Jake Wiedower has shown he’s good at a number of different skills, including cultural adviser.
When he arrived as a freshman at St. Francis, the athletics programs weren’t anywhere close to where they are now. As a senior, he helped engineer a season that landed the Mariners on the spring state rankings at one point, and he capped his career as Midwest Classic Conference Player of the Year and a member of the 2016 All-Suburban Baseball Team.
“He is one of the best well-rounded student-athletes I have come across,” St. Francis coach Jared Kwiatkowski said. “He’s getting great grades while playing three sports and excelled at all of them. Before the last couple of years, St. Francis clearly struggled at baseball. Jake took the lead and changed the culture of the program by his leadership on and off the field.
“People would always give reasons why we started winning the last couple of years, but I know the reason as the coach. It was Jake’s leadership and hard work that kept us going and winning games.”
Wiedower, who also quarterbacked the football team as it contended for a MCC title, batted .543 with 26 RBIs, a .625 on-base percentage and 15 stolen bases. On the hill, he posted a 1.35 ERA with 84 strikeouts. As a shortstop, he was the rock of the defense as his team won 19 games.
“Going in there, I don’t think they had won a game for a couple years,” said Wiedower, who arrived when St. Francis was still struggling to compete in the Woodland Conference of summer baseball. “My first two years, we didn’t win a game at all. It didn’t really feel like a team. We had two different coaches, and (during) my junior season we were supposed to have a coach, but he left the school. Coach K became my coach and we got a couple new kids, and everything kind of fell into place. Switching conferences helped, but the team attitude and chemistry changed all of a sudden. We carried that to the field.”
Wiedower was a team captain each of the past two seasons and will play baseball at Whitewater next year. Baseball wasn’t the only sport that underwent a culture change.
“The senior class in general really pushed that,” Wiedower said. “There were a few guys who kind of drove that for the team. Football was great, actually competing and having to go out there and prepare yourself for big games every Friday night.
“I think the true character comes out more on the baseball field because it’s not as fast. You have to take it step by step, think about it, and that’s what I’m good at."
Pitching and hitting
Wiedower admitted seeing his team pop up in the area rankings was a thrill for the team.
“It’s good to know all the work we pot in throughout the entire ear paid off,” Wiedower said. “It’s cool to walk back into the school and everyone talking to you wanting to know what they can do to get better. I still work out there, and guys ask me ways they can improve.”
Kwiatkowski said he could rely on Wiedower to pitch all seven innings in his starts, affording the Mariners flexibility on the mound.
“He threw hard, got the strikeouts which gave rest to our defense,” Kwiatkowski said. “He had a good mixture of pitches that he used to throw off batters. He was a focused pitcher who used his power but also used his baseball IQ to improve as the game went on.”
At the plate, Kwiatkowski said Wiedower could “hit the gaps with authority.” He only struck out four times in 2016.
“He then scored 40 runs by using his baserunning skills and speed – and he went through three pairs of pants this year,” Kwiatkowski said. “Every time there was a key situation, where we needed a hit, I wanted Jake at the plate. His plate discipline allowed him to get good pitches and get the hits.”