In 35 years as an amateur baseball coach, Burt Ekern has never witnessed a performance like this.
Even with a pair of Wisconsin Baseball Association state championships Chaseburg/Coon Valley won during his tenure in 1985 and 2007, Ekern said watching the Blues win 27 of their first 30 games is pretty special.
C/CV split two games at the NBC Tournament on Saturday, but it left Menasha, Wis., with a runner-up finish that demonstrates its large collection of talent.
“We’ve been solid on everything conceivable,” said Ekern, who has been coaching Chaseburg and Chaseburg/Coon Valley since 1978.
“The defense has been good all year, as well as the pitching and the hitting. It’s been pretty consistent. Everything is above average and our record shows it.”
The Blues, 8-0 and leading the Mississippi Valley League, had a 23-game winning streak snapped by Kewaskum in Menasha.
With 19 players, Ekern credits the string of success to the depth throughout both the batting order and pitching staff.
“It’s probably the most depth I’ve ever had,” Ekern said.
That’s saying something, considering C/CV has won 500 games since 1978.
“We have 12 or 13 guys I’m not scared to put in the lineup, and when they are in there, they produce,” said Ekern, who said his starting pitching staff runs seven or eight deep. “It’s tough to decide who to play each day.”
One of the easiest decisions for Ekern has been putting Logan High School graduate and former La Crosse Logger Travis Check in the No. 3 slot of the order.
Check, in his first season with the Blues, batted .544 through the first 26 games, leading the team in RBI (32) and doubles (9), with only two strikeouts.
“That average is pretty awesome for this point in the season,” Ekern said
The team’s oldest player, 32-year-old Matt Hoff, is batting .432, despite taking some good-natured ribbing from the younger guys on the team.
“They give him heck all the time, but he likes to play, and he’s probably got the best swing on the team,” Ekern said of Hoff, who is second on the team in RBI.
Also playing key roles are six players from UW-La Crosse, which won the WIAC regular season and postseason tournament this spring.
Those Eagles players include Brett Jacobson, Jay Fanta, Garrett Scray, Tim Larson, Corey Geary and Ben Cejka.
“That’s a good program, and they’re pretty good players,” Ekern said.
While many of the Blues’ games are against teams from around the Coulee Region, Chaseburg/Coon Valley has traveled to face teams from Eau Claire, Rochester, Minn., and Austin, Minn.
“We’re not just beating up on our league. We’ve played the bigger towns, too,” Ekern said.
The goal is to have the team peaking by the WBA tournament, which begins Aug. 17.
With more than three decades of experience and two state titles, Ekern said this team compares favorably to his state title team in 2007.
“We’ve also had some good teams that haven’t won state,” Ekern said, “but this team is better.”