JOHNSON CREEK – Baseball great Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The Shullsburg/Benton baseball team knows all too well the truth in the Yankee legend’s words.
The Miner-Zephyrs were cruising along up 6-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning in Tuesday’s sectional game against Six Rivers East rival Argyle, but– with a nod to Yogi– the game was far from over.
Argyle plated three runs in the home-half of the sixth to put Shullsburg/Benton back on their heels, and then the Orioles struck for four more runs in the seventh to complete the stunning comeback as they knocked off the #5-ranked Miner-Zephyrs, 7-6, in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal game at Johnson Creek on June 10.
All four of Argyle’s runs in the seventh came after the second out was recorded, and the final three runs scored thanks to two S/B errors– their only two fielding miscues of the game.
“On any given day, any baseball team can beat another and (Tuesday) turned out to be Argyle’s day,” said Shullsburg/Benton head coach Tim Strang, whose team swept the Orioles in a doubleheader earlier this season. “I guess it wasn’t meant to be for us. We had the opportunity to make the third out three times, but we just couldn’t make it happen.”
The co-op got off to a good start with senior Connor Crotty driving in junior Brett Matye with a sacrifice fly in the top of the first inning to put them ahead 1-0.
The Miner-Zephyrs (22-6 overall) added three more runs in the third and plated two more runs in the fourth to go ahead 6-0.
B. Matye scored on a single by starting pitcher Nathan Hendrickson in the third, while Crotty and senior Laine Carver also crossed the plate in the stanza. Junior Wyatt Cook drove in a pair of runs in the fourth to give his team a seemingly comfortable lead.
However, the Miner-Zephyrs may have felt a bit too comfortable.
Argyle ace Alex Treuthardt settled down after a shaky start and retired nine of the final 12 batters he faced on the mound. He walked two in the fifth but got out of the jam with a groundball out, and he allowed a single to open the seventh but got a double-play to end the threat.
Treuthardt also sparked the Orioles (10-18) at the plate, driving in two runs and scoring another in the sixth; and he singled and scored the tying run in the seventh.
“(Alex) is a phenomenal athlete and as good a baseball player as anyone who has come through the league,” Strang noted about the Argyle standout.
Hendrickson, who was thrust into the starting duties in the sectional opener after Cook developed soreness in his arm after tossing two shutouts for the Miner-Zephyrs the previous week, worked three scoreless innings against the Orioles before giving way to junior Brant Gille in the fourth to save some innings for the possible sectional final showdown with top-ranked Lake Country Lutheran.
The Lightning (30-0) rolled over Rio, 10-0, in the sectional opener Tuesday morning, and Strang knew beating them would be a daunting task even with a full pitching staff. But, with a limited amount of healthy arms on his bench, he was forced to make a tough choice to set the team up for game two later that afternoon.
“I felt we were mentally in the game the whole way. We didn’t play like we were looking ahead to the second game, but we did strategize like that,” Strang admitted.
Unfortunately, the co-op never got to game two.
Gille tossed two strong innings to start his time on the mound, striking out four straight batters at one point; but the Orioles got to him for three runs in the sixth to fight their way back into the game.
Crotty, who was shut down from pitching late in the season due to some arm troubles, took the mound in the seventh and struck out two batters in between a pair of walks to put the Miner-Zephyrs within an out of a sectional final appearance.
Treuthardt kept his team alive with a single that loaded the bases. After a passed ball brought in a run and advanced the other runners up a base, an error on a hard grounder to second brought in another run.
Then, a tough fly ball to right field off the bat of Colton Ploessl hit off freshman Noah Wand’s glove, allowing Treuthardt and Kyle Olson to come around to score the winning runs.
“We had a lot of opportunities. We just didn’t take advantage of some of them,” said Strang.
Treuthardt got the complete-game win after giving up six runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. Crotty took the loss, allowing four runs (none earned) on one hit and two walks with two Ks. Hendrickson struck out four and yielded one hit and one walk, while Gille surrendered three runs on four hits with a walk and four Ks.
Cook went 2-for-4 with two RBI. B. Matye and Carver each scored twice for the Miner-Zephyrs.
Wrapping up their stellar careers with Shullsburg/Benton– which included two conference championship titles and two sectional appearances– were seniors Laine Carver, Connor Crotty, Nathan Hendrickson and Kyle Majerus.
“I have had the opportunity over the last 20 years to coach some great players. This was a special group,” stated Strang about this year’s seniors. “They provided tremendous leadership, showed great character and dedication, and cared about the team and were always willing to work to improve. They set a tremendous example for the younger players. I hope our kids will continue to follow their example.”
Argyle’s celebration ended abruptly in the sectional final game as the unbeaten Lightning– the last unbeaten team remaining in the state– scored five times in the first inning, four times in the second and twice in the third to roll to an 11-0 five-inning victory over the Orioles.
LCL’s B.J. Sabol fired a no-hitter with 11 Ks and one walk.
It was the 13th time in 30 games the Lightning pitched a shutout this season, the 22nd time they won by 10 runs or more and 25th time they scored 10 runs or more in a game.
WIAA D4 REGIONAL SEMIFINALS
Shulls/Bent… 103 200 0 – 6 7 2
Argyle………. 000 003 4 – 7 6 2
Leading Hitters: Wyatt Cook 2x4.
WP- Treuthardt. LP- Connor Crotty.
Tuesday, June 10, at Johnson Creek