Editor’s note: Each day this week, the Baraboo News Republic will unveil its top 10 sports stories of 2017, as selected by its editorial staff.
7: Ginther, Kieck earn conference player of year honors
Baraboo's Tom Ginther and Emily Kieck each capped impressive four-year high school careers with huge senior seasons.
Ginther and Kieck made their mark on the Badger North Conference during the 2016-17 school year, as Ginther was named the league's baseball player of the year and Kieck was named the girls basketball player of the year.
Ginther pitched and played first base for a Baraboo baseball team that went 9-3 in conference play to share the Badger North title with Waunakee. It was the second Badger North championship in program history, joining the 2006 Baraboo team that shared the title with Portage.
Ginther carried Baraboo in the title-clinching 5-3 win at DeForest on May 18, starting on the mound and hitting a three-run home run to give the Thunderbirds the lead in the seventh inning.
“I love it when the pressure’s on,” Ginther said as the conference season was winding down in early May. “When games mean something, that’s when they’re fun to play.”
A four-year varsity starter and three-time all-conference selection, Ginther compiled an 8-2 record on the mound as a senior, posting a 2.29 ERA while batting .398 at the plate.
“He’s been our workhorse,” Baraboo baseball coach Steve Considine said prior to the 2017 season. “He’s one of the top players in the state and is just someone we’re extremely proud of.”
Ginther, who is now on the baseball team at North Dakota State, was also named a second-team All-State utility player by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association and participated in the WBCA All-Star Classic in June.
Kieck capped one of the better careers in Baraboo girls basketball history by earning her fourth first-team All-Badger North selection. The senior guard averaged 18.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game in 2016-17, receiving unanimous first-team all-conference honors for the second straight year.
"She led us in a whole lot of categories statistically, but she also led us on the court and off the court," Baraboo coach Michael Behl said after the T-Birds went 11-13 in 2016-17. "It's very well-deserved that she was unanimous."
Kieck started every game in her four years at Baraboo, averaging at least 10 points per game each year and finishing third in program history with 1,352 career points.
"Every year she's played, she progressed," Behl said. "She's worked really hard on her game in the offseason."
Kieck was also named to the 2017 Associated Press girls basketball All-State team and played in the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game in June.
Kieck has gotten her collegiate career off to a fast start at Winona (Minn.) State. The 5-foot-6 guard is averaging 5.0 points and 2.3 assists per game while playing in every game for the 9-1 Warriors.
6: Baraboo sends pair of gymnasts to state
Freshman Brittany Reuter and sophomore Jamie Runnels represented the Baraboo gymnastics team at the 2017 WIAA Division 2 individual state meet in Wisconsin Rapids in March.
Reaching state was a hurdle for the T-Birds, who had to battle to advance through a tough Baraboo sectional.
Runnels qualified on the vault for the second straight year, taking fourth place at sectionals with a score of 8.6.
“I’m so excited,” Runnels said after the sectional. “I was a little scared this year because I felt the pressure. Last year I made it, so this year I felt like I had to make it. I’m so relieved.”
Reuter qualified for her first state meet by posting a score of 7.9 on the uneven bars.
“Words can’t explain it, I’m so happy. I can’t believe I made it,” Reuter said after qualifying. “I feel so relieved because I wanted it so bad.”
The duo nearly helped Baraboo earn a berth in the team state meet, but the T-Birds finished one spot short, scoring 126.75 points to take third behind state qualifiers Dodgeville/Mineral Point (132.375) and Viroqua/Cashton/North (128.45).
Runnels, who was dealing with injuries for the last month of the season, was hoping to unveil a new vault at the state meet, but she ended up throwing a front handspring vault to ensure consistency. After a somewhat wobbly landing on the first attempt, Runnels stuck her second try to earn a score of 8.3 and take 23rd place.
Reuter had a rare fall during her uneven bars routine and was unable to find a clean finish on her layout flyaway, landing in 26th place with a score of 6.733.
“I’m just really proud of both of them,” Baraboo coach Tammy Porter said after the state meet. “I’m glad we made the return trip and hopefully next year we’ll be coming back with the team.”
5: Ramirez represents T-Birds at state wrestling
Baraboo's Pablo Ramirez reached a new level as a sophomore.
After going winless as a freshmen at the 2016 WIAA Division 1 individual state wrestling meet, Ramirez took it a step further in 2017, opening the state tournament with an 8-4 win over Sun Prairie's Tyler Nelson in the 126-pound bracket.
“I needed to win the first one, and I was in it 100 percent,” Ramirez said on Feb. 23, day one of the state meet at the Kohl Center in Madison.
“He wrestled smart, scored on his feet, got out underneath and rode the kid tough," Baraboo head coach Joe Bavlnka said that night. "In all areas of wrestling, that first match he wrestled really well.”
The win set up a quarterfinal match with Slinger junior Caleb Ziebell. Ramirez fell into an early 5-0 deficit and never fully recovered, dropping an 8-5 decision.
“I wasn’t ready in that first period,” said Ramirez, who reached state by winning his second straight sectional title. “I let him get that takedown and that changed the match.”
Ramirez's meet ended in his first match of day two. He took a 1-0 lead on D.C. Everest's Thomas Severson late in the second period, but Severson recovered and Ramirez couldn’t escape in the final seconds of a 2-1 loss that knocked him out of the consolation bracket.
The loss ended a huge sophomore season for Ramirez, who compiled a 47-7 record and won his second straight sectional title.
"When you get to that level, everyone kind of knows who you are," Bavlnka said after the sectional meet in Tomah. "So there’s some pressure on you because people have expectations. And I know Pablo sets high goals for himself, so it all comes to a point at this time of year and he wrestled well."
“It feels great. Going (to state) as a freshman felt amazing, and it feels even better going there now, two years in a row,” Ramirez said after sectionals.