CAZENOVIA — After a sloppy 13–12 second round playoff loss to Cassville ended a promising 21-win season prematurely a year ago, the Potosi baseball team endured an uneven up-and-down regular season this spring that resulted in a second-place conference finish.
Still in pursuit of reaching great heights on the diamond, Potosi’s talented group of 2013 seniors had one last chance to achieve everlasting baseball glory.
A team with lofty goals each of the last two seasons, Kading’s Chieftains created a memory that will last a lifetime by earning the program’s fifth trip to state by winning last Tuesday’s WIAA Division 4 Weston Sectional.
Potosi scored the first seven runs and cruised to an easy 8–2 victory over North Crawford in the sectional semifinal.
Later in the day the Chieftains snapped a 3–3 tie with two runs in the top of the sixth inning and held on for a 5–3 win over Cochrane–Fountain City in the sectional championship.
“It’s always a great feeling to get to state,” said Kading, who led the Chieftains to the state tournament in 1987, 1993, 2001 and 2002, winning the Division 3 title in ’93. “This team had that goal of getting to state. They had great success in football and basketball this season, but they were disappointed in their regular season for baseball this year. They wanted to make up for it by getting to state and they did just that.
“The kids are pretty excited. The parents are really excited too judging by the number of tears I saw Tuesday.”
Potosi (18–7) advanced to the D4 state semifinals in Grand Chute where they will play Lake Country Lutheran (23–4) today at 10 a.m.
Greenwood (14–3) and Wausaukee (15–6) play in the first D4 semifinal today at 8 a.m.
Lake Country Lutheran is led by 6–foot-3, 195-pound junior BJ Sabol, who is hitting .572 with two home runs, 10 triples, 45 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. He is also 7–0 on the mound with a 1.35 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity,” said Kading. “When you get to state anything can happen, but we are certainly going up to Appleton with the goal of winning two games.”
The D4 championship will be played Thursday at 9 a.m.
Potosi jumped out to a 3–0 lead in last week’s sectional final win over Cochrane–Fountain City with three runs in the top of the third inning.
Senior Isaiah Kruser’s RBI double plated junior Trevor Ehlen for the game’s first run.
Kruser stole home later in the inning to make it 2–0. When the C–FC catcher threw down to second base when Hunter Leibfried was running on a ball four pitch to Tim Fritz, Kruser alertly stole home.
Junior Chase Kruser’s ensuing RBI single drove in Leibfried to make it 3–0.
The Pirates (13–4) tied the game with three runs in the bottom of the third on four consecutive two-out hits off Potosi starter Tyler Udelhoven.
Garrett Marklowitz, Evan Skroch and Mitch Hunger hit back-to-back-to-back doubles to make it 3–2, then Chad Pronschinske tied the game with an RBI single.
Udelhoven finished the inning, but was replaced in the fourth by fellow senior Tim Fritz.
Udelhoven allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking one.
Meanwhile Fritz, last year’s Six Rivers West Player of the Year, limited C–FC to just two hits and a walk over the final four innings, by far his best pitching performance of the season. He also struck out six batters.
Fritz injured his left pitching elbow during football season — an injury that required him to miss the first part of basketball season. He had struggled with his command much of the spring and entered last Tuesday with a 3–4 record, a 5.52 ERA and 38 walks in 33 innings, but he was dominant and earned his fourth win of the season when Potosi plated two runs in the sixth.
“I’m not sure what changed, but that was definitely his best game of the year,” said Kading of his struggling senior. “He had a strong desire to pitch well and make amends for the past. It was nice to see because Tim is a really good pitcher. This was a breakthrough game and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Udelhoven led off the Potosi sixth with a walk and was forced out on Kevin Neuhaus’s fielder’s choice groundout. Ehlen single and Isaiah Kruser walked to load the bases.
Senior Spencer Hawes’ RBI groundout gave Potosi the lead and Leibfried’s ensuing RBI single drove in an insurance run.
“I was still pretty confident when they tied the game in the third,” said Kading. “Our guys were fighting hard and they knew we could come back and score again.
“And the bottom of the order really came through for us by starting the game-winning rally in the sixth.”
In Tuesday’s semifinal victory Potosi jumped on North Crawford in the early innings and ace Logan Udelhofen held the Trojans (12–8) scoreless until the sixth inning.
Tyler Udelhoven drew a bases loaded walk in the first inning to open the scoring.
Chase Kruser ripped a two-run single in the second and Mitch Langkamp drew a bases loaded walk to make it 4–0.
Hawes hit and RBI singled in the top of the fifth and two batters later Fritz smacked an RBI double to make it 6–0. Fritz added an RBI singles in the fifth and seventh. He finished the game 4-for-4 with three RBIs.
North Crawford scored its two runs in the sixth thanks to two Potosi errors and a Nick Gallespi RBI single.
Udelhofen improved to 7–1 on the season after allowing two unearned runs on three hits in the complete game victory. He struck out three and walked three.
Udelhofen, who now has a 0.56 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 492/3 innings pitched, will likely start today’s state semifinal game against Lake Country.
WIAA Division 4 Sectional Semifinal
Potosi 8, North Crawford 2
(from Tuesday, June 4 @ Cazenovia)
Potosi 132 010 1 — 8 12 4
North Crawford. 000 002 0 — 2 3 0
Leading hitters — P: Spencer Hawes 2x4, Hunter Leibfried 2x4, Tim Fritz 4x4, Isaiah Kruser 2x4. W — Logan Udelhofen (7–1, 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 SO, 3 BB). L — Hunter Fortnoy (1.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 SO, 6 BB).
WIAA Division 4 Sectional Final
Potosi 5, Cochrane–Fountain City 3
(from Tuesday, June 4 @ Cazenovia)
Potosi 003 002 0 — 5 8 1
C–FC 003 000 0 — 3 9 0
Leading hitters — P: Hunter Leibfried 2x4; CFC: Mitch Hunger 2x3, Dylan Rodgers 2x2. 2B — P: Leibfried, Isaiah Kruser; CFC: Garrett Marklowitz, Evan Skroch, Hunger. W — Tim Fritz (4–4, 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 6 SO, 1 BB). L — Cale Lisowski.