WAUPUN — When the current seniors on Waupun’s prep baseball team were on a 10-and-under Little League team, they played in a tournament in Plover.
Brayden Vande Zande, Bryce Burmania, Brenden Bille, Jak Lenz, Nate Brown and Caleb Sauer were on that team, along with Colin Holz, Owen Theune and Blake Harmsen, a threesome who played golf for the Warriors this spring.
While the Warriors’ baseball team has made it to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament and will open with a semifinal game vs. Ellsworth tonight at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, the golf team also made it to state this season, having competed in the state tournament last Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge in Madison for the first time since 2003.
The golf team finished seventh in the eight-team field over the course of the two-day, 36-hole tourney, with Tucker Lemmenes finishing in a tie for 30th (23-over-par 167), Harmsen in a tie for 29th (25-over 169), Theune alone in 32nd (26-over 170), Ty Flegner alone in 40th (31-over 175) and Holz alone in 44th (35-over 179).
The Waupun 10-and-under team won every game it played that year, defeating Steven Point, Wausau, Rapids, D.C. Everest and Madison on its way to winning the championship.
The tournament also doubled as a camping trip for the Warriors.
Sanders does well in sectional final
Junior shortstop Reece Homan injured his right shoulder trying to dive for first base in the first inning of the sectional final against Waukesha Catholic Memorial and had to leave the game. Sophomore Brayden Sanders took over.
“Of course you’re nervous when you make a substitution in the spur of the moment — no time to warm up, no notification — but I thought he handled it very well,” Warriors head coach Derrick Standke said. “It’s his natural position at shortstop. I had faith in his abilities in what he could do.”
Sanders helped senior second baseman Jak Lenz turn a double play to end the third inning. Then in the fifth, Sanders caught a line drive for the second out.
“He showed that he could step in and do the job,” Standke said. “That’s a little comforting to the mind going forward with Reece here and not sure about his availability (heading into state). Sanders has played in some big games before, too. He’s no stranger to the game. He did what he had to do.”
Even the sophomore said he felt confident going into a big sectional final game.
“It’s nothing new to me,” Sanders said. “I’ve played there my whole life, so I’m always ready to play there, but it was a big step (from) playing JV (to playing) on varsity and playing a sectional final game out of nowhere.”
Senior Nate Brown was the starting left fielder his sophomore season, but he took the year off as a junior to focus on his primary sport of hockey instead.
The urge to play for a strong Waupun baseball team brought him back for one final season, though.
Standke moved him to center field this season because sophomore Baron Buchholz played great in left as a freshman and earned the right to remain there this year.
Brown has played well in his new spot, providing value while struggling at the plate. He is batting .163 in 20 games this year and has seven RBIs compared with .424 and 20 RBIs as a sophomore.
“Obviously he’s helped us defensively more so than offensively,” Standke said. “But he’s a senior and he’s been there before. He’s played in Legion state championships for us in left field.
“When you take a year off, it’s going to be tough. He’s helped us defensively. He’s got a good arm out in center field. His speed is good. He tracks down a lot of balls.”
Surprise of the season
Standke said two players have stood out to him this season in terms of how well they have upped their play: catcher Keegan Hartgerink and right fielder Jarrett Buchholz.
“Keegan, defensively, has stepped up tremendously,” Standke said. “He’s gotten a lot better blocking the ball comparing where he was at the beginning of the year to now. That’s a tough chore for him being a sophomore, being in every pitch of every play, and trying to catch two stud pitchers predominantly all the time. I’ve been really happy with his progress defensively.
“Then Jarrett Buchholz has been a huge asset hitting-wise. He was hitting in the nine-spot this year. He was somebody early in the year I was going to give a shot and see what he did. He just ran away with it.”