Tomahawk sports history: Baseball
By Bob Skubal
Retired coach, historian, author of ‘History of Tomahawk Sports’
The first recorded season that this author can find on boys’ baseball dates back to 1898. The coaches were Mr. Love and Clarence Macomber. They did not travel far that year as they were 3-1 with a 17-11 loss to the City Team and victories of 27-2 over Merrill and 18-6 and 25-17 over Rhinelander.
Team members were Ray Love, John McDonald, John Twomey, Guy Fuller, John Ziegler, Arthur Goodman, Scott Gray, Alvin Slater, Roy Tobin, Oscar Hanson and Charles Clark. Ray Love was team captain.
Games were played on Saturday to make sure that players could also play on the city team. The team was made to follow high school rules and only high school athletes were allowed to participate.
Special note that Guy Fuller went on to sign a contract to play with the Stevens Point baseball team.
Over the years, Tomahawk has had 17 different head coaches, with Wes Roessler having the longest tenure as varsity coach with 13 seasons. Wes also has the most wins at 130, while Jerry Sullivan has the best winning percentage at .826 with a 19-4 record over two seasons.
Thus far THS as produced nine conference titles, 17 regional titles, nine sectional titles, nine state qualifying teams and one state place finisher. The highest place finisher came in 1992, as Tomahawk made it to the state finals.
From 1898 to about 1949, this author could only find a total of 15 games played by THS. As noted in 1903, when a coach and enough players were found to form a baseball team, challenges were sent out to different high schools and city teams to organize a game. Umpires had to be lined up and transportation put in place before a game took place. During this time, city teams and American Legion baseball created opportunities for players that THS didn’t.
For various reasons, in January of 1949, THS decided to once again form a baseball team. Expenses were to be cut by using equipment purchased in 1948 by the American Legion team. That year, players had several opportunities to play baseball, as they had a six-game schedule through school and then a 16-game schedule with the American Legion.
THS played some exciting games and put together some solid teams through the years. Conference teams changed from time to time and new rivalries were formed between various communities. Tomahawk won their first conference title in 1955, when they were co-conference champions with Rib Lake. In 1957, they produced their first outright conference title and a season record of 8-1.
Now let’s take a look back at those state qualifying teams.
In 1959, THS qualified for their first state trip under coach Jerry Sullivan. They defeated Chetek 2-1 in sectional finals. Chetek was 13-1 coming into the game. Their ace was Dennis Overby, who was going into the sectional finals having pitched 60 1/3 innings, giving up 11 hits, no earned runs, and had 21 walks while striking out 139. Two of his wins were perfect games. The game ended with Chetek having bases loaded with one out. Krueger, who was catching, took the second out and Running in left field took charge of the third out. Larry Tresness was given his first start for Tomahawk and a double by Mac Winker drove in two runs, and they would stand up. Members of the 1959 team were Bob Kahle, Larry Tresness, Gary Kuntz, Lorney Haugen, Dar Clements, Ray Robinson, Gene Swan, Dennis Running, Jerry McCarthy, Ken Kjer, Lynn Scheller, Don Krueger, Andy Tresness, Mac Winker, Jerry Krueger, Ernie Pflum, Jerry Schoone, Bob McKinney, Dan Johnson, Bob Martinson, Bernie Haring, Dick Pickett, John Gable, and Don Arneson.
1971 would be Tomahawk’s second trip to state. Under coach Dan Johnson, they had a record of 13-1, with their only loss coming in the first round at state, when they were defeated by Sussex Hamilton 8-1. Tomahawk was in their fourth year of summer baseball with conference teams from Mosinee, Phillips, Park Falls, and Medford. Conference title, regional title, sectional title, and state qualifier made a memorable season. Team members were Jeff Kahle, Larry Timm, Andy Schwab, Steve Boucher, Ed Bradaseric, Mickey Koth, Jerry Bartz, Mike Martell, Mark Lemke, Grant Dotter, Dave Hoover, Mike Bohnert, Ken Joslin, Mike McDonough, Paul Lemke, Larry Copiskey, and Jim Timm.
1972 saw coach Dan Johnson produce another solid season. The team was 19-1. Tomahawk had back-to-back conference titles, regional titles, sectional titles, and was state bound. The first round at state was once again not friendly to Tomahawk, as they suffered their first loss of the season to Alma Center Lincoln. Alma Center Lincoln defeated Tomahawk 7-0 and went on to become state champions. Noted that season the team batting average was .307. Jeff Kahle was 9-1 on the mound and hit .344. Jerry Bartz hit .369, and Grant Dotter was a 5-0 with an ERA of .02 (giving up one run in 35 innings). Team members were Larry Timm, Von Martin, Gene Ridge, Grant Dotter, Jeff Kahle, Larry Copiskey, Jerry Bartz, Bill Weizenicker, Tony DeBels, Tom Kahle, Dennis Sweeney, Mark Hanke, and Jeff Calhoun.
1975 saw Tomahawk make it to state for the fourth time in five years. Bill Gregor’s 19-5 season produced a conference title, regional title, and sectional title along the way. Even though THS suffered a first-round loss at state, they made it a much better game as West Grant defeated them 4-3. Team members were Tom Kahle, Mark Hanke, Kevin Genelin, Mike Konkol, Tom O’Malley, Mike Genelin, Todd Jelinek, Tim DeBels, Darryl Brunner, Tony DeBels, Jeff Dallmann, Dan Calhoun, Mike Olson, Bob Siesennop, and Tom Paulson.
1977 was Bill Gregor’s second trip to the state tournament. Although the team did not win conference, they peaked at the right time, as they earned a regional title and sectional title with a 3-1 win over Lakeland. However, at state they would drop a 4-2 game to Menominee Falls North. Team members were Keith Goode, Dan Calhoun, Tom Paulson, Darryl Brunner, Brad Thomas, Tom Arnott, Marty Lemke, Steve Zehner, Art Hilgendorf, Brian Fish, Ray Dieter, Rick Thone, Dave Derleth, and Todd Cottrell.
1980 saw Al Overhaug in his third year as head coach take the Hatchets to the state tournament. With a losing record going into playoffs, Tomahawk defeated Augusta 4-3. In this game, Augusta had two on with no outs in the 7th. John DuPlayee, who was playing second base, grabbed a line drive and tagged second base for an unassisted double play to make the victory possible. Then, in the sectional finals game, Tomahawk defeated Lakeland for the first time all season by a score of 26-9. Tomahawk had 20 hits. Leading the way was Craig Madlung, Larry VanStrydonk, Jeff Olson, and John DuPlayee, who were 3-4, while Brian DuPlayee was 2-4 with two home runs. Dan Hoover was 3-5. Lakeland had earlier in the season defeated Tomahawk 8-0 and 8-6. At state, Greendale would get the best of Tomahawk 15-0. Team members were Jerry VanStrydonk, Larry VanStrydonk, Mike Burke, John DuPlayee, Brian DuPlayee, Alan Lemke, Ed Derleth, Dan Hoover, Lee Throm, Craig Madlung, Jamie Gerber, Jeff Olson, Mark VanStryonk, Troy Evans, Jeff Zehner, and Mark Myre.
1985 was Al Overhaug’s second trip to state. While Tomahawk did not win the conference title, they were regional champions, sectional champions, and a state entry. It was noted that at sectionals Tim Leggett picked up his seventh win of the year, helping Tomahawk to an 11-2 victory. In the sectional finals game, Tomahawk defeated conference champion Ashland by a score of 7-6. At state, Tomahawk was defeated by Greendale 11-2. Team members were Lenny Scholz, Jim Calhoun, Bob Soward, Tim Leggett, Tom Siesennop, Dan Morren, Todd Leverance, Pat Goulee, Dave Schoone, Ron Haring, Jeff Swan, Paul Hagen, Craig Brimacombe, Bryan Gudgeon, Gregg Gaedtke, Bill Turgeon, Art Steinhafel, Dave Powers, and Joe DuPlayee.
1991 saw John Brottlund and Bob Skubal lead Tomahawk to a 15-5 record and co-conference championship, regional championship, sectional championship, and the state tournament. Noted that the sectional finals game saw Tomahawk face co-conference champion Lakeland and defeat them 4-2 behind the pitching arm of Jason Gaedtke, who threw a six-hitter. At state, Tomahawk once again could not get past the first round when they were defeated 3-1 by Unity. Team members were Jesse Theiler, Jeff DuPlayee, Adam Felser, Todd Timm, Jason Gaedtke, Scott Towle, Jim Carney, Erik Halverson, Jason Thayer, Dave Jones, Chad Beiler, Jason Timm, Jason Plachetka, Chris Towle, Otto Dilba, Greg Dirkx, Jason Welke, and Matt Anderson.
1992 was a memorable season for Tomahawk baseball. Coaches Brottlund and Skubal produced a 14-7 season. THS earned another regional championship, sectional championship and was state runner-up. THS had been to state several times in the past, but had never won a game or gotten beyond the first round. History was being made that season. When Tomahawk defeated New Holstein 7-3, it was the first win at state for any Tomahawk baseball team. That first win was followed up by a 5-3 win over Platteville and an appearance in the state finals, where THS would be defeated 3-0 by Unity. Members of the 1992 team were Jason Plachetka, Jim Carney, Chris Towle, Erik Halverson, John Callahan, Tim Gaedtke, Andy Skubal, Jason Gaedtke, Adam Felser, Greg Dirkx, Matt Anderson, Scott Denetz, Jack Greil, Pete Petta, Dave Jones, Scott Towle, Jason Timm, Jason Welke, Erik Steuernagel, Jim Verbist, and Tim Albert.