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Somerset baseball team plays in fourth sectional tournament in six years

Somerset senior Zac Waalen delivers a pitch during Friday’s win over Osceola. 1 / 4
Somerset junior Tyler Lueck is shown delivering a pitch during the no-hitter he threw against Amery in the WIAA Division 2 playoffs last Wednesday. 2 / 4
Somerset second baseman Tommy Grygienc turns a double play during Friday’s win. 3 / 4
Somerset senior Aaron Moore scores on a wild pitch during the Spartans' playoff victory over Amery.4 / 4

For the fourth time in six years, the Somerset baseball team had qualified for the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament.

The Spartans rallied from a 5-0 deficit to defeat Osceola 6-5 last Friday in the Division 2 regional championship game at Somerset’s Larry Forrest Park. To reach the title game, the Spartans used a dazzling pitching performance from junior Tyler Lueck to defeat Amery last Wednesday, 3-0.

Somerset also reached the sectional tournament in 2012, 2011 and 2009.

Over the past month, the Spartans have developed a survival instinct that has helped them make several major comebacks. Their biggest comeback came in a win against Ellsworth. In Friday’s win, the Spartans hadn’t been able to generate a hit against Osceola’s Tyler Maxon through four innings. This gave Maxon nine straight innings of no-hit ball against the Spartans, after throwing five no-hit innings against the Spartans the last time the two teams met.

Then, within a few minutes in the fifth inning, the Spartans had scored six runs against Maxon.

The inning started innocently enough, with Lueck leading off with a walk. After a strikeout, Tommy Grygienc walked. Junior catcher Jon Sullivan then stepped in. On Maxon’s second pitch, Sullivan pulled a high fastball over the rightfield fence and into the fountain that lies well beyond the fence for a three-run homer.

“Boy, he got all of that,” Spartan coach John Ball said of Sullivan’s first homer of the season.

The rally didn’t stop there. Brody Penman followed the homer with a line drive single up the middle. Zac Waalen walked and Aaron Moore lined a single to center to load the bases. Logan Peterson followed with a double down the leftfield line that scored Penman and Waalen.

The Chieftains tried nabbing Moore as he moved from first to third on the play. The ball got away from the Chieftain third baseman, rolling halfway down the third base line. When Moore popped up out of his slide, he immediately located the ball. Moore locked eyes with the Osceola catcher, quickly assessing that he had more speed, so he raced for the plate. Moore was able to beat the throw home to score the go-ahead run.

Waalen started on the mound, but struggled more than usual, giving up five runs in five innings. After the Spartans took the lead, Andy Peters was brought in to pitch. Peters hadn’t thrown in a few weeks. He walked the first batter he faced, then shook off the rust to retire the final six Chieftains he faced. Four of those six outs came on strikeouts.

The Spartans finished the game with four hits, but all four came during the six-run rally. Ball said the team has gained a confidence that it can come back from any deficit.

“They just need a spark. It was truly a team effort,” he said.

The Spartans got a different type of heroics in their win over Amery on Wednesday. Lueck purely overpowered the Amery hitters in throwing a no-hitter. Ball said that a college coach scouting the game clocked Lueck’s pitches as high as 86 miles per hour.

Amery also used a pitcher who had given the Spartans plenty of problems the last time they saw him, sophomore lefty Bennett Paulson. While the Spartans didn’t score against Amery until the third inning, they had two hits in each of the first two innings and it was clear that Paulson wasn’t going to baffle them like the previous meeting.

The Spartans would score single runs in each of the next three innings. Moore led off the third inning with a single and later scored on a wild pitch. Penman walked to start the fourth inning and he scored on a passed ball. Peters led off the fifth inning and he scored on Cody Cunningham’s third hit of the game.

Peters and Lueck finished with two hits as the Spartans totaled 10 hits in the game.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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