RBI and a nearly .400 on-base percentage.
To be a good team that go far in the postseason you need some veteran leadership, which the Eagles do have. Zach Carney is showing that it is just not the young guys as the Senior from Kimberly HS is second on the team with a .381 average and with six walks and six hit-by-pitch, Carney is getting on base nearly 50% of the time. He does not show the big power that Born and Vivian has shown so far, but his speed at the top of the order makes a big difference as a threat to steal a base at any time with 13 swipes in 17 games.
All of the talent only means something if you can do something with it, though. And the WIAC is a tough conference that has three legitimate contenders for the conference crown, says Schwarz:
UW-Stout has something to say about that, starting 8-0 in conference this season. That only makes the Eagles job that much harder. But, if you want to get to the top and challenge in the postseason, that is how it is going to be.
The Eagles continue conference play this weekend with a couple of doubleheaders at UW-Stevens Point- A chance for the Eagles to show they are for real.
For the entire conversation with Head Coach Chris Schwarz from last Friday (4/1), we have it posted on our podcasts page: https://www.espnlacrosse.com/podcasts/
The Tomah Timberwolves are coming off of season where they were just under .500 (9-11) overall and 5-7 in the Mississippi Valley Conference. There is always reason to get excited for opening pitch of the baseball season, but Tomah Head Coach likes where his team is at this point, especially with the talent and experience they bring back. Tomah’s first game of the season will come on Tuesday, March 29th when they take on Black River Falls in a non-conference game. However, like we all know with Midwest weather, and specifically Wisconsin, the weather does not always cooperate. Timberwolves Head Coach Ryan Brookman had a chance to join The Sports Lead on ESPN La Crosse 105.5 on Monday, and he said that they are hopeful the game will be played despite the projected temperatures:
As stated earlier, the Timberwolves do bring back some guys from last year’s team. Experience is a huge lift in high school baseball and Coach Brookman is hoping that carries over for his guys:
Drew Brookman is expected to get the start on the mound in their season opener and be the ace for Tomah this season, but they have some guys behind him in the rotation that can get the job done:
As for some other guys Coach Brookman is looking at to make another jump, Charlie Joyce is a versatile player that Coach Brookman is excited for:
Josh Jorgenson fits into that category as well. Because of all the issues Covid caused in terms of getting out on the field and evaluating talent, Coach Brookman was not sure what he was going to get from Josh last season. He was happy to get an all-conference honorable mention player, but expects him to make another splash:
As for the ever-tough Mississippi Valley Conference, Coach Brookman knows it will be tough to compete because they will not be the only team bringing back talent from last year. When asked to choose the best team in the MVC (minus his own team), Aquinas was his pick:
Coach Brookman expanded on the notion that “anything can happen”:
As for a former player of Brookman’s, Connor Prielipp, future MLB pitcher and projected first round pick, is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Prielipp was the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019 and did not allow a run in 21 innings his Freshman year before Covid hit. Before injuring his elbow his Sophomore year, he was looked at as the potential top pick in the draft. Now, he might have to ~settle~ for being selected anywhere in the first round. Brookman gave a quick update on Connor:
Coach Brookman does not have a player of Prielipp’s quality on his roster this season, and probably not close to it either, but he does have a lot of really good pieces with experience that should make another big jump this season for a Timberwolves squad that is looking to compete at the top of the MVC.
For the entire conversation between Coach Ryan Brookman and John Pappadopoulos on The Sports Lead you can go to our podcast page: https://www.espnlacrosse.com/podcasts/
If you were looking for a low-scoring, offensively challenged basketball game, the Kohl Center was the place for you on Saturday night. The Wisconsin Badgers (18-4, 9-3) overcame another tough shooting performance to avoid an upset from Penn State (9-10, 4-7), 51-49. “Good teams find a way to win these games,” was the message Greg Gard had for his team following another gritty performance as Wisconsin’s defense came through for them when they needed it. Grit has been a key trait for this Wisconsin team this season and it’s been required in just about all their wins in conference play – Especially on Saturday as Johnny Davis was held to a season-low 4 points. With the win, the Badgers remain one game behind Illinois for the conference lead and now look forward to a much-anticipated rematch with Michigan State Tuesday night in East Lansing.
It’s now back-to-back games where the Badgers have struggled to shoot the ball as they finished the game against Penn State 37% after an abysmal 25% in the first half, which produced just 18 points. What is attributed to the poor shooting? I believe it’s two things – 1) The film is out on Wisconsin. This is the point of the season where teams really begin to figure out how to guard their opponents and they must make adjustments. This isn’t just a Wisconsin thing, it’s the same for everyone else in the Big Ten and the best teams are the ones who fight through the adversity and find other ways to win. 2) The Badgers are playing with some tired legs as well. Wisconsin just finished their second stretch of 3 games in 6 days after the loss to Illinois on Wednesday. After that grueling game against the Illini, they had two days to prepare for a pesky Penn State team. And this stretch will continue as the Badgers get just two days to prepare for round two against Michigan State.
With those shooting struggles, one way to overcome them is creating easier shots in transition. It has been widely publicized that Wisconsin is playing more up-tempo than usual and this is the fastest-paced they’ve been in over 20 years – Is this the answer to getting the offense back on track? The Badgers scored just 2 fast break points against Penn State and didn’t have much of a transition game in Illinois either. In my opinion, I think Wisconsin is better off slowing things down and getting back to executing in the half-court rather than putting an emphasis on pushing the ball, at least for their next game against Michigan State. A couple of Badger players after the game admitted tired legs were affecting them a bit and the Spartans love to play up-tempo and I think if Wisconsin were to play their game on Tuesday, it could lead to another inefficient offensive performance. I’m not saying abandon transition opportunities, but I think Wisconsin’s best bet to return to form offensively is to control the tempo and have teams play their style of basketball.
Quietly, Steven Crowl continues to take significant strides. The opinions of him probably weren’t all that favorable following the game versus Illinois on Wednesday when Kofi Cockburn scored 37 against him. That’s one game and Cockburn is a rare breed that only a select few teams can match up with without doubling. Crowl led the team in scoring with 13 points and dished out a career-high 5 assists on Saturday. His three-point shooting has really come along as he has made at least one in six of his past eight games – This is an integral part of Wisconsin’s offense as it greatly affects the way they can space the floor and open up driving lanes. He’s starting to dominate the minutes at the five-position and he’s done an excellent job doing so since the new year began.
AT THE PODIUM:
“It was a gritty game. Our shots weren’t falling, I thought we were getting good looks but our defense really kept us in it. We’ve talked a lot lately about being better defensively and it helped us tonight” – Tyler Wahl on the win
“We just had to get our focus back. We had to settle back on defense and execute on offense. That’s what we do” – Chucky Hepburn on rallying after falling behind in the 2nd half
“I said you guys have carried us a lot of nights. Tonight, it was their turn to carry you” – Greg Gard on his message to Johnny Davis and Brad Davison at halftime
“Our goal when we face a scorer like that is to make him take more shots than points. He’s an attacker and we stressed not to foul him. Seth Lundy is a great defender and he’s done this all season for us against the best in the league” – Penn State Head Coach Micah Shrewsburry on limiting Johnny Davis
“That game went exactly how I thought it would go”, said Greg Gard following Wisconsin’s (17-3, 8-2) win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-7, 2-7). Rivalry games are never meant to be easy, and the Badgers knew they were in for a battle on Sunday afternoon as a team effort guided Wisconsin to their ninth win in their last ten contests. Four of the five starters reached double-figure points in the 66-60 victory as this Badger team once again proved they are more than their star player, Johnny Davis. Wisconsin continues to hold its spot in a first-place tie atop the Big Ten, and now they’ll get the chance to break that tie on Wednesday when they face fellow conference leader Illinois on the road. Before looking ahead, here are my takeaways from Sunday’s action:
A 16-point performance seems pedestrian for his standards, but I thought this was one of the best games of the season for Johnny Davis. The way Minnesota defended Johnny was very similar to how Michigan State did and he responded to it much better this time around. Against the Spartans, Johnny tried to force up his shots when they weren’t there – Compare that to Sunday’s performance, he was much more disciplined and let his teammates help him out. Gopher’s Head Coach Ben Johnson mentioned following the game they wanted to challenge everything Johnny did and not let him have anything easy. Despite that, Johnny still produced in a significant way by scoring a team-best 16 points thanks to a 6-0 spurt of his own to finish the game and he collected a career-high 15 rebounds. One thing Greg Gard has always stressed to his players is to find ways to contribute other than scoring, and Johnny did just that with his rebounding and defense. His stretch to finish the game just validates how special of a talent he is and why he is in the National Player-of-the-Year conversation.
Perhaps the most telling stat about this Wisconsin team is their 10-1 record in games decided by 6 points or fewer – Is this luck? Or is there something too this? I do believe most of this is due to this team’s composure and the way they remain calm in crunch time. Greg Gard has said repeatedly that he doesn’t do anything special in the huddle when organizing late-game scenarios, but he credited his team with the way they value each possession throughout the whole game. This aligns with Gard’s theory as the Badgers are currently best in the nation at taking care of the ball with 8.5 turnovers/game. In simplicity, Wisconsin is maximizing their opportunities to score because most possessions end with them putting a shot up and it’s even more impressive considering they are playing faster this season – Those extra shots are often the difference in close matchups.
Brad Davison is playing the best basketball of his career and his outside shooting has much to do with it. Davison didn’t slow up on Sunday after breaking the program’s career three-point record on Thursday as he’s now made 15 triples over his last 3 games. His four threes against the Gophers was his third straight game with four or more, and his seventh overall on the season – He ranks second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage during conference play at 45%, only trailing Ron Harper Jr. of Rutgers. The Super-Senior has excelled in his role as the team’s three-point specialist, and it’s provided a huge lift to this offense.
AT THE PODIUM:
“I was thinking about getting a bucket at all costs. It’s crucial to get a basket at that point in the game and I wanted to do whatever I could to deliver” – Johnny Davis on his stretch to finish the game
“We’re building, moving in the right direction. It’s good to stack wins like this and we are where we want to be right now. We have to keep improving to get where we want to at the end of the year” – Brad Davison on where the team is at right now
“I think it’s us sticking together. We’re a close group and Coach Gard does a nice job at keeping us together during those late-game situations” – Tyler Wahl on the key to closing out games
“They were good. We did a good job on Johnny I thought holding him under his average and we challenged all his catches and shots but this is why they’re good, they can all produce” – Gophers Head Coach Ben Johnson on Wisconsin’s supporting cast
The Packers will be looking for a new offensive coordinator for next year. The reason- Nathaniel Hackett has been hired by the Denver Broncos as their next head coach. It seemed like from start this was the most likely of outcomes and it has come to fruition. The Broncos have had their eye on Aaron Rodgers since the day Adam Schefter released the breaking news of an unhappy Rodgers. Obviously, the Broncos were unable to acquire Rodgers in last off-season, so hiring his offensive coordinator, a guy Rodgers really, really likes working with, seemed to be the next logical step in luring Rodgers to Denver.
And as you just heard, Rodgers really likes Luke Getsy, too. Currently, Getsy is the Packers QB coach and passing game coordinator and is a candidate to re-join Hackett in Denver as his offensive coordinator. It would be the first time Getsy was hired as a coordinator, but Hackett would certainly be heavily involved. Oh, and Getsy was also interviewed for the Broncos head coach position.
Coincidence? Maybe. Will it work? Maybe. We will have to wait until the franchise tag deadline for that, according to Rodgers:
Hackett has been in football since day one. His father Paul was an offensive coordinator for multiple college and NFL teams. Nathaniel followed in those footsteps and was an offensive coordinator with the Bills (’13-’14), and Jaguars (’16-’18) before he joined the Packers. He had been the Packers offensive coordinators for all three seasons that Matt LaFleur has been the Packers head coach. Since then, the Packers have won 13 games in three straight seasons, the first team in NFL history to ever do that. They have also earned a playoff bye each season, two of them as the one seed, the offense has clicked very well leading to Rodgers winning an MVP and on his way to a second straight.
Clearly, Hackett has the resume and the knowledge to be a head coach and he credits a lot of that to Rodgers and the Packers culture.
Now we wait and see if Hackett brings some of that Packers culture with him to Denver. Whether it be Getsy, Adam Stenovich (O-Line coach) or even Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have some hiring to do.
A seven-game winning streak came to a sudden halt on Friday night for the Wisconsin Badgers (15-3) as they suffered their first loss in over a month at the hands of Michigan State (15-3). An 8-0 start to the game got the sold-out, Kohl Center crowd into the game early but the Spartans quieted them quickly and dominated the contest from there on out. “We lost our intensity and we couldn’t get it back”, said Johnny Davis. Playing in front of their largest collection of home fans this season, it came as a major surprise Michigan State was able to come to Madison and frustrate Wisconsin as much as they did, and now after taking a punch in the mouth, how will this young team respond? The Badgers will look to get right and perhaps healthier over the weekend as Tyler Wahl was held out Friday with an ankle injury. The team hopes to have him back on Thursday when they visit Nebraska, but here are my conclusions from Friday’s loss:
Johnny Davis finished the game as the leading scorer with 25 points, but earning those points was anything but easy. The Player-of-the-Year candidate needed 20 shots to register 25 points, and it was a frustrating night all around. This game was truly one of two halves for Johnny – In the first half, he scored 10 points on 3/13 shooting compared to 15 on 5/7 in the second. What changed? It felt like Johnny was forcing too many shots in the opening half and the frustration with the Spartans defense and officiating appeared to get to him. In the second, I thought he let the game come to him and played through his teammates more. He showed more discipline and didn’t feel the need to score on every possession. There will be moments where he must have the ball in his hands and needs to make a play, but it felt like he was playing with the world on his shoulders and tried to make plays that weren’t there. Johnny Davis on a mediocre night can still produce in a major way, but playing to be more efficient and trusting his teammates more is something he has to develop for the final two months of the season.
What got exposed most in this game was Wisconsin’s lack of depth. Playing without Tyler Wahl is a big deal and Greg Gard emphasized such following the game. The Badgers only got seven points out of their bench on Friday and being productive off the bench doesn’t always point to scoring, but Gard insisted that players on the bench need to be better and step up. This team has been fortunate to have opportunities to develop younger players with Johnny missing two games earlier in the season, but the five starters cannot do all the heavy lifting. You need consistent bench play to complement the starting five in order to have a complete team, and Wisconsin does not have that right now.
One positive I’ll end on is the growing development of Wisconsin’s three-point shooting. Wisconsin made 12 shots from behind the arc and have now made 31 over their last three games at a 45% clip. Half of their makes on Friday came from Brad Davison but this is something to watch going forward. This was not expected to be a strength coming into the season and I don’t think it will be an aspect of the offense the Badgers want to overly depend on. However, there’s always been confidence amongst the players they’re capable of shooting the ball better than the percentages indicate. The Badgers will look to continue their focus at scoring in the paint and getting to the line, but a consistent inside-out game will create better floor spacing, which is beneficial to any offense.
AT THE PODIUM:
“It was a little frustrating but I can’t control what refs see or call. I tried to set up my teammates but they didn’t make shots at a consistent rate” – Johnny Davis on Michigan State’s defensive game plan against him
“Not great. They got a lot of transition buckets, offensive rebounds, and they got confident because of it. We didn’t play great tonight but we look forward to seeing them again in a few weeks” – Brad Davison on the team’s performance
“Two of the better players I’ve seen in this league in Davison and Davis. I’ve been in the league for a long time and we put an emphasis on them and they still torched us” – Tom Izzo on containing Brad Davison and Johnny Davis
“I don’t think the physicality affected us; we’ve faced physical teams before. It was the transition game that took us too long to adapt to, and defending for 25 seconds and then giving up an offensive rebound” – Greg Gard on Michigan State’s physicality