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State Champions thirty years later

Bulldogs won it all on the diamond in ’87

State Champions thirty years later

Members of Boscobel High School’s 1987 Class C State Champion baseball team are pictured above and include, back row, from left: Chuck Jones (manager), Phil Molldrem (assistant coach), Todd Cornell...

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POSTED June 13, 2017 2:23 p.m.

Saturday, June 10, marked the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable achievements in Boscobel sports history. That was the day a group of overachieving teenagers came out of nowhere to win the Wisconsin Class C Baseball Championship.

“Judging from our record, we never should have been there,” then-assistant coach Phil Molldrem said of the trip to State. “We were 6-8 in conference, under .500 going into tournament play. I remember one time Ron (Zingsheim) and I were so mad we left practice, but then we went on to win our last nine.”

Head coach Ron Zingsheim is gone now, as is starting pitcher Jeff Blanchard, but their legacy lives on.

When they started on their championship run the Bulldogs were an unlikely pick to even make it out of regionals, and they barely did.

“We played Wauzeka in sub-regionals and darn near got beat,” Molldrem recalled. “It was 3-2, and we kind of rolled from there.”

Blanchard went the distance in that opening game, striking out eight and walking just three, one intentionally with one on in the seventh and final inning

“You usually don’t want to put the wining run on base, but (Ben) McCullick had hit the ball well, and the next batter had struck out three times. Jeff agreed with the strategy, and it worked out,” Coach Zingsheim said at the time. “It’s one of those decisions that you have to make and can’t second guess yourself. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, well, that’s the ball game.”

Boscobel captured the Regional Championship the following week by defeating Cassville and Seneca, belting out 32 hits and stealing 31 bases without committing a single error.

Blanchard pitched a one-hitter in six innings against Cassville, while Brad Lyght hurled a hitless seventh for the 11-0 win.

Against Seneca in the finals, Troy Fischer allowed just three hits in six innings and Todd Cornell pitched a hitless seventh for the 20-2 victory. The Bulldogs continued to set individual and team records, with Ron Atkinson driving in four runs in the two games to set a new record for RBI’s in a season with 22. The team also extended its own record for stolen bases in a season.

The Bulldogs then went on to defeat Pittsville, 7-4, and Riverdale, 9-2, to win the Sectional title at La Crosse.

Against Pittsville, Blanchard slowed just five hits enroute to his fourth straight win. Mike Nice and Brad Lyght led an 11-hit Boscobel attack with three hits each.

“We were as mentally ready as I’ve ever seen us,” Zingsheim said. “We’re definitely peaking now. Last year we were satisfied to get here. This year we wanted to go another step. The kids did a super job.”

The unlikely road to state may have been paved earlier in the season, according to Molldrem.

“There was no large and small school designation in the SWAL back then,” Molldrem explained. “We played River Valley, Richland Center, Dodgeville. We were used to playing bigger teams that were better on paper, and in talent, but we played up. There was no whining or complaining. If we got beat, we got beat, but in the long run it helped us.”

Boscobel’s state tournament run began in Wausau against a Potosi team with a 20-1 record. On the mound was their ace pitcher, who sported a 10-0 record.

But it didn’t deter the Bulldogs, who recorded a come-from-behind 8-6 victory, thanks in part to a perfect bunt by Ron’s son, Paxton Zingsheim, on a suicide squeeze play.

“We didn’t have any superstars, but they loved baseball, understood baseball, and loved each other, and that made a winning combination,” Molldrem said.

Anyone who thought the win over Potosi was a fluke had to be convinced when the Bulldogs jumped on Sevastopol with seven runs in the first inning of the title game. Sevastopol rallied for six runs, but the Bulldogs hung on for another 8-6 victory and the state title.

“I can’t say enough about those guys. The kids were different; they took it personally,” Molldrem said. “They listened and appreciated Ron and my knowledge, and they trusted us, but they won the games. The credit goes to them. Becoming a state champion is special, a very big deal.”

The returning champions were met at the Boscobel Sportsman’s Club and escorted into town by what seemed to Molldrem to be half the city’s population. Eleven days earlier the team’s momentous victory was celebrated with a city-wide picnic.

“They represented our school, community and area in an outstanding manner as players and gentlemen as attested to by a letter received from the WIAA by Coach Ron Zingsheim,” said Athletic Booster Nick Nice at the time.

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