Viterbo University’s baseball program snagged some local talent this week, as West Salem shortstop Braxton Ghelfi and Onalaska center fielder Zach Earll both signed their letters of intent.

Viterbo head coach Brian Lewis jumped at the opportunity to sign Ghelfi, who is having a dominant season for the 13-2 (8-0) Panthers.

“At the time we began recruiting Braxton we were in need of middle infielders. He came and worked out with us and he’s got very smooth hands and quick feet and a strong glove. We just fell in love with the kind of kid he is and his work ethic. I think it’s going to be a perfect fit,” Lewis said.

As for where he will play next season, Lewis said it’s hard to tell, but he’s sure there’s room.

“He’s got true shortstop skills and he runs really well and swings the bat well. I think regardless of where he is on the field he will be a main contributor even as early as his freshman year.”

Ghelfi said he knew Viterbo was the spot for him after visiting a practice.

“I went to one practice and it already felt like I was part of the team, like the guys had my back,” he said. “It’s very supportive.

He’s got big goals for his college career.

“It’s an individual sport combined with a team sport. I like being able to help out the team by doing my best. I hope that continues in college. I think we all want a conference championship and maybe even a run to the national tournament,” Ghelfi said.

Earll joined the team because the school offers his major of pre-dentistry and he appreciated Lewis.

“He was super supportive and I liked his vision for the program. I think I can reach my full potential with Coach Lewis,” Earll said.

The natural center fielder is a force in the Mississippi Valley Conference, but he said all of the personal accomplishments aren’t that important to him.

“The accolades are great but honestly its the friendships that make high school baseball special. I’ve tried to get better each season and I hope to continue that at Viterbo.” Earll said.

Lewis was more than excited to bring in Earll.

“In my opinion he is the cream of the crop for the area. He’s got Division I baseball skills and we feel very fortunate to get him. He’s a special player,” Lewis said.

“We see him being a big time player for us down the road and the sky is the limit.”

After snagging the local talent, Lewis was noticeably happy.

“It’s incredible to have all of the surrounding communities that have such talented baseball programs. For any young man that’s looking to play Division II or III baseball, we want to be able to give these local guys that chance.”


Benjamin Pierce is a news reporter for the River Valley Media Group working for three weekly newspapers that cover Bangor, Onalaska, Holmen, and West Salem in the dairy state. He also covers La Crescent in Minnesota and can be reached at 608-791-8311.

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