De Pere Legion has strong showing at Central Plains Regional
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Despite De Pere Legion Baseball manager Dan Lukes and his team living out of a hotel room for the last two weeks, the veteran leader said he would have gladly stayed on the road for another week.
“We were pretty tired,” Lukes said. “We pulled into West De Pere at 12:30 a.m. (Monday morning after regionals). With a couple of stops, the trip was nine hours on the road. At one point during a 14-day stretch, we spent 11 nights in a hotel.”
After winning the Class AAA state championship Aug. 1, De Pere (22-9) headed to the Central Plains National Regional Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug. 4-8.
“It was my sixth (regional) tournament personally, and this one was right up there with any of them,” Lukes, who also managed De Pere to state championships in 2003, 2004 and 2008, said. “The total experience was great. We played well, the park was good and the hospitality was great. In high school, after you win a state championship, that’s it. In Legion, you keep going.”
De Pere opened the regional tournament with a 4-1 loss to Renner, S.D., which put it into the loser’s bracket.
“I wouldn’t say we had a bad draw, but it was a bit unlucky,” Lukes said. “The pitcher from Renner was throwing in the low 90s and a Wichita State commit. He was 6-foot-5 and weighed 240 pounds. We had our chances early, but we couldn’t cash in. In the fourth inning, he got his breaking stuff going. I knew as long as he was in the game, we’d have a tough time scoring.”
In game two, De Pere beat Osseo, Minn., 6-5.
De Pere had a 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the third inning, but Osseo scored five runs in the bottom half of the frame to jump ahead.
De Pere scored three in the sixth to eke out the win.
“That was a big game,” Lukes said. “You never want to go two and out. When we won that game, we relaxed.”
In game three, De Pere bettered Sioux Falls East, S.D., 6-1.
Ethan Susa pitched all seven innings on the mound to garner the win.
“(Susa) pitched like he did in the state title game versus La Crosse,” Lukes said. “He scattered 10 hits but didn’t walk anybody. The one run he gave up came during the seventh inning. We played a solid team – they had won more than 40 games during the season.”
Wyatt Fischer hit a three-run homer in the third inning to help propel De Pere.
In game four, De Pere hammered the eventual regional champion Fargo, N.D., 13-0.
“Fargo came into the game 3-0 and us 2-1, so they had a game to give,” Lukes said of the double-elimination format. “We put four runs on the board in the first and another nine in the fourth.”
Benje Hencke had three hits in the victory for De Pere, while Josh Brud, Kaden Kosobucki and Luke Brosig each collected a pair of hits.
Kosobucki hit a three-run homer in the first and hit a two-RBI single in the fourth.
Hencke tripled in the fourth down the left-field line to clear the bases.
In game five, Lukes said an unlucky call helped undo his team in a 10-3 loss to Hopkins, Minn.
“We had a 3-2 lead in the fifth with two outs,” he said. “One of their guys had a check swing, and it appeared to me he went around. The base umpire said he didn’t go around, but if he had, we would have been out of the inning. From there, Hopkins scored five runs after that.”
Lukes said he was proud of his team, nonetheless.
“I don’t know if we would have beaten Fargo in the championship game, but we would have loved to play them again. After losing the first game and then winning the next three after that at a tournament like this, it was a good run – especially when we didn’t have a dominating pitcher like most of the other teams did.”
Lukes said his team was happy with how it played but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the outcome.
“They took lots of pride in what they’ve done the last two weeks,” he said. “The guys were disappointed they didn’t win, but they can’t lament what they did to get to this point. It should give the area a spark with Legion baseball.”
Kosobucki, Hencke and Fischer were each named to the all-tournament team.
Kosobucki had a tournament-high eight RBI, while Hencke, Josh Brud and Garrett Foth each had five hits in De Pere’s five games.
Lukes, the sports information director at St. Norbert College, will now focus his attention back on athletics at the college.
“There’s no rest for the weary,” Lukes said. “I won’t have a day off until probably Thanksgiving.”
Cumulative season stats
With a minimum of 60 at-bats, Austin Litts (.411), Skenandore (.357), Brud (.344), Kosobucki (.342), Foth (.296), Spaeth (.271), Fischer (.260) and Brosig (.258) all had strong seasons offensively.
Litts led the team with 39 hits, while Kosobucki clubbed five home runs and collected 26 RBI.
Skenandore was at the top in doubles (8) and total bases (48).
Fischer drew 17 walks.
On the mound, Susa started eight games and pitched all seven innings in six of those contests.
He led De Pere with a 1.57 earned-run average and went 6-1.
In 41 innings, he gave up 51 hits, 11 earned runs, struck out 27 and walked only 13.