By Alex Strouf, The Denmark News
They’ve been referred to as the best group in the state. The powerhouses of division two. The guys you don’t want to face if they’re having fun in the dugout. And of course, my personal favorite, “The Four-Headed Monster”.
The group I’m referring to is Denmark varsity baseball’s four starting pitchers–all with collegiate futures–who have been absolutely dominant this season; seniors Jack Collins, Riley Pelischek, Tanner Umentum, and Derek Van Pay.
Collins and Pelischek are both left-handed pitchers and both plan on playing baseball at the University of North Dakota next spring. Collins has been playing at the varsity level full-time since his sophomore season, while Pelischek’s first year at the varsity level was last season.
Umentum is a right-handed pitcher who’s been batting leadoff all of this season and playing the rest of his time at shortstop for the Vikings the past two seasons. Umentum is a guy Miller and Co. always want on the field, because his electric and fast-paced style is entertaining and gets the rest of the team excited. He is signed to play baseball with Chicago State University.
Van Pay, a right-handed pitcher and third baseman, is signed to play collegiate baseball at St. Cloud State, a division two school in Minnesota. He’s been batting fourth for the Vikings for the hefty majority of the past two seasons.
“We all like to have fun,” Vikings pitcher Riley Pelischek told me earlier this week, “Jack [Collins], Tanner [Umentum], and I have been friends since the beginning of middle school. [Derek] Van Pay came later, but he fit right in. We’re always there for eachother and it’s a pretty strong bond we have.”
All four of these guys can do it well on both sides of the field, but their pitching is what stands out.
Sitting with an 8-0 record, including four shutouts, Denmark is raising a lot of eyebrows. The scores, stats, and power rankings around the internet are no surprise with the recent performances by the pitchers, but the Vikings and their coaches are pleased with where they’re at, regardless, and that’s almost fully thanks to the four studs on the mound.
“The pitching has been a positive for the team thus far,” Vikings head coach Bill Miller told me this week, “The four have been sharing the bulk of the load this season, and each has been doing a great job.”
“They’ve got a lot of talent,” first-year pitching coach and fifth-year assistant coach Luke Kraschnewski told me on Tuesday, “They’re just great competitors and keep us in games. They keep this group active in practice and they’re all great leaders.”
Coming into the season, several publications were picking the Vikings as the state-favorite in division two. These were high expectations for a team that hasn’t reached the state title game in ten years. Nonetheless, the players are just focused on winning.
“Expectations, just like our coaches say, they’re just expectations,” Pelischek told me, “We can’t prove anything until we get on the field.”
Regardless of expectations, success is the path the Vikings are on with the majority of conference play quickly approaching.
“There’s always going to be a few bumps in the road,” Kraschnewski told me, “but I expect these guys to keep their heads on straight and keep fighting to help us win.”
The Vikings return home this Friday, April 24th, to play host to Kewaunee.