ELLSWORTH — One year ago, the Ellsworth baseball team labored through a three-win season. The year before that, the team made it to the state playoffs, falling to Waupun in the semifinals. Coaches knew that a decline was imminent with the loss of a strong 2018 senior class but the sour taste of finishing 3-15 in 2019 was tough to swallow for coaches and players alike.
Seniors in the 2020 class took it upon themselves to put in extra work during the offseason in hopes of adding a few wins.
“They were coming in to open gyms in the winter time, getting some throwing routines down — pitching off the mound a little bit and getting their hacks in,” said Ellsworth head baseball coach Reb Heller.
Athletes ramped up their preparation as the spring season neared. Senior pitcher Jared Marson said a group of five or six would go to school an hour and a half early.
“We’d throw for 45 minutes and bring the cage down and take turns getting reps in, focusing on what we needed to work on that day — curveball, fastball, inside or outside pitch,” Marson said.
The goal? To compete in a conference that was expected to largely be wide open.
“I think New Richmond was probably the clear favorite, but I think we could’ve finished anywhere from second to seventh in the league,” Heller said.
The team’s primary goal of finishing toward the top of the Middle Border Conference was unable to come to fruition with the cancellation of the spring season, but a different accomplishment occurred organically. Underclassmen were able to learn how to persevere through less than ideal situations and keep a positive mindset. An attribute, coincidentally, that senior Max Mitchell had set out to teach this spring.
“I think we’re kind of a hard-nosed baseball club that likes to grit and battle in games,” Mitchell said. “I always wanted to pass that on because I think that’s what makes a good team special.”
He said he looks back at a particularly rough start to last season as a learning lesson for younger players. He remembered being down about his individual performance and began to doubt himself on the field. Rather than dwell on the negative, he decided to work hard at improving. He said he started to play the way he wanted — proving to himself and to younger players that if they put in the work, they’re going to see results.
Similarly, Marson said his season goal was to improve his leadership and be a good role model to younger players.
“I wanted them to be able to see me as the guy that they could easily contact,” Marson said.
He said he’s kept in contact with some of the young pitchers and helped them work on their grips and told them how to keep track of their rotation on curveballs and how spin should be used effectively.
Marson and Mitchell hope that by showing leadership throughout their senior year at Ellsworth High School, future baseball players can make their own special memories on the diamond in future years.
Those memories for Marson and Mitchell include the Panthers’ state playoff run in 2018, play amongst family members and hard-nosed practices that build team character.
“I want them to be able to look back on the moments they had — see what truly made them love the sport,” Marson said.