WAUPUN — When things got started Sunday at the Division II Central Plains Regional Tournament, the Waupun American Legion Post 210 varsity baseball team was squarely in the running to win the championship.
Unfortunately for Post 210, which hosted the tournament this weekend at Gus Thompson Field, none of the necessary scenarios unfolded in its favor.
That didn’t change Post 210’s approach or attitude any, though.
Knowing that the best they could do is take second, members of the Post 210 squad went out and walloped Neenah St. Mary Central Post 33, winning 13-0 in five innings to come away with the runner-up trophy.
“It was hard to say how they were going to respond knowing that they couldn’t win it, and I said, ‘We’re still playing for something,’” Waupun coach Derrick Standke said. “In your last game of the year, if you get a chance to win, it’s an awesome feeling.”
Waupun, Plato (Minn.) Post 641 and New London Post 263 were all 3-1 following Saturday’s action at the four-day tourney. But in order to win the championship, Waupun needed one of two combinations to happen: Plato to lose to Dilworth (Minn.) Post 397 and a Post 210 victory later Sunday, or if that didn’t happen then New London needed to win against Kindred (N.D.) Post 117 and Waupun needed to win later Sunday.
The first scenario would have eliminated any chance of Waupun losing out on a head-to-head tiebreaker, since Plato’s 5-4 win over Waupun on Friday was Post 210’s only loss of the tourney. And the second scenario would have meant a three-way tie and Waupun would have won on the next tiebreaker, which is total runs allowed over the course of the tournament.
Neither scenario unfolded as Waupun would have liked, with Plato winning 6-0 and then New London losing 4-2. But being able to walk away victorious — and with the runner-up trophy — after the last game of the summer turned out to be a good consolation prize.
“The way tiebreakers are set up, somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose in a round-robin. But I think we were the champions of this tournament. Nothing against Plato, but our kids played great — they played like champs all weekend,” said Standke, whose squad scored 39 runs (7.8 per game) on 44 hits (8.8 per game) over the course of the tournament and would have gone undefeated if not for blowing a 4-3 lead over Plato in the bottom of the seventh in Friday night’s loss.
Post 210 certainly played at a championship caliber against St. Mary Central. The engine revved right away as Jarrett Buchholz led off the top of the first inning with a single to center field and then came home on Reece Homan’s one-out RBI double.
Just like that, Post 210 was up 1-0 and the ball was rolling.
Cleanup batter Keegan Hartgerink followed with a single before Caleb Sauer got hit by a 3-0 pitch, loading the bases.
Caden Bronkhorst then got plunked by a 2-2 pitch to plate a run and make it 2-0, and Brayden Sanders drove in Sauer and Bronkhorst with a double to right that made it 4-0.
Jaden White drove in Bronkhorst with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0, and Sanders trotted home on a throwing error on the same play to stretch the advantage to 6-0.
The big first inning ended up being foretelling as Waupun banged out 11 hits in all and struck for two more crooked numbers — a three-spot in the fourth and a four-spot in the fifth — to put the game on ice.
It was a whole lot more run support than Sanders would need on the mound, as he twirled a gem after a bit of a rocky start.
The righty allowed the first two batters to reach in the bottom of the first and then allowed a single to left field that should have loaded the bases with nobody out.
But Caden Uhlenbrauck overran the stop sign at third, and was thrown out trying to scramble back to the bag to douse a little water on the rising flame.
Sanders then put the fire out altogether by inducing a strikeout and a popout, and he would go on to allow only two more baserunners — only one of whom reached scoring position — en route to finishing off a four-hitter with six strikeouts and just one walk.
“He hasn’t a thrown a lot for us this summer — he was probably at about 18 or 19 innings going into this game — and it was somebody they haven’t seen yet this year,” Standke said of the decision to go with Sanders against Post 33.
Sanders did actually throw one pitch — to get the final out of the 8-3 win in the Class A state championship game on July 30 — against Post 33 in two meetings at the state tournament, but Standke was confident Sanders was the man to go to nonetheless.
“I thought he would be dialed in,” Standke said.
He was — especially after the first three batters in the first inning.
And Sanders’ outing coupled with the bats burning white hot made for a fitting end to the baseball season for Waupun, which went 23-3 and lost at sectionals during the high school portion of the calendar before posting a 30-3 record this summer.
“It was a great year. It’s hard to believe that five months ago, we were standing out here and it was snowing, and now here we are today and we’re saying goodbye to some of the seniors,” Standke said of Homan and Bronkhorst having graduated in the spring and Caleb Sauer — a 2018 graduate who was eligible to play this summer because of his birthdate — also moving on.
None are eligible to come back in 2020, but at least they went out on a winning note.
“It,” said Standke, “was a long, fun year.”
WAUPUN 13, NEENAH ST. MARY CENTRAL 0
Waupun 600 34 — 13 11 0
St. Mary 000 00 — 0 4 2Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-k): Waup — Brayden Sanders (W, 5-4-0-1-6). St. Mary —
Davis Wilson (L, 4.2-10-6-4-0), Holton Hendrickson (0.1-1-0-1-0).
Leading hitters (two or more hits): Waup — Keegan Hartgerink 3x4, Brayden Sanders 2x4, Cole Hicken 2x2. 2B: Hartgerink 2, Reece Homan, Sanders. St. Mary — TJ Skryzpczak 2x2. 2B: Skryzpczak.WAUPUN 13, NEENAH ST. MARY CENTRAL 0</&hspag3>
Waupun 600 34 — 13 11 0
Neenah St. Mary 000 00 — 0 4 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-k): Waup — Brayden Sanders (W, 5-4-0-1-6). NSMC — Davis Wilson (L, 4.2-10-6-4-0), Holton Hendrickson (0.1-1-0-1-0).
Leading hitters (two or more hits): Waup — Keegan Hartgerink 3x4, Brayden Sanders 2x4, Cole Hicken 2x2. 2B: Hartgerink 2, Reece Homan, Sanders. NSMC — TJ Skryzpczak 2x2. 2B: Skryzpczak.