Somerset baseball team beaten in sectional championship game by EllsworthThe Somerset baseball team finished one game short of the WIAA state tournament for the second straight year, losing to Ellsworth 5-1 in Division 2 sectional championship game in Barron on June 5.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The Somerset baseball team finished one game short of the WIAA state tournament for the second straight year, losing to Ellsworth 5-1 in Division 2 sectional championship game in Barron on June 5.
Ellsworth is one of two Middle Border Conference baseball teams that will be playing in the state tournament. Prescott advanced to state by winning the Division 3 sectional championship in Cumberland.
Last year Somerset lost to Spooner in the sectional title game. The Spartans avenged that loss by beating Spooner 6-2 in the morning’s sectional semifinal game. Ellsworth defeated West Salem in the other sectional semifinal game.
Somerset couldn’t solve Ellsworth pitcher Brady Schroeder, who limited the Spartans to three hits in the sectional final. Nate Olin suffered the pitching loss for Somerset in the title game.
If anyone wondered whether the Spartans could handle the pressure of a big game, Somerset showed it was up to the task by knocking off the defending sectional champion. The game was tied 2-2 until the sixth inning, when the Spartans began timing the fastballs of Spooner starting pitcher Brandon Shutt.
Senior catcher Evan Gaddis walked to lead off the decisive sixth inning. With one out, freshman Tyler Lueck lofted a single into leftfield. Senior Austin Bushinger broke the tie with an RBI single to center. Olin followed with the clincher. He smoked a line drive double off the centerfield fence that scored Lueck and Bushinger. On the next pitch, Ryan Himes singled to center to score Olin.
One of the biggest at-bats of the game for the Spartans came in the first inning. Senior Cody Joiner smashed a solo homer over the leftfield fence. While the lead was brief, the homer seemed to be a signal that the Spartans were ready to contend. Joiner has been a clutch playoff performer, hitting a three-run homer against Spooner in the sectional title game last year.
Somerset pitcher Zack Waalen became one of the tougher pitchers in the Middle Border Conference this season. If teams didn’t score against him in the first inning, they likely weren’t going to score. Spooner scored twice in the first inning before Waalen wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam. The heady sophomore didn’t give up another hit until the seventh inning. Bushinger was brought in to pitch after Waalen gave up a hit to the opening hitter of the seventh inning. They combined on a three-hitter.
“Zack was phenomenal,” said Somerset coach Brandon Kadlec. “His goal at the beginning of the year was to become our number one pitcher and he exceeded that goal.”
Waalen finished the season with a 7-4 record and an earned run average below 3.00.
Doom was predicted for the Spartans this season after they graduated their top three pitchers, including Division 1 pitcher Jared Dettmann. Kadlec said pitching coach Mike Tetzlaff deserves much of the credit for the pitching staff being so productive this season.
“Tetz has got such a knowledge of the game,” Kadlec said. “They really work for him. He’s one of those guys you naturally want to follow.”
The Spartans and Ellsworth split their games during the conference schedule. The Spartans had beaten hard-throwing Ellsworth senior Brady Schroeder in the regular season, but this time Schroeder proved too tough.
Base running mistakes in the first two innings hurt the Spartans’ chances to build any momentum. They had runners picked off base in each inning. In this game, it was clear early that baserunners were going to be limited.
Ellsworth’s textbook “small ball” produced a run in the first inning. A walk, a sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly put the Panthers in front. The Panthers added two more runs in the third on a hit batter and three singles. Ellsworth manufactured another run in the third inning.
Somerset finally got on the board in the fifth inning. Jake Mantalica led off with an infield hit and he was sacrificed to second. Mantalica was able to score when Joiner’s high-arcing flyball fell for a single in short centerfield. The Spartans missed their chance to get back into the game after this, stranding runners on second and third.
The Spartans didn’t get a baserunner in the final two innings as Schroeder overpowered the Somerset hitters. Schroeder finished the game with a three-hitter, striking out eight Spartans.
“I told (Ellsworth coach Steve Block) that I think he’s the best pitcher in the conference,” Kadlec said of Schroeder.
Kadlec said the team should revel in making the third sectional championship game in four seasons, especially after graduating so many key parts of last season’s team.
“We were picked sixth in the conference and we finished in the top eight teams in Division 2. That’s something to be proud of,” Kadlec said.