Beaver Dam’s prep baseball team was forced to face Oconomowoc with one hand tied behind its back.
And it showed.
The fourth-seeded Golden Beavers were without five starters, all seniors, because of school athletic code violations and a couple of other players due to illness. Being so shorthanded was too much to overcome as the fifth-seeded Raccoons took full advantage by claiming a 12-2 win Thursday evening in a WIAA Division 1 regional championship game at Beaver Dam High School.
“We knew we were going to be shorthanded, but we just asked the kids to come out and fight — regardless of what the score ends up, you come out and fight, you have good approaches at the plate and you just battle, and we’ll see what happens. And that’s what we did,” Beaver Dam coach Nate Wilke said. “I’m proud of the kids because we put a lot of kids in spots they haven’t been in this year, and that’s not easy to do.”
Oconomowoc (14-9) didn’t waste any time jumping on the reeling Golden Beavers (14-6), either, as Steve Diderrich tripled to lead off the game and the Raccoons struck for six runs — four of them earned — in the first inning while chasing starter Payton Gorr in the process.
Beaver Dam did punch back in the bottom of the second, though, when Gorr led off the frame with a single and later trucked home when Taylor Stobbe hit into an RBI fielder’s choice. That made it 6-1, and then later in the half-inning, Joel Riehbrandt — who reached on one-out single — came home on an error to make it 6-2.
But the momentum disappeared quickly as the Raccoons plated four unearned runs in the top of the third to stretch their lead to 10-2.
Oconomowoc would add single runs in the fourth and fifth innings before Nate Platter struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth to end the game early because of the mercy rule.
Despite allowing 10 hits, it was a pretty good showing for reliever Brandon LeBeau, who didn’t walk a batter and would have fared much better if not for three errors in that four-run third for the Raccoons.
LeBeau was forced to lean heavily on his off-speed stuff because Oconomowoc is a “pretty good fastball hitting team,” Wilke said, and for the most part, the game-plan worked.
“We knew we had to kind of almost pitch backwards because we just don’t have a guy right now that can blow it by people. So for him to come in and keep them off balance and throw a knuckle ball and a curveball — he did fine,” Wilke said. “They’ve got good hitters — they’re a good team. He did what he could do and that’s all you can ask.”
Also impressive as far as the Golden Beavers are concerned is that they only struck out once before striking out in order in the fifth, allowing for the two runs in the second and a runner stranded at third in the third inning.
Still, it did little to ease the pain of having such a successful season — Beaver Dam shared the Badger North Conference title with Waunakee, both with 12-2 record — end with a thud.
“Right now it really stings because you’re upset how things went down — and the thing that kind of stinks is that you’ll never know where we could have gone, because I thought this was a pretty special group and I thought we had the potential to go somewhere,” Wilke said. “But after you get over the sting of that, a conference championship is something you can never get taken away — they’re always going to be a champion.
“And they’re good kids — even the kids that didn’t play today, they’re good kids and sometime good kids make bad decisions. But we love those kids and we’re going to miss them next year. We’ve just got to keep improving and the younger kids have got to step up next year now.”