The Beaver Dam prep baseball team will have a new coach next season for only the second time in the last half-century.
Former BD player and current guidance counselor Nate Wilke will take over in the Golden Beavers’ dugout in 2018, succeeding Joe Loizzo, who stepped aside after 15 seasons. Loizzo took over in 2003 from Charlie McDonald, who had run the Beaver Dam program since 1967.
McDonald won 451 games in 36 years, and Loizzo picked up right where McDonald left off, winning 212 games in his career, which included a 16-9 record in his final season.
“I think that shows how successful our program has been,” Wilke said. “I think we’ve won more conference championships for any program in the school. The history is definitely there with Charlie McDonald and Joe Loizzo. Then, also, with Terry Kieffer, he’s been here, I think going into his 40th year. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful is the stability.
“Charlie is a Hall of Fame coach and Joe is a Hall of Fame coach, so I know the footsteps I’m following are big, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of it.”
Wilke definitely has the experience to be the head coach too.
He played on the varsity team in BD in 1989-90, although he said he didn’t really have a set position. Depending on who was pitching, he would either play in the outfield or the infield. That seemed to work as he helped the Beavers earn an Little Ten Conference championship both seasons.
He didn’t have a set position until he got to college. He started out at North Dakota in the ’91 season before transferring to UW-La Crosse, where he played outfield for three seasons.
“I’m from Beaver Dam and I played for Beaver Dam back in ’89 and ’90,” Wilke said. “I love Beaver Dam baseball. I guess this is kind of a dream job for me, being a former player, coming back being able to coach. Being Joe’s assistant and working with Terry Kieffer for the last 16 years, it was always my goal to someday take it over when Joe was done.
“That’s why I applied.”
There will be a lot of new challenges for the first-year head coach. There will be new faces on the team and almost entirely new faces in opposing dugouts. The Little Ten Conference has been dissolved and Beaver Dam is joining the Badger North Conference, meaning a completely different set of league opponents.
“It will be different, especially with me growing up in the Little Ten Conference. It will be weird playing some of the different teams and not playing the Oconomwocs and the Hartfords and all them, but it’s a change of coaches and a change of conference, so it will be a lot of changes,” Wilke said. “But I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be a good fit for us in the Badger Conference. I think we will be competitive. I think we’ve lost a lot from last year, but I think we’ve got a lot of talent coming back.
“I’m looking forward to doing well in the Badger North and shooting for a conference championship like we always do in our program.”
Wilke has been a member of the Golden Beavers coaching staff for the duration of Loizzo’s career as head coach. He was a varsity assistant from 2003-04 before becoming the JV head coach from 2005-09, and returned to the varsity team as an assistant from 2010-17.
Wilke normally worked with the players on their batting as well as working with the outfielders each season and hopes to keep it the same moving forward.
“I’d imagine I would work with the hitters and hopefully fill the staff with a lot of the guys we’ve had in the past,” Wilke said, expressing strong support for bringing back all of Beaver Dam’s current assistant coaches. “We have a great staff.”
Willke is looking forward to the next challenge for himself and the Beavers next season.
“Growing up in Beaver Dam and as a kid watching Beaver Dam baseball, it’s a dream job for me,” Wilke said. “It’s a dream come true and I’m really excited about it.”