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Fischer wins it for De Pere in eighth with sac fly

By Greg Bates
Correspondent


DE PERE – As Bennett Spaeth retreated to third base, he made eye contact with his coach, Bob Van Rens.

Both guys knew the enormity of the situation.

“Bennett looked back at me, and I said, ‘You’re going,’” VanRens said. “We weren’t waiting around.”

The De Pere senior tagged up, and as soon the Ashwaubenon left fielder caught the ball, Spaeth ran the 90 feet to home plate.

After he slid in safely, his teammates erupted onto the field as Spaeth and fellow hero Wyatt Fischer were mobbed.

De Pere pulled off a victory in dramatic fashion in extra innings.

Fischer’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth was the difference as No. 2-seeded De Pere earned a 5-4 victory at home over No. 3 Ashwaubenon in a WIAA Division I regional final Thursday, June 17.

“I can’t explain how much fun it was,” Fischer said about the postgame celebration. “I knew it was going to come because JP (Gauthier) goes, ‘Everyone get the water. Whoever hits this is getting mobbed.’ And I was like, well, I guess now it’s my shot.”

Fischer was drenched while he talked about his late-game heroics.

It was a win for the ages for De Pere, but it didn’t come easy.

The Redbirds squandered two-run leads on two occasions, overcame a lengthy weather delay and almost let Ashwaubenon steal the victory in the top of the eighth when it left the bases loaded.

Both teams had multiple shots to win and advance.

“That was a tough game, playing, getting a lead, giving it up and then we have to go sit out for an hour,” Van Rens said. “I give lots of credit to the guys the way they came back and battled. That was a fun, energetic high school baseball game. I give lots of credit to Ashwaubenon – they did a nice job.”

Ashwaubenon head coach Jay Krueger agreed.

“Both teams battled,” he said. “We have a young team. and this team is right there to start stepping up and growing. This was about growth today. You saw the gutty performance from our players.”

De Pere – which beat conference foe Ashwaubenon twice during the regular season, 10-0 and 6-3 – plated single runs in the first and second innings on sacrifice flies by Gauthier and Luke Brosig.

Ashwaubenon (14-8) tied it 2-2 in the fourth when Eason Hurd stroked a two-out, two-RBI single.

The Redbirds (21-3) took the lead back in the bottom of the inning after Austin Litts drove in Garrett Foth with a single, and Brosig laced a single to score Litts.

But the Jaguars weren’t done.

A Matt Schuch single plated Clayton Monfils, and Hurd followed with a double to bring in Schuch to make it 4-4 in the sixth.

Then, a series of lightning strikes set in motion a delay as the rain came in.

Because both teams wanted to get the game in because sectionals are Monday, June 21, and the coaches desire to have their pitchers rested, both teams waited.

After an 82-minute halt, play resumed.

De Pere relief pitcher Hunter Pribek got out of a jam, stranding an Ashwaubenon runner at third base in the top of the sixth.

The game went into extra innings as Ashwaubenon’s Monfils singled to lead off the eighth, but the next two hitters were struck out by Pribek.

Hurd singled, and Brady Wittig walked to load the bases for No. 3 hitter Mack Crowley.

Pribek induced a ground ball back to himself to strand all three runners and keep the game tied.

Ashwaubenon left 11 runners on base – six in scoring position – for the game.

“We needed one hit at the right time,” Krueger said. “We needed that clutch hit; we didn’t get it.”

Missed opportunities for Ashwaubenon opened the door for De Pere, and the Redbirds took advantage.

“With Bennett leading off in that bottom of the eighth, the umpires told us this would be our last inning with the darkness – possibly moving to a different ballpark – and I said, ‘Guys, we have to win it,’” VanRens said. “I felt confident with those guys because they’ve been good all year with Bennett, Quinn Falish and Gauthier. With those guys coming up, we were going to get quality at-bats.”

Spaeth stroked a single to get the Redbirds going.

“I wanted to get on base, and I knew (the pitcher) was slow to the plate the whole game,” Spaeth said. “That was my first time on the basepaths the whole game, so I waited one pitch to see what it was like and then I went.”

Spaeth got a good jump trying to steal second.

He saw the ball sail into centerfield and he raced into third, sliding in safely with nobody out.

Ashwaubenon’s Crowley – who pitched all seven-plus innings – opted to intentionally walk De Pere’s Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, Falish and Gauthier, to bring up Fischer.

“At first, I didn’t know they walked the first two guys, so I was going up and was like, what is everyone talking about?” Fischer said. “But then after they said, ‘OK, Wyatt. You’re up.’ I knew I had to hit it to the outfield. I trust Bennett enough to tag up and go; he’s fast enough to make it home.”

Fischer got a fastball outside and pushed it in the air to the left side.

The ball wasn’t too deep in the outfield, but Van Rens was sending Spaeth.

“It was awesome,” Spaeth said about scoring the winning run. “I thought for a second my senior season might have been over. It’s surreal knowing we still have more practices to go to. At the same time, it’s bittersweet because it’s the last time all of us seniors are going to be playing a game on this field.”

Pribek picked up the win for De Pere, not allowing a run in three innings of relief.

“Hunter is a bulldog on the mound, and we know that,” Van Rens said. “Having him out on the mound, we felt confident. He was controlling the game.”

The win puts De Pere into a sectional semifinal against top-seeded Bay Port.

The game will be played at Appleton East Monday at 1 p.m.

Bay Port beat De Pere twice during the regular season, 3-2 and 5-2.

The winner of the semifinal game will play in the sectional final Monday at 4 p.m.

“This (game) makes us trust each other more, and it gives us more confidence going into the Bay Port game,” Fischer said. “I trust we can beat them this time.”

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