Bay Port heading to state after lopsided win over De Pere
By Rich Palzewic
SUAMICO – It was an all-Fox River Classic Conference baseball sectional final June 7 at Bay Port High School, with a trip to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Division 1 State Tournament on the line.
The third time was the charm for No. 7-seeded Bay Port (19-9).
Avenging two earlier-season losses to No. 5 De Pere, the Pirates claimed a lopsided 11-2 victory before a big crowd.
Bay Port scored six runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
The Pirates sent 11 batters to the plate in the third and nine in the fourth.
The Redbirds (19-8) didn’t help their cause by committing five errors.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected this, but we did,” Bay Port Head Coach Harvey Knutson said. “We thought this was possible – we don’t consider ourselves underdogs. Our pitching was outstanding, and we took advantage of De Pere’s mistakes.”
The Pirates will be making their 14th trip to the WIAA State Tournament.
Bay Port won state titles in 2009 and 2010.
The WIAA State Tournament is Tuesday-Thursday, June 14-16, at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
The Division 1 quarterfinals will be played Tuesday, June 14, with semifinal games later that night.
The championship game is Thursday, June 16, at 6 p.m.
Eau Claire North, Sun Prairie, Arrowhead, Milton, Menomonee Falls, Greendale and Westosha Central will join Bay Port at state.
Nickel’s catch saves day for Bay Port in sectional semifinals
Pirates’ centerfielder John Nickel was hitless at the plate in his team’s sectional semifinal game against Hortonville, but he made sure he did his part in the field to help secure a victory.
Nickel’s diving catch in the bottom of the fifth inning and subsequent double play helped lead Bay Port to a dramatic 3-2 win.
With a runner on first in the Hortonville fifth, Easton Plachetka hit a deep drive to the gap in right-center, but Nickel tracked it down.
With the runner from first not expecting Nickel to make the catch, he was already halfway between second and third base when the catch was made.
Nickel got up and fired a strike back to first baseman Brandon Black to complete the double play.
“I got a good read on the play,” the senior Nickel said. “I made a similar play in our first playoff game, but this time, I realized after I made the catch, I had to get up right away. I was watching the ball while I was running – I had to catch it by any means.”
Nickel said he didn’t realize the runner was halfway to third when he caught it.
“I just knew I had to get up and throw it back to the infield,” he said. “If he would have tagged up, he would have gotten to second, but you don’t tag up in that situation.”
Left-handed sophomore pitcher Ethan Plog stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning to secure the victory.
Things didn’t start well for the Pirates.
The Polar Bears, who had five hits, scored an unearned run in the first inning on two Bay Port errors.
The Pirates did all their damage in the third inning on three hits and two walks.
The big blow came from Black, whose two-RBI triple scored Cal Casper and Craig Kabat.
Black later scored on an RBI single from starting pitcher Cole Bensen, who started the game and gave up two runs on four hits in his 5 2/3 innings of work.
Bensen had two hits for Bay Port.
Strong pitching leads De Pere to sectional semifinal win
The Redbirds scratched out three runs on eight hits in a 3-1 victory over No. 1 seeded Kimberly.
Pitcher Quinn Falish threw five innings of two-hit ball before Bryson Webb came on in relief in the sixth inning, allowing one run on a pair of hits in his two innings of work.
“Both our pitchers did a fantastic job against a good hitting team,” De Pere Head Coach Bob Van Rens said. “Kimberly scored a ton of runs this year. Our defense also did a nice job behind them.”
The Redbirds played errorless ball.
Webb gave De Pere a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning when he drilled a first-pitch fastball over the left-center field fence.
Webb led off the fifth inning with a single before Easton Arendt reached on a bunt single.
After a strikeout, Javin Gauthier walked to load the bases.
Ethan Hoops was then hit by a pitch, forcing in a run, making it 2-0.
The Redbirds ended the scoring in the sixth inning on an RBI hit by Falish.
De Pere left nine runners stranded, including leaving the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings.
“I was hoping that didn’t come back to haunt us,” Van Rens said. “Looking back (in the second inning), I made a mistake and should have sent Luke (Brosig) home on Ethan Hoop’s double. I didn’t want to risk getting Luke thrown out at home, but Kimberly wasn’t even lining up to throw home. That was 100% on me. Throughout the game, I kept thinking about that play.”
Webb and Bryan Gerbers both had two hits for the Redbirds.