St. Croix Central baseball team upsets Bloomer in opening round of WIAA regionalsOne of the biggest upsets around the state in the opening round of WIAA baseball tournament action was pulled off by St. Croix Central last Friday.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
One of the biggest upsets around the state in the opening round of WIAA baseball tournament action was pulled off by St. Croix Central last Friday.
The Panthers, seeded sixth, went to Bloomer and upended the third-seeded Blackhawks, 5-4.
Friday’s win enabled the Panthers to move into the second round of playoffs on Tuesday, when they played Altoona. The winner of Tuesday’s game will play Wednesday in the regional final against the winner of Tuesday’s game between Ellsworth and Durand.
Central’s win on Friday was made possible by the recent return of senior pitcher Mike Nelson from a broken collarbone. Nelson threw a complete game four-hitter, walking one Bloomer batter while striking out five.
“Being off that long and pitching seven good innings was incredible,” said Central coach Jason Koele.
Koele said he never had to warm up a relief pitcher because Nelson was in control of the game at all times. Bloomer scored three runs in the second inning, but that was the result of some ragged defensive play by the Panthers. Give the Panthers credit, after that bad inning the team drastically improved its defense for the rest of the game.
Central got runners into scoring position in the first and third innings, but couldn’t get any of them home. In the fourth inning the Panthers finally started getting some offensive output. And instead of the Panther defense struggling, it was Bloomer’s defense that began to unravel.
Anthony Phillips led off the fourth inning with a single. The run scored when Bloomer booted a ground ball by Adam Lewis.
In the fifth inning the Panthers were able to tie the game. Alec Lamberty led off with a single. Alex Adkins hit into a fielder’s choice and immediately stole second and third base. Dan Sukowatey followed with a walk to put runners on the corners. Phillips grounded out to first base, bringing home Adkins. Ethan Lindahl followed with a single that brought home Sukowatey with the tying run.
The score didn’t stay tied long. Bloomer coupled a pair of hits to produce a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Koele said he worried it might not be the Panthers day after they went scoreless in the sixth inning. But a crazy seventh inning turned the game in Central’s favor.
Adkins led off the seventh with a single. Bloomer then inserted its top pitcher and he recorded two quick outs. Lindahl kept Central’s hopes alive with a single. The Bloomer pitcher then tried to pick Adkins off second base. Adkins read his move and immediately darted to third base. The throw was wild to third, giving Lindahl time to get to second base.
Sophomore designated hitter Logan Nelson followed with a grounder to second base. The Bloomer second baseman made a wild throw that got by the first baseman. That gave enough time for Adkins and Lindahl to score and suddenly, Central was in the lead.
With one out in the seventh, Bloomer got a hit and the runner soon stole second base. Nelson remained in control, getting a strikeout and an infield fly for the final outs of the game.
Koele said the Bloomer players were stunned by the sudden turn of events. For Central, it was a chance to celebrate, with the seniors hurrying home to get ready for their graduation.
The win raises Central’s record to 7-15 for the season.