BELMONT — The Belmont Braves avenged a couple of regular season losses on their way to capturing a WIAA Division 4 regional championship title on their home baseball diamond last week.
The Braves bashed their way past the Iowa–Grant Panthers, 13–3 in five innings, in their regional opener at BHS last Tuesday, then claimed their first regional crown in a decade by taking down the visiting Highland Cardinals, 10–5 on Wednesday.
“It’s been a very cool experience for our guys,” said Belmont head coach Trevor Kattre, whose team joins the Braves’ teams of 2000 and 2009 as regional champions over the past two decades. “Our guys really deserve this accomplishment. They have worked so hard every day in practice and persevered through this season. Two years ago, we won only two games. Watching these guys develop over the past few years has been a cool experience. It has been a team goal since the beginning of the season to put a plaque on the wall and it’s really fulfilling to see our guys accomplish this goal.”
Against Highland, the Braves (15–9 overall) snapped a 2–2 tie in the bottom of the third inning when senior Colin Austin scored from third base on a wild pitch for the go-ahead run. Belmont plated five key insurance runs in the fifth inning and added two more in the sixth to open up a 10–2 advantage. Austin singled and stole home for a run in the fifth, while junior outfielder Cody Lindholm belted a three-run home run during the rally for the Braves. Junior Brady Wedig added a RBI single in the fifth, and junior Luke Kamps lined a two-run single in the sixth to extend the lead to eight.
Highland cut the lead to 10–5 in the top of the seventh on Grant Hying’s two-run home run, but Austin worked out of the jam to preserve the win for the Braves.
Sophomore Riley Christensen (2–2) allowed one earned run over 41/3 innings to earn the win, yielding four hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Austin got the save with 21/3 innings of relief despite allowing three runs on four hits with no walks and four Ks. Austin finished 2-for-3 at the plate with three runs scored, while senior Ethan James went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two batted in on a home run in the first inning. Wedig was 2-for-2 with a RBI and a run for the Braves.
Senior Drew Hennessey went 4-for-4 on the day with a homer, a double, three runs scored and two driven in for the Cardinals (13–10), who split the regular season meetings with Belmont this season.
Against Iowa–Grant on Tuesday, the Braves sent three home runs flying out of the park during their 10-run rally in the fourth inning as they powered their way past the Panthers. Austin erased a 3–2 deficit by launching a three-run dinger to open the Belmont fourth-inning uprising, and James followed with a solo shot to make it 6–3. Then, after the Braves loaded the bases, Lindholm smashed a grand slam home run to make it 10–3.
Will Cutler and Justan Ernst hit back-to-back RBI-singles to increase the lead to 12–3 in the fourth, while Christensen ripped a RBI-double in the fifth to plate Wedig as the Braves walked off with a 10-run rule victory over the Panthers (8–13), who had beaten them by a score of 10–7 in a regular season game back on April 15.
All nine starters for Belmont had a hit and scored a run in the game, while seven of the Braves also drove in a run in the rout. Austin finished 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs, while Cutler went 2-for-2 with two runs and RBI. Kamps added two hits and two runs, and Wedig doubled and scored two runs with one RBI. Christensen had two hits with a double, a RBI and a run for the hosts.
“Our bats are heating up at the right time, and we will continue to carry that on moving forward,” said Kattre.
Ross Havlik was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and Matthew Winders was 2-for-2 with two RBI to lead Iowa–Grant, which finished the year 8–13 overall.
“I thought we played well most of the game,” said I–G head coach Kyle Riemenapp. “We only had one error and led the game, until the bottom of the fourth. Belmont is a great all around team. Overall, I was happy with the season we had. It was a great group of guys that always kept competing, no matter what the score was, which makes coaching fun. We had some guys step up and improve a lot from last year, which shows the younger players where hard work and dedication can get you.”
James (4–3) earned the complete-game win for the Braves after giving up two earned runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
Belmont advance to face De Soto (18–7) in today’s Riverdale Sectional semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Bangor (15–4) and Hillsboro (14–6) square off in the other sectional game at 11:45 a.m. The winners meet for the sectional title at 3:45 p.m. The sectional winner advances to the 2019 WIAA State Baseball Tournament in Grand Chute on June 11–13.
WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal
Belmont 13, Iowa–Grant 3
(from Tuesday, May 28 @ Belmont)
Iowa–Grant...102 00 — 3 5 2
Belmont........011 (10)1 — 13 14 2
Leading hitters — IG: Ross Havlik 2x3, Matthew Winders 2x2; B: Colin Austin 3x4, Riley Christensen 2x4, Luke Kamps 2x4. 2B — B: Christensen, Brady Wedig. HR — B: Austin, Ethan James, Cody Lindholm.
W — Ethan James (4–3, 5IP, 5H, 3R, 2ER, 6K, 1BB). L — Isaac Hill (4–6, 3.1IP, 9H, 8R, 8ER, 4K, 2BB).
WIAA Division 4 regional final
Belmont 10, Highland 5
(from Wednesday, May 29 @ Belmont)
Highland..101 000 3 — 5 8 1
Belmont...201 052 x — 10 9 2
Leading hitters — H: Drew Hennessey 4x4, Cal Dorota 2x3; B: Colin Austin 2x3, Ethan James 2x3, Brady Wedig 2x2. 2B — H: Hennessey. HR — H: Hennessey, Grant Hying; B: James, Cody Lindholm.
W — Riley Christensen (2–2, 4.1IP, 4H, 2R, 1ER, 5K, 2BB). L — Grant Hying (4.2IP, 6H, 8R, 8ER, 5K, 3BB). SV — Colin Austin (2.2IP, 4H, 3R, 3ER, 4K, 0BB).