SHULLSBURG – Benton/Shullsburg’s dreams of raising the regional championship trophy were dashed in extra innings as the #2-seeded Mineral Point Pointers came up with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning and held on to knock off the top-seeded and #2-ranked Zephyrs-Miners, 5-4, in a WIAA Division 3 regional final baseball game held at Badger Park on Thursday, May 31.
“It was a fantastic high school game. Mineral Point is a very good team and they battled the whole time,” said Benton/Shullsburg head coach Tim Strang. “The key was that we couldn’t get that lucky break that we needed. We had guys in scoring position with less than two outs in the seventh and eighth (innings) and the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
The game originally started on Wednesday afternoon, but a heavy downpour in the top of the first inning suspended play until Thursday.
Ben/Shulls (19-3 overall) struck first scoring three times in the bottom of the first inning to take an early lead. Junior pitcher Jacob Berendes helped his own cause by lining a run-scoring single and later scoring on a base hit by Nick Jansen to make it 3-0.
Each team put a run on the board in the third to keep the Zephyr-Miners’ lead at three runs, however the Pointers (16-4) fought back with a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to deadlock the score at 6-6. Isaac Lindsey drove in his second run of the game with a RBI-double in the fifth, while Justin Baehler made Ben/Shulls pay for a two-out error in the sixth by ripping a two-run, game-tying double.
The undefeated Six Rivers West champs put two runners on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings but could not break through for a score to keep the score stuck at four all.
Lindsey opened the Pointer ninth with a lead-off double, and then took third on a wild pitch and came into to score on an error on Grant Bossert’s grounder to second base to put the guests ahead 5-4.
Ben/Shulls got out of the frame without any further damage, and then put the tying run on base in the bottom of the ninth on a one-out single by Nathan Mowry. However, MP’s Grady Gorgen coaxed a ground out and a pop out to end the game as the Pointers avenged a 4-3 extra-inning loss to the co-op from back on March 29.
Lindsey finished 3-for-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and a run scored to lead the Pointers, while Gorgen notched the victory after tossing four scoreless in relief of freshman Liam Stumpf.
Nick Wagner, Ben/Shulls’ lone senior, went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored, while Berendes was 2-for-4 with a double, a RBI and a run and Mowry went 3-for-4 in the game.
“We had a successful season and look forward to bringing back almost everyone. However, we will miss the dedication, hard work and leadership of Nick Wagner. He set an example everyday of what a true “teammate” is and is a shining example of a high school student athlete,” remarked Strang.
Brooks Tiedeman (1-1) suffered the loss in relief of Berendes after allowing an unearned run over two innings of work.
The Zephyrs-Miners advanced to the championship game by taking down Darlington, 5-2, in a regional semifinal clash at Benton’s Swift Park on Tuesday, May 29.
Mowry (7-0) fired a complete-game gem for the co-op on the mound, yielding two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out 15 batters en route to the victory. He also had a RBI-double in the game.
The hosts used a three-run rally in the bottom of the third inning to erase a 2-1 deficit, and then left it up to Mowry as he retired 11 straight batters at one point and limited the Redbirds (6-14) to just two base runners over the final four innings.
“Nathan was stellar in his performance against Darlington. He helped put us in a position to play for the regional championship,” stated Coach Strang.
Wagner scored on Mowry’s double in the first and then tied the game in the third with a RBI-single and then scored the go-ahead run on Alex Wand’s bases loaded walk. Jansen plated insurance runs in the third and fifth innings on a pair of sacrifice flies for the hosts.
Freshman Carter Lancaster singled and scored on groundout by Preston Banfield in the first, and he singled and scored again on a base hit by senior Bailey McGuire in the third to account for both of the runs for the ‘Birds.
“I thought the guys really battled. They left it all out there. Strikeouts have been our Achilles heel all season. We need to get the bat on the ball more frequently in the future to compete,” noted Darlington head coach Brad Solberg.
Banfield (3-7) took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks with five Ks in four and a third innings of work.
Playing in their final prep game for Darlington on Tuesday were seniors Bailey McGuire, Ben Cooper and Jackson Hemming.
“I was really pleased with how our seniors led this season. They didn’t allow the culture of the program to take a back seat. Our three seniors are going to be very successful in their futures. We are proud of them and their accomplishments over the past four years,” Solberg said.