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Jul. 8—Walker Retz was used to being a major contributor on the mound.

So when a minor injury kept him off the hill for a short stretch early in the season, the Boyceville senior knew he needed to adapt.

“I knew I kind of had to transform into more of a batter to help the team out,” he said. “It was all about helping the team, and I knew that’s what I needed to do.”

He’d already had success at the plate in his prep career, batting .380 with a couple of home runs as a sophomore. But those numbers are paltry when compared to the ones the slugger posted as a senior.

Retz hit .532 and clubbed 14 doubles, four triples and six homers as an infielder for a juggernaut Bulldogs team. It was certainly enough to reach his goal of being a contributor and then some.

“I couldn’t really give an exact reason, but I think it’s because I knew I had to step up for the team while I was still recovering,” he said.

His bat made a big difference. And so did his arm when he stepped back on the mound after a short absence. He was 6-0 with a 0.51 ERA and 84 strikeouts as a pitcher.

Retz starred on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs, helping the program win its first state championship by bringing home the Division 4 title last week.

He’s already been named a second team all-state pick by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association. Now he’s the Leader-Telegram All-Area player of the year too.

“It’s rare to have a kid like that at a small school,” Boyceville coach Michael Roemhild said. “When Walker came up to the plate, we knew we were going to get a good at-bat out of him. If there were people on base, we knew there was a good chance we were going to score. Knowing that confidence you can have in a high school athlete, and then when he gets on the mound you have that too, you can’t ask for more as a coach.”

Retz thrived in big-game situations, dominating on the mound in the most important contests of the season.

First he shut out top-ranked Webster in a 14-0 romp in the sectional finals, holding the mighty Tigers to four hits while striking out eight to send the Bulldogs to state.

Then he followed with an even better showing in the state championship game. The righty mowed down Rosholt, keeping another Division 4 powerhouse off the scoreboard in a 4-0 win. He pitched a complete game one-hitter, striking out 13 with a state title on the line.

“That shows that he’s ready for the next step in his baseball career,” Roemhild said. “He’s ready to be done with high school baseball. I’m not ready for him to be done — I wish I could have him for another year or two — but seeing how he handled those pressure situations shows me, as a coach, he’s going to be just fine moving on to the next level of baseball.”

That next level will be in the Division I ranks of college ball. He’ll pitch for the University of St. Thomas next year.

Even with all eyes on him as a pitcher in those pressure-packed games, Retz didn’t feel it. To him, they were just another day at the park.

“I really didn’t feel much pressure,” Retz said. “I think that was one of the reasons I played summer ball with a really competitive team. We traveled a lot and when you play travel ball with a team like that, it’s like every game is a playoff game. So if anything it just helped me dial in.”

For good measure, he went 7 for 8 as a hitter across the final three games of his high school career.

As he showed all year, Retz was the total package. And he was a big reason the Bulldogs brought home the gold from Fox Cities Stadium. It was the first championship in three trips to state for Boyceville, and the perfect way to close out this chapter of his baseball career.

“That means a lot,” Retz said. “I saw that the town of Boyceville and all the little kids really looked up to the team. I don’t know how many autographs I signed that night (at state), but I really didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I started seeing people and they came up to shake my hand. That kind of made me realize that it was bigger than baseball.”