SUN PRAIRIE — Sun Prairie senior catcher Josh Caron stood in the batter’s box and already looked comfortable and locked in at the plate.
And it’s just the first week of the spring baseball season.
Caron, the Cardinals’ No. 3 hitter, hit a double and home run and drove in three runs in leading host and top-ranked Sun Prairie to a 14-4 five-inning Big Eight Conference victory over Madison La Follette on Thursday night.
Baseball wasn’t played last year because the WIAA canceled spring competitions and the state tournament series due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were super eager to play,” said Caron, a Nebraska commit on a team filled with college recruits. “Obviously, we weren’t able to play last year. It’s been a really long offseason. I can speak for a lot of the guys, they’ve been working really hard and were eager to get out here. We have a great ballclub.”
Caron doubled to the base of the left-field fence, driving in the game’s first two runs in the first inning. He unloaded a solo homer to dead-center field in the fourth inning, increasing the Cardinals’ lead to 7-0.
He was 4-for-6 in two victories against the Lancers this week, following the Cardinals’ 17-3 win Tuesday.
“I have no complaints at the plate,” said the 6-foot, 220-pound Caron, who did a nice job framing pitches behind the plate and also pitched an inning of relief. “Back in my sophomore year, I thought I started out pretty hot, too. I just am looking to keep this going. I don’t want to cool off.”
Sun Prairie (2-0 overall and Big Eight), ranked No. 1 in the PrepBaseballReport.com’s preseason state rankings, had 13 hits and opened an 11-0 lead against La Follette (0-2, 0-2).
“It was a good day to hit with the wind blowing out, but I don’t want to take anything away from our kids,” Sun Prairie coach Rob Hamilton said. “They do a nice job of taking pitches that are close. They don’t extend the strike zone. They wait and are patient to get pitches they can hit hard and barrel up.”
Four of the Cardinals’ starters — junior second baseman Davis Hamilton, senior first baseman Carter Wambach, junior right fielder Addison Ostrenga and senior left fielder Brady Stevens — also are playing football in the WIAA’s alternate season this spring.
Rob Hamilton and Sun Prairie football coach Brian Kaminski have coordinated practice schedules during the recent overlap of the seasons, permitting the four players to compete in each sport.
“We always try to keep saying that for the kids’ best interest, let’s try to make sure they can do both sports and not have to choose,’’ Hamilton said. “Credit to our kids. They put in two tough weeks of doing both sports ... All four of them have been successful on the diamond and the football field.”
Davis Hamilton’s two-run single to center gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. The first of senior third baseman Liam Moreno’s two doubles then scored Hamilton, boosting Sun Prairie’s lead to 5-0.
The Cardinals scored four times in the second for a 6-0 lead and added five runs in the fourth for an 11-0 advantage.
Sun Prairie starting pitcher Ethan Petsch blanked the Lancers through 3 2/3 innings.
La Follette got within 11-4 with four runs in the top of the fifth, starting with senior left fielder Grady Roth’s run-scoring single.
“Our kids are going to compete, for sure,” La Follette coach Nate Verhage said. “We have gritty kids. They are going to go out there and give it their best effort. I appreciate that about them. Sun Prairie is the class of the state, for sure. That is one of the best offensive lineups that I’ve seen as a high school coach in my 13 years. You don’t get a lot of breaks when the (No.) seven hitter (Ostrenga) is going to Iowa.”
Sun Prairie answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth, ending the game due to the 10-run rule. Ostrenga and senior Isaac Frausto singled in runs, wrapping up the victory.