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Sophomores help Bay Port come from behind in win over Jags

By Greg Bates

ASHWAUBENON – As the ball sailed past a diving third baseman, Craig Kabat lost his emotions as he went down the line and rounded first base.

The Bay Port sophomore watched his teammate touch home plate with the go-ahead run.

“I was going crazy,” Kabat said. “I was about to pass out from yelling so much. I was riled up. It got the team fired up.”

Craig Kabat

The single by Kabat gave Bay Port its first lead of a marathon game, 3-2, in the top of the 11th inning against rival Ashwaubenon.

In the bottom of the frame, Bay Port had another sophomore come up clutch.

Southpaw Ethan Plog — in his sixth inning of relief work — allowed Ashwaubenon to get two runners on, but he got the final out when he needed it.

No. 7-seeded Bay Port came through with a 3-2 victory in 11 innings, upsetting second-seeded Ashwaubenon in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 regional final Thursday at Ashwaubomay Memorial River Park.

“We gave them a couple runs early, kicking the ball around a little bit, not getting a hit, leaving guys on base,” Bay Port Head Coach Harvey Knutson said. “But this team has done this all season. It’s been an up and down season, but the senior leadership and their desire to not quit has fueled us.”

For Ashwaubenon, it was a game of missed opportunities.

The Jaguars, which earned an opening-round bye in the postseason after winning the Fox River Classic Conference, stranded 12 runners on base.

Eight of those guys were left in scoring position.

Ashwaubenon also squandered leadoff hits in the fifth and 10th innings and couldn’t get the key hit to drive the runs home.

Following the game, Ashwaubenon Head Coach Jay Krueger declined an interview request from The Press Times.

Bay Port kept the Ashwaubenon hitters in check most of the game.

Kabat threw the first 5 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits.

Plog went the final 5 2/3 innings and didn’t surrender a run in scattering four hits.

“We had brought him up to try to put him in the right situations early on, and he’s done an amazing job,” Knutson said about Plog. “You wouldn’t be able to tell he’s a sophomore and doesn’t have a ton of varsity experience. For him to come in and pitch that many innings and that many pitches — I don’t even know what he threw — but at no point did he look tired or walking guys or giving up a ton of hits.”

Plog said his fastball made the difference in the game.

“I was working the fastball in and out, putting it out of the zone where they can’t get it because I know last time we played them they couldn’t hit off my fastball,” he said.

Ethan Plog

Ashwaubenon (18-6) scored a run in the second inning off a Bay Port error.

The Jaguars tallied their second run the following inning on a two-out, wild pitch strikeout as Eli Zollar came around to score.

Bay Port (17-9), which stranded six runners on base in the first four innings, finally broke through in the fifth.

Ky Mueller stroked a two-out single and advanced to second on an error.

Brandon Black hit a ball to center field that was misplayed, and Mueller came around to score.

The run cut Ashwaubenon’s lead in half, 2-1.

Ashwaubenon led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a triple by Caden VanDuyse.

However, the next three hitters were retired by Kabat to waste a golden opportunity for the Jaguars.

Bay Port got just three hits off Ashwaubenon starting pitcher Mack Crowley before he was pulled in the top of the seventh inning for Eason Hurd.

John Nickel opened the inning by reaching base on a throwing error — Ashwaubenon’s fourth error of the game.

Cal Casper bunted over Nickel to second base.

The next hitter Mueller hit a single to center to bring home Nickel to tie it.

In extra innings, neither team mounted much of a scoring threat until the 10th.

Ashwaubenon catcher Boone Kirst singled to lead off the inning and stole second base as Josh Witt struck out for the second out.

Crowley hit a deep fly ball to the left-field track that was caught.

On the first pitch of the 11th, Grant Gill laced a double to left.

Luke Bartolazzi, who was picked off earlier in the game, was inserted as a courtesy runner.

The potential winning run was sacrificed to second base by Connor LaBar on a groundout.

That brought up No. 9 hitter Kabat.

“I was sitting on anything in the zone,” Kabat said. “Anything there I was swinging. And I did, and it got through. It worked. I was happy it did.”

Plog confidently walked out to the mound in the bottom of the 11th knowing his team was three outs away from pulling off the come-from-behind victory.

“I felt like nobody could hit off me,” Plog said. “I had the ultimate ego boost there. I was trying to get them out and celebrate with my teammates.”

The first two Ashwaubenon hitters were retired before Matt Schuch and VanDuyse hit back-to-back singles.

Hurd came to the plate with a chance to tie or win the game, but he was retired as the Bay Port players celebrated the win.

“It means a lot to us,” Plog said about getting the postseason victory. “I know we’re not done yet, but this win was one of our hardest ones. I’m happy we pulled it off.”

Bay Port will next face No. 3-seeded Hortonville in a sectional semifinal Tuesday, June 7, at 4 p.m.

The winner of that game will advance to the sectional final that evening at 7 p.m. against the winner of Kimberly/De Pere, who play at 1 p.m. the same day.

In a stroke of luck, the Pirates are hosting the sectional, so it will possibly have two home games for a chance to return to state.

“It’s nice to keep going,” Knutson said. “It’s nice we’re back at our place. I don’t care who we’re playing – I’m just glad we’re practicing tomorrow and getting a chance to play in a sectional again — these kids deserve it.”

Sports editor’s note: CLICK HERE to read about De Pere’s 12-3 regional final victory over Appleton North

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