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Bay Port wins nail-biter over Kimberly, heading to state

By Murray Gleffe

APPLETON – No lead was safe in this game.

With everything on the line, the Bay Port baseball team withstood three Kimberly comebacks to hang on for an 8-7 victory in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Division 1 sectional final game June 21 at Bill Radke Field on the campus of Appleton East High School.

“Wow,” Harvey Knutson, Bay Port head coach, said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You can’t afford to make mistakes against quality programs. We found a way down the stretch to win.”

Bay Port has made 12 previous appearances to the state tournament – the last in 2015.

Gavin Rusch pitched 3 1/3 innings, while Eli Frank went the final 3 2/3 innings on the mound for the Pirates.

Matt Perry had three hits, as Bay Port continually had its bats working.

“I did everything I could to get us back to state,” Perry said. “Our third inning propelled us to victory. Everybody on this team believed we would get to the finish line no matter how difficult it was.”

Jacob Kleeman was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first.

Theo Zeidler then doubled to give the Pirates the opening run of the game.

“Theo does everything so well,” Knutson said. “Everybody looks at his pitching, but he’s an incredible hitter as well.”

Meanwhile, Rusch retired the first six batters he faced.

In the bottom of the second, the Pirates added to their total.

Perry and Kleeman hit back-to-back doubles to score Perry.

Carl Cano then took first on an errant throw by the Papermakers’ third basemen to give Bay Port a 3-0 lead.

Kimberly responded with three runs of their own to even the contest in the top of the third.

It could have been more if not for the solid defense of the Pirates outfield.

“I tell those guys, ‘I don’t care how you make the catches, but you’re the best in the FRCC (Fox River Classic Conference,’” Knutson said about his three outfielders. “They make the plays when it counts.”

In a series of runs, the Pirates responded in the bottom of the third with Frank, James Bornick, Perry and Kleeman crossing the plate to swell their lead to 7-3.

Later, with the Pirates holding a precarious 7-5 lead, Logan VanLaanen hit a chopper to the Kimberly shortstop who couldn’t make the throw in time, bringing Perry home for an 8-5 lead.

With their backs to the wall, the Papermakers didn’t go down without a fight.

Jake Huntington and Colin Obermann both singled in the top of the seventh.

The next batter, Cam Miller, took first off a Pirates error, which scored a run to cut the lead to 8-6.

A subsequent single by Josh Bailey brought home another run home to trim the Bay Port lead to a single run with two runners on base.

With a 3-2 count to Brandon Carew, Frank perhaps threw the most important pitch of his career – a strike to end the game.

“Not having a season last year affected us,” Perry said, holding back tears. “We put in so much work to get to this point. I’m happy for my fellow seniors. However, we are not done yet.”

Bay Port is one of eight teams to take part in the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.

The quarterfinals will be Friday, June 25, at Herr-Baker Stadium in Fond du Lac, while the semifinals and finals will be Thursday, July 1, at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.

Box score

Kimberly: 003 200 2 — 7

Bay Port: 124 010 x — 8

Zeidler’s big shots lift Pirates over Redbirds

APPLETON – Theo Zeidler connected on two doubles in the third and fourth innings to lift Bay Port to an 8-1 victory over De Pere in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal game earlier in the day.

Zeidler pitched six innings, giving up one run for the Pirates.

Eli Frank garnered the save, going the final inning.

Scoreless in the bottom of the third, the Pirates struck in big fashion.

John Nickel started the inning by taking first on an infield error by the Redbirds.

Matt Perry and Jacob Kleeman put down perfect bunts to load the bases.

After a force out at home, Zeidler doubled home two runs to give Bay Port a 2-0 lead.

Later, James Bornick hit a blooper over the pitchers’ outreached glove.

An errant throw to first brought three runs across home plate for a 5-0 lead.

Gavin Rusch tripled to score an additional run for a six-run cushion.

The Pirates added two runs in the bottom of the fourth to build an insurmountable seven-run lead and moved on to play Kimberly later in the day.

Box score

De Pere: 000 100 0 — 1

Bay Port: 006 200 x — 8

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