BENTON — This time around there would be no seventh-inning magic for the Belmont Braves.
After rallying to score the winning runs in the top of the seventh inning in each of their first two playoff games, the magic ran out for the Braves as third-seeded Shullsburg/Benton locked up the championship crown with a 3–0 win over fifth-seeded Belmont in a WIAA Division 4 regional final baseball game held at Benton’s Swift Park on Friday.
It was the second regional title in the past three seasons for the Miner-Zephyrs (22–5 overall), who will face Argyle (9–17) and then, if they win, most likely top-ranked Lake Country Lutheran (28–0) at Tuesday’s Johnson Creek Sectional.
“There’s been some pretty good baseball played during the playoffs, and we’ve faced tremendous competition in the regional. It was pretty special for us to come out on top. Belmont showed they belonged in this game,” said Shullsburg/Benton head coach Tim Strang.
Junior pitcher Wyatt Cook hurled his second shutout of the postseason for Shullsburg/Benton to best Belmont ace Lane Kamps in a battle of two of the best underclassmen in the Six Rivers West.
Cook (6–0) allowed just two hits, walked three batters and struck out 10 en route to the complete-game win, while Kamps (9–5) surrendered three runs– all in the second inning– on seven hits and one walk with 11 Ks over seven innings to take the tough loss.
The hosts got to Kamps in the home half of the second stanza when freshman Hunter Matye singled in Connor Crotty for the game’s first run, and Nathan Hendrickson scored when the ball got by the Belmont left fielder. Then, senior Laine Carver brought in Matye to make it 3–0.
That would be all they would get off Kamps, but it would be plenty as Cook kept the Braves (15–11–1) off the scoreboard the entire game.
Belmont loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning, but Cook got out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts and a line out to Carver in center. The Braves also had two runners on in the fourth and sixth frames, but could not plate a run.
The Braves scored a run in the seventh to beat Highland, 2–1, on Tuesday and three runs in the seventh to stun Barneveld, 3–2, on Wednesday; however, there was no late-inning magic left as Cook retired the Orange-and-Black in order in the seventh to secure the regional championship title.
Playing their final game at BHS on Friday were seniors Kyle VanBogaert, Lucas Stoney, Miles Opitz and John Hentrich.
Against Highland on Tuesday, Kamps tossed a two-hitter and struck out 17 batters, while shortstop Quinn Cushman plated the go-ahead run on a single in the top of the seventh inning as the Braves rallied for a 2-1 regional quarterfinal victory.
Nate Robinson put the Cardinals ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning when he reached on an error, and then stole second, third and home for the hosts.
Belmont countered in the second when catcher Mitch Ray scored on an error to tie the game, and it remained tied until the seventh when Cushman drove in Raine Voigts with a one-out base hit.
Kamps, who had a string of eight straight strikeouts from the third to the fifth inning, worked out of a jam in the sixth inning and retired the Cards in order in the seventh to secure the win.
The very next day, the Braves pulled off an even bigger upset when they took down the top-seeded and #2-ranked Barneveld Golden Eagles, 3-2, in a regional semifinal affair.
The Eagles (23-4) grabbed a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs off VanBogaert in the bottom of the fourth inning, but that would be all the offense they could muster for the game.
The Braves were held off the scoreboard until the seventh when they struck for three runs to overtake the hosts. Miles Opitz and Jon Bahr each singled and came around to score on a two-out error by the Eagles shortstop to tie the game at 2-2, and Kamps put his team into the lead with a single that brought in VanBogaert for the game-winning run.
With the lead in his pocket, VanBogaert set down the Eagles in order in the bottom of the frame with a pair of fly ball outs and a strike out to lock down the win.
VanBogaert (4-4) threw all seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk with four Ks.
Opitz went 2-for-2 at the plate with a run scored for the Braves, who were swept by Barneveld in a doubleheader early this season.
WIAA Division 4 regional quarterfinals
Belmont 2, Highland 1
(from Tuesday, June 3 @ Highland)
Belmont 010 000 1 — 2 4 1
Highland 100 000 0 — 1 1 3
Leading hitters — none. 2B — H: Austin Yager. W — Lane Kamps (9–4, 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 17 SO, 4 BB). L — Yager (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 10 SO, 3 BB).
WIAA Division 4 regional semifinals
Belmont 3, Barneveld 2
(from Wednesday, June 4 @ Barneveld)
Belmont 000 000 3 — 3 6 0
Barneveld 000 200 0 — 2 5 1
Leading hitters — Bel: Miles Opitz 2x2; Barn: Carson Carmody 2x2, Sam Shatrawka 2x3. 2B — Barn: Carmody. W — Kyle Van Bogaert (4–4, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 SO, 1 BB). L — Tyler Hellenbrand (6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 SO, 3 BB).
WIAA Division 4 regional finals
Shullsburg/Benton 3, Belmont 0
(from Friday, June 6 @ Benton)
Belmont 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Shullsburg/Benton 030 000 x — 3 7 2
Leading hitters — S/B: Nathan Hendrickson 2x3. 2B — S/B: Hendrickson. W — Cook (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 10 SO, 3 BB). L — Lane Kamps (9–5, 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 11 SO, 1 BB).