Senior members of Portage’s high school baseball team made the best of a second opportunity. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the entire spring high school baseball season, the Warriors thrived while playing in the Woodside Summer Baseball League at the Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston and Wisconsin Dells.
Portage finished a perfect 10-0 in the summer league, and reached the championship game of the league tournament before losing to Viroqua. Portage then got to finish its summer with a 7-0 victory over Columbus in the team’s 17th and final game of the summer.
Just how Portage was able to win so many games this summer was no mystery, as the team’s senior core produced some eye-popping numbers. Those seniors were rewarded earlier this week, as four of them landed on the Woodside All-Summer League first team, while another landed on the second team.
Earning first team honors for the Portage team were outfielder Kendal Thomson, infielder and pitcher Colton Brandsma, utility man Brett Walker and catcher and pitcher Matthew Miles. Senior pitcher Ethan Bauer landed on the league’s second team.
Brandsma, Walker and Miles all had monster seasons at the plate, and on the pitcher’s mound.
Walker was 4-0 on the mound this summer, giving up just three earned runs while pitching 23 2/3 innings, while striking out 33 and walking just eight. At the plate, Walker batted .412 on the summer with 19 runs scored, 21 hits and 17 RBIs. He also had an impressive .538 on-base percentage, all this after missing his entire junior baseball season with a knee injury suffered playing football the previous fall.
If Walker wasn’t the team’s ace on the mound, maybe it was Brandsma, who was 3-0 as a pitcher. Brandsma threw 14 innings this summer and didn’t give up a run. He gave up just five hits while walking two and striking out 13. Brandsma could hit too. He batted .419 with 18 hits, 19 runs scored and a team-high 20 RBIs. He also had a home run, a double and three triples to go along with a staggering .629 on-base percentage.
Miles was no slouch on the mound either, going 2-0 on the summer. He gave up just one earned run over 15 1/3 innings pitched, striking out 25 and walking seven. At the plate, Miles had a team-best .538 batting average He also led the team with 28 hits, while driving in 19 runs. He also finished with a .620 on-base percentage.
Thomson scored a team-leading 21 runs while finishing with a .380 batting average. He drove in 10 runs, had three doubles a triple and a .629 on-base percentage.
Bauer earned second-team honors as a pitcher. He was 3-2 on the mound, giving up seven earned run in 18 innings of work. He struck out 17 and walked six.
Portage coach Mike Hemming said his team’s pitching really stood out this summer.
“Our pitching was just unbelievable. For 10 of those (league) games, we shut out our opponents six times,” Hemming said. “At one point this summer we had a scoreless streak of 35 innings where a team hadn’t scored.”
Portage’s second entry in the Woodside Summer League included younger players who will return to the high school team in the spring of 2021. That team also had a pair of players earn all-league recognition, with Kaden Hooker on the first team and Cooper Roberts on the second team.
Hooker batted .400 on the season, with five runs scored and six RBI. He also had six stolen bases. Roberts batted .375 with eight runs scored and eight stolen bases. Hooker and Roberts will both be juniors in the upcoming school year.
Hemming said the victory over Columbus, which finished the summer, was the perfect way to end the baseball season, pointing out that not too many times does a baseball team get to finish its season with a victory.
“Being a varsity coach, I have been fortunate to win two state titles and have that last game be awesome,” Hemming said. “To beat Columbus 7-0, I walked off the field with those guys sad, because it was over, but boy, we won. I let those guys know that they will be a group that still people will talk about, because they stayed together, their commitment and what they achieved.”