By Murray Gleffe
ASHWAUBENON-The Ashwaubenon A’s will be heading to Baraboo and the 2018 Legion AA State Baseball tournament after capturing the regional championship by a final of 12-2 over the Ahnapee Trailblazers Sunday evening (July 22) at Ashwaubomay Park.
The A’s defeated Kewaunee County in game two by a final of 2-0 behind the exquisite pitching of Logan Blazek.
Ashwaubenon then had a three hour turn around facing a familiar foe in Ahnapee to determine who would come out of Region 3.
The A’s turned to Ben Wendorf on the mound and the Trailblazers didn’t waste any time finding the hitting zone.
Four of the first five batters for Ahnapee connected on singles.
The latter was by Jeager Brusley which sent Anthony Moore home giving the road team an early 1-0 lead.
Wendorf got a ground out by Tanner DeGrave but not before Ryan Jacobsen came home to score to push the lead to 2-0 for the Trailblazers.
“I think Ben felt the pressure a bit early knowing the magnitude of the game,” said Ben Perry, A’s Head Coach. “He gave up those hits right out of the gate but then settled down to get three outs.”
The A’s answered back in the bottom of the first with two runs of their own.
Will Adair singled to left field and took second with a stolen base.
Jeremy Cox then took the batters box and hit a base hit scoring Adair.
After Cox was thrown out at second, and Michael Rottier struck out, Blazek hit a key single to center field to keep the inning alive!
Riley Siudzinski and Brady Wittig both walked loading the bases.
Ian MacLean battled an 0-2 count to a full count and eventually landed himself a walk.
It sent Blazek home and evened the game at two apiece.
The four runs by both teams was just an appetizer for what was to happen in the second.
Wendorf survived the top half of the second by giving up two additional hits but no runs setting up the ‘magical inning’ for the A’s.
In all, the A’s had 11 players get an at bat and the Trailblazers went through two pitching changes.
The inning started innocently enough with two base on balls to Karch Van Dalen and Adair.
Then Cox put down a sublime bunt loading the bases.
As good as Rottier’s pitching is, his offense often goes unnoticed.
He connected on a single that went over the center fielders head scoring Van Dalen and Adair.
It gave Ashwaubenon a 4-2 lead.
They were just getting their feet wet.
Blazek then uncorked a hanging curve ball for a double into left field scoring Cox and Rottier.
Suddenly, the atmosphere became electric in the dugout and behind the fence.
Pitch after pitch was hit with relative ease by the A’s
No matter what type of slump you might have been in, the second inning produced all-state hitting from seamlessly everyone.
Meanwhile, the Trailblazers players, coaches, and fans looked stunned at the events that were unfolding.
Four more runs were added, and the A’s took a 10-2 unequivocal lead after two innings.
As the game wore on, Wendorf continued to find his groove with his slider and fast ball. He struck out four batters in the third and fourth combined.
After Ahnapee went scoreless in the top of the fifth and the A’s still holding a comfortable eight run lead, they knew if they notched two they would go to State based on the 10-run rule.
After Cox walked and Blazek was hit by a pitch, there was a definite possibility the end was not so far away.
After Derik LeCaptain retired two batters, A’s catcher Wittig connected on a base hit that scored Cox.
Ian MacLean then delivered the shot that sent the A’s into a frenzy.
“Ian has stepped up for us in such key situations the past couple of days,” Perry said. “He put us over the top today with that single.”
His shot just squirted through the infield.
Ashton Steinike, who was pinch running for Blazek, crossed home plate and after the throw was late by the Trailblazers short stop, the A’s had captured the Regional Championship on their home turf.
“We got some tremendous pitching by Michael, Logan, and Ben in the three games,” Perry added. “We knew if we got our bats going a bit we could win this thing.”
The A’s (16-9 record) will play the Red Robins of Antigo July 27 in the opening round of the State Tournament.
Ashwaubenon handed Antigo a 6-5 loss earlier in the season.
“I’m just so proud of these guys right now,” said Perry. “We’re not done yet. I’m happy that we are one of eight teams down at State, but we feel like if we play well on both sides we can compete with anybody.”