WAUPUN — A couple of mental lapses couldn't negate some resilient swings for the Waupun American Legion Post 210 varsity team on Saturday.
Waupun coughed up big leads twice to Horicon Post 157, but responded each time with big innings and advanced to the championship game of the Class A regional tournament with a 13-6 victory.
Post 210 will play Jackson Post 486 today at 1 p.m. for the regional title.
In the bottom of the third and sixth innings in the semifinal, Post 210 wasn’t mentally in the game, which allowed Post 157 to score three runs in each frame, cutting into four-run deficits each time.
In the third inning, Horicon scored three to make it 4-3, but Waupun answered with three more in the top of the fourth. After Post 157 put three on the board again in the sixth to make it 7-6, Post 210 exploded for six in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach.
“Sometimes we kind of drift off in la la land, and that’s something we’ve been harping on all year and stress is that everyone is coming for you,” Post 210 head coach Derrick Standke said. “They know you’re a good team. You’re going to get everybody’s best shot.
“Besides that, kids love to play on this field and they’re excited just to be here. They need to match that intensity and beat it.”
In both instances, Post 210 did match Post 157’s intensity. It just took three runs to wake them up — twice.
“That’s one of the big things that we stress,” Standke said. “When we score … is to go out there and get a shutdown inning on the next half, and they (Post 157) were unable to do that.”
In the top of the fourth with runners on first and third, Jak Lenz lined a single to center field to bring in Ryan Panten and Bradyn Vande Zande to make it 6-3. Lenz later scored on Drew Behling’s sacrifice fly.
Lenz went 3-for-5 and Collin Witthun was 3-for-3. Both garnered two RBIs and scored three times apiece.
Behling’s bat finally came alive Saturday night, as he went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the top of the seventh to made it 13-6.
In the end, Post 210’s plastered Post 157’s pitchers Maxx Livingston and Mitch Kurtz for 17 hits on the night.
“The kids battled through it,” Standke said. “We hit the snot out of the ball. Drew, to get one out of here in this heavy air, and the doubles we hit (was great). With 17 hits, we hit well and we had some timely hitting.”
It wasn’t just great offense for Waupun, though, because Witthun made a nice diving catch in center field for the second out of the second inning. By that time, Waupun was leading 3-0 heading into the third.
Then in the bottom of the sixth after Post 157 scored three runs to make it 7-6, pitcher Brenden Bille made a heads up play to end the inning.
With CJ Brooks on third and Hunter Nehls on first, Bille, who replaced Behling with two outs in the sixth, heard someone from his dugout yell, “Step off.”
Bille stepped off the mound and saw Nehls breaking for second. He then wheeled around to see Brooks heading for home. Bille ran at Brooks and tagged him out before he could return to third.
“They executed that first-and-third situation well, which is good because we’ve struggled with that at times,” Standke said. “Brenden did it exactly the way we wanted to. We want him to run right at him and not make a throw until that kid committed.
“That was about as good as could be planned, but the rest of the game, not so much.”
Vande Zande got the win for Post 210, going the first two innings with three strikeouts and only gave up one earned run off one hit and a walk. Behling came in relief for 3 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.
Witthun replaced Bille with one out in the bottom of the seventh. He struck out Kristian Wagner and got Collin Grudzinski to pop up to Reece Homan.
“Collin is a good closer and he loves that role,” Standke said. “It’s a good role for a senior.”
Bronk and Post 210 shuts out Jefferson
Caden Bronkhorst pitched all seven innings with nine strikeouts and didn’t give up a run on four hits in Post 210’s 6-0 win over Jefferson Post 164 Saturday afternoon.
Witthun went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Carter Kuslits knocked in two runs.
Waupun scored single runs in the second, third and fourth innings before bringing in three in the bottom of the sixth.