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Notre Dame comes up short in bid for state tournament

By Greg Bates

SEYMOUR – After the Notre Dame Academy baseball team dropped seven straight games in early May, things looked bleak.

However, winning six of its next nine games propelled the Tritons into the postseason on a high note.

Notre Dame went on a run, earning four playoff wins.

They weren’t expected to play for a state tournament berth, but there they were in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Division 2 sectional final Tuesday afternoon.

What fueled the Tritons during their playoff push — solid pitching and timely hitting — went silent against No. 1-ranked Denmark.

Notre Dame pitchers surrendered 10 walks, and the defense committed five errors as Denmark took advantage to earn a 6-0 victory at Rock Ledge Park.

“The kids are disappointed,” Notre Dame Head Coach Jared Barker said. “At the beginning of the year, our goal was to get to state and win conference – that was always in their mind. Then we had a tough stretch halfway through the season where we dropped seven in a row – that tested us. They bounced back well.”

A five-run second inning by the Vikings doomed the Tritons.

“I think after they got ahead, we hung our heads,” Notre Dame senior Caden Capomaccio said. “We didn’t use some opportunities to our advantage and didn’t pull through.”

Denmark, the reigning Division 2 state champs, had only four hits.

Notre Dame collected two singles and left five runners on base.

The Tritons had only one base runner reach second the entire game.

Notre Dame starting pitcher Deuce Musial II had a hard time finding the strike zone.

The junior walked three in the first inning before getting out of a jam.

However, he wasn’t so fortunate in the second.

A hit by pitch, walk and bunt that resulted in an error loaded the bases for Denmark with nobody out.

Another walk plated the first run.

An errant throw to first base brought in two more runs.

That’s when Denmark’s Hayden Konkol came up and stroked a two-run single to right to make it 5-0.

At that point, Barker went to his bullpen in favor of Donatello Badalamenti.

He got out of the jam, but the damage was done.

“That was uncharacteristic, especially in Deuce’s last five starts – he’s been outstanding,” Barker said. “For him to struggle a bit wasn’t the game plan at all. A hit batter, a couple of walks, a couple of errors – we gave them five runs. But the guys did a good job – I’m proud of them. They kept them to only one more run for the rest of the game. They allowed us to try to crawl back into it, but bats didn’t work today.”

Notre Dame (16-13) opened the bottom of the second inning with a single by Cade Milton.

A two-out walk by Evan Duncan mounted a threat.

However, both runners were stranded.

That was the only time the Tritons had a runner in scoring position.

Denmark (26-3) scored an unearned run in the fifth.

Vikings starting pitcher Ethan Ovsak went 6 1/3 innings and struck out seven.

The junior didn’t have overpowering stuff, but he kept the Notre Dame hitters off-balanced.

“He located well,” Capomaccio, who will be moving onto the University of Minnesota to play baseball, said. “He used his pitches to his advantage.”

The loss ended the careers of four Notre Dame players: Capomaccio, Duncan, Milton and Nick Bumgardner.

“It’s not every year when you have a group of seniors where all of them start,” Barker said. “Some years you (lots of) seniors and only a couple of them play, but this year, we had four seniors and all four of them started about every game we played. They meant a lot to the program.”

All four seniors were main contributors.

Capomaccio said he believes the group will leave a solid legacy.

“Leaving me and Cade (Milton) as the captains, I think having this leadership we built will translate on to next year,” he said.

Notre Dame’s run to the sectional final is the deepest the program’s gotten since 2015 when it fell in the Division 2 state title game.

Barker said he’s hoping the younger players coming back got a taste of the sectional final and want to get at least one step further next season.

“They’re going to work hard and they’re going to be ready to go,” he said. “This is what they did for this program – they put a new taste in their mouth, and now they’ve got something to shoot for.”

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