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Bulldogs bring home silver
Missed opportunities, Rio freshman hurler haunt Ithacas title bid
Ithaca coach Jeff Hilleshiem and Aaron Kepler, the senior captain, hoist the runner-up trophy amid disappointment.

Freshman Trajan Prochnow fired a six-hit shutout to lead the Rio Vikings to a 1-0 win over the Ithaca Bulldogs in the WIAA State Division 4 championship game at Appleton Thursday.

Rio’s Jacob Black singled home the only run of the game in the fifth inning and could be credited with a “save” or two.

It was Rio’s first championship. 

It was Ithaca’s second straight appearance in the State Tournament and the Bulldogs’ first in the title game. 

“That’s why they call it a game of inches,” said Ithaca coach Jeff Hilleshiem, whose team’s eight-game win streak was snapped. The Bulldogs finished the year 23-4 – the same as Rio.

“The centerfielder made two unbelievable catches,” said Hilleshiem. “If he can’t come up with either one we have one or two run lead – maybe more.”

The championship game pitted two unbeaten freshmen on the mound.

Ithaca’s Aaron Huebsch matched up with Prochnow, who entered the game with a 6-0 record.

Ithaca had scoring opportunities in each of the first four innings, but squandered them. Prochnow struggled as the Bulldogs amassed six hits along with two Rio errors, but Ithaca stranded seven runners over the first four innings. 

After leaving two runners stranded in the fourth, Prochnow settled in. He retired the last 10 batters he faced as Ithaca’s bats went silent in the last three innings. (After scoring nine runs in the first two innings of two state tournament games, the Bulldogs who had not been shutout all season were blanked for 11 straight innings. They did have nine hits, but lacked any run-scoring hits.)

Prochnow struck out two but issued no walks.

Huebsch gave up a leadoff single to Trevor Kearney then mowed down the next seven Viking hitters. In the third, Noah Hollander walked and Kearney singled for the second time, but Huebsch retired Jacob Black and Prochnow to keep the game scoreless. 

Since the Bulldogs’ semi-final win was lopsided, Hilleshiem had increased flexibility with his pitching staff. He said he contemplated allowing Aaron Huebsch to remain on the mound for the fourth inning, but opted to go with his brother Jacob, who was the winner in the win over Rib Lake. 

After breezing through the fourth, Mekhi Haugen doubled to right to open the fifth. When Noah Hollander missed a bunt, Ithaca catcher Cody Klossowski picked Haugen off second. But Hollander wound up walking, and Trevor Kearney, who had three of Rio’s five hits, singled. Black singled to left scoring Hollander. 

The damage – enough – was done.

Earlier, Ithaca squandered opportunities. The Bulldogs left a runner on base in the first and two in each of the next three innings – all seven in “scoring position”. In the second with Jacob Huebsch at third and Ross Ghastin at second, Prochnow escaped the second with one of his two strikeouts and a groundball.

In the third, Joey Clary and Aaron Kepler were at second and third when Jacob Huebsch’s sinking liner was grabbed by a diving Black for the final out.

In the fourth, Black’s glovework kept Ithaca off the scoreboard again.

Prochnow struck out two and gave up six hits. Aaron Huebsch gave up two hits and a walk in three innings. He fanned three. Jacob Huebsch, who took the loss, allowed three hits, four walks and two strikeouts. 


Kearney accounted for three of Rio’s hits. Joey Clary and Cody Klossowski each had two hits for Ithaca.