BLANCHARDVILLE — Presley Hauser brought home Riley Gould on a safety squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the top-seeded and #1-ranked Pecatonica Vikings by #3-Benton/Shullsburg, 4-3, to capture the WIAA Division 4 regional title at McKellar Park on Wednesday, June 1.
“I’m extremely proud of this young team tonight. We took the #1 team in the state to nine innings, and we played relaxed like veterans. Our future is bright,” said Benton/Shullsburg head coach Tim Strang.
The Vikings (25-1 overall) pulled ahead early by scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning and two more in the second to build up a 3-0 advantage.
The score remained there until the top of the fifth when junior first baseman Hunter Matye singled in Nolan Strang to get the Zephyr-Miners (13-10) on the scoreboard.
In the seventh, the guests struck once again with junior center fielder Noah Wand driving in Chris Trejo with a single and freshman catcher Alex Wand plating Matye with a sacrifice fly to deadlock the score at 3-3.
Freshman pitcher Nathan Mowry worked his way out of jams in both the seventh and eighth innings to keep the Ben/Shulls’ upset hopes alive, but in the ninth the Vikings were able to break through for the winning run. A lead-off walk to relief pitcher Carter Ruegsegger put the pressure on and a pair of sacrifice bunts brought in courtesy runner Gould to end it.
Ruegsegger earned the win after tossing two scoreless innings without allowing a hit. He walked one and struck out two, while going 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs batted in to lead the Vikings.
Brooks Chandler worked the first seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks with 13 Ks.
Mowry (4-2) took the tough loss after surrendering four runs (two earned) on four hits and six walks with five strikeouts over eight and a third innings.
At the plate, Matye was 2-for-5 with a run and a RBI for the Zephyr-Miners. Aaron Coffey added two hits for the co-op.
“We exceeded even my best-case expectations this season. Returning with almost no varsity innings pitched, we knew it would be a challenge to develop a pitching staff that was consistent early on. That was the case, but our guys took on the roles we asked of them and developed faster and better than we could have expected,” commented Strang. “We have a lot of young ballplayers who are quite talented and can play multiple positions, so our challenge was also to figure out the best mix and combination of defense and batting lineup.”
There are no seniors on this year’s team, so Coach Strang also hopes a year of development will spell bigger and brighter things for the team in the future.
“We came together as a team quite well by the end of the season and have the opportunity to return everyone next year. I believe this tournament run will make us hungry for a chance to compete at this level again next year,” he added.
Pecatonica advanced to the WIAA Division 4 sectional tournament, which was held at Johnson Creek on Tuesday, June 7.
WIAA D4 REGIONAL FINAL
Bent/Shulls… 000 010 200 – 3 8 3
Pecatonica…. 120 000 001 – 4 5 2
Leading Hitters: B/S– Aaron Coffey 2x5, Hunter Matye 2x5. P– Carter Ruegsegger 2x3.
WP- Ruegsegger. LP- Nathan Mowry.
At Blanchardville, on Wednesday, June 1