BARNEVELD — The return of senior Devon Schult to the Barneveld line-up spelled dome for the Belmont Braves.
Schult, who was injured for much of the season after colliding in the outfield with a teammate earlier in the season, moved the tying run into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning, and then knocked in the winning run in the eighth as the second-seeded Golden Eagles soared to a 3–2 victory over the sixth-seeded Braves in an extra inning WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal baseball game held at Barneveld High School on Tuesday, May 28.
“We played a very good baseball game,” said Belmont head coach Dave Michalkiewicz. “You have to give credit to a very good Barneveld team that kept fighting and made some nice plays at the end of the game. Our guys played hard, smart and composed.”
The Braves (7–14 overall), who won their fifth straight opening round playoff game on Friday, May 24, scored twice in the top of the third on Tuesday to erase an early 1–0 deficit.
Freshman Quinn Cushman singled and later scored on a RBI double by sophomore Lane Friedrich to tie the game, while junior Miles Opitz walked and came in on an error to put the guests into the lead.
Senior Jeremy Richardson, who took over for starter Kyle Van Bogaert in the third, shut out the number three ranked Eagles (19–3) over their next four turns at bat to keep the score deadlocked at 2–1, but Barneveld would keep fighting until their final out.
Schult bunted teammates Dustin Hodgson and Carson Carmody into scoring position in the seventh, and Hodgson came in on a fielder’s choice to knot the score at two all.
After holding the Braves scoreless in the top of the eighth, the Eagles struck for the winning run in the bottom of the frame when Schult knocked in Tyler Owns with the two down and the bases loaded to advance to the regional final.
“This is a great group of student-athletes,” said Michalkiewicz after his team had a five-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday. “I believe that with the success we had at the end of this season, we can use that momentum to continue to get better during the off-season.”
Van Bogaert finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a run and a RBI, and he worked two innings on the mound allowing one run on two hits and two walks with one strikeout.
Richardson (4–4), the team’s lone senior, tossed five and two-thirds innings and took his first loss since May 14 after yielding two runs on six hits with five walks and six strikeouts.
“Jeremy was an excellent leader for us this year. He was put in a difficult situation of being the only senior on a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores, and he did everything we needed him to do to help mentor our young players through what was a rocky start to the year,” commented Michalkiewicz. “He continued to be positive and demonstrated good patience when things didn’t start off great for us and we were able to reap those benefits to make a great run to end the year. He will be definitely missed next year.”
With eight starters slated to return for the Braves next season along with another former starter who missed the entire season with an ACL injury, things are definitely looking bright for next season and beyond.
“We played a number of young guys this season, who were able to gain a ton of playing experience at the varsity level for next season. I am definitely excited for next season. We will be very competitive for a number of years to come as long as we continue to work hard,” said Michalkiewicz.
WIAA Division 4 Regional Semifinal
Barneveld 3, Belmont 2
(from Tuesday, May 28 @ Barneveld)
Belmont 002 000 00 — 2 4 2
Barneveld 010 000 11 — 3 8 2
Leading hitters — Bel: Kyle Van Bogaert 2x4; Barn: Dustin Hodgson 2x4, Devon Schult 2x3. 2B — Bel: Lane Friedrich; Barn: D. Hodgson. W — Hellenbrand (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 7 SO, 1 BB). L — Jeremy Richardson (4–5, 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 SO, 5 BB).