WAUPUN — You’ve heard the saying, “Defense wins championships.” In Sunday’s American Legion varsity Class A regional tournament championship game between Waupun Post 210 and Jackson Post 486, that saying was proven right.
Strong defensive play and some timely hits by Post 210 helped its case to head to Clintonville next Wednesday for the state tournament, as the Wild Turkeys shut out Post 486 3-0.
“To play championship ball with one error, you should be successful,” Post 210 head coach Derrick Standke said. “Everyone chipped in. Drew (Behling) had a couple nice plays at third, Collin (Witthun) had a ton at short, Jak (Lenz) at second had a couple double plays (with Witthun), and those guys don’t get to turn a lot of double plays together, but they didn’t miss a beat.”
Witthun is normally a center fielder for the Wild Turkeys, but Sunday he played shortstop because Reece Homan got the start on the mound and pitched beautifully at his former position. Homan tossed a complete game with four strikeouts while only allowing three hits and two walks.
“Reece really pitched well,” Standke said. “He looked really good today. He’s a kid that we know is a pitcher, but during the high school season we didn’t get to use him a lot because of the services of Brenden (Bille) and Caden (Bronkhorst).
“I knew he was capable of doing it. He just needed the opportunity to do it. He proved himself.”
Homan didn’t have to worry about his shortstop position because Witthun, who went 1-for-2 with an RBI and scored a run, had that space covered up well.
“That’s a tough chore for someone to do,” Standke said of Witthun moving back to shortstop from center field. “With Reece not pitching much in high school, he’s pretty much our mainstay at shortstop, so for Collin to step in at shortstop in a championship game was nice to see.
“He was a vacuum.”
Four of Post 486’s first six batters grounded out to Witthun, who made them look routine. But it was the play in the top of the sixth that was most impressive to Standke because of who Jackson had at the plate.
With a runner on first and none out, Sam Zarling ripped a shot on the ground toward Witthun, who couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly. But Witthun recovered in time to turn a 6-4-3 double play.
“That was their best two hitters,” Standke said. “Joey (Behm) led off with a hit to left and Sam Zarling is an All-State player. He’s a great kid. That kid is one heck of a hitter, and I said to the guys, ‘That was one of the hardest ground balls I’ve seen hit in my life.’”
“That was huge because at the time we had gotten Brenden up to throw after the leadoff hit and possibly use him for relief, but the double play eliminated that and Reece finished the game out strong.”
Witthun made a throwing error to allow Kaleb Baker to reach first after the double play, but Caleb Sauer made a fantastic grab of a foul ball by Post 486’s Danny Cain to end the inning.
“That was a big out there,” Standke said. “He got us out of the inning with a runner on, and he had a couple big digs where a couple throws he had to dig out, and got the outs.”
Post 210 made smart plays on offense as well. With runners on second and third and one out in the top of the fifth, Behling struck out, but the pitch was dropped. As Jackson tried to cut down Behling at first, Lenz broke for home from third and scored Waupun’s second run.
Witthun advanced to third on the play and came home on Sauer’s single to make it 3-0.
Lenz went 2-for-2 in the leadoff spot for Waupun.
“He’s as good as it gets,” Standke said. “I like him a ton. He understands the game and that’s why he’s so successful is with his understanding of the game. He understands what the pitchers are trying to do to him, what is available for him to do and he’s a good hitter.
“He can hit to all fields and that’s why he’s at the top because he’s on base all the time.”
WAUPUN 3, JACKSON 0
Jackson 000 000 0 - 0 3 2
Waupun 100 020 3 7 1
Pitching (ip-h-er-bb-k): Jackson—Joey Behm (L 6-7-3-2-2). Waupun – Reece Homan (W, 7-3-0-2-4).
Leading hitters (two or more): Jackson – none. Waupun – Jak Lenz 2x2. RBI: Jackson – none. Waupun – Collin Witthun, Drew Behling, Caleb Sauer. Stolen Bases: Jackson – Josh Enevold. Waupun – Bryce Burmania 2.