PRAIRIE DU CHIEN — Fennimore’s bid to return to the American Legion U19 Class A State Tournament came up just short Monday night at the Prairie du Chien Regional.
Will Ahnen and Trevor Wanek each homered off Prairie du Chien ace Gavin Gillitzer (who was pitching with a broken wrist), and Maguire Fitzgerald pitched six strong innings as Fennimore forced a winner-take-all championship game with a 3–2 victory over the host Grasshoppers in Monday’s first game.
But the visiting 184s committed five errors in Game 2 and Prairie du Chien (ranked second in the state in Class A) bounced back with an 8–3 victory in the second championship game to earn a berth in this weekend’s Class A State Tournament in Westby.
Prairie du Chien (27–6) entered Monday night undefeated in the four-day regional tournament with a pair of wins over top-ranked Viroqua on Friday and Sunday, and a 5–2 win over Fennimore in Saturday’s second round.
Fennimore was 2–1 entering Monday night and needed to beat PdC twice to win the six-team double-elimination regional tournament.
A year ago, the 184s won the regional tournament and finished second at the Wisconsin Class A state tournament to advance to the American Legion Division II Central Plains Regional Tournament, where they went 1–2. Fennimore finished the 2018 season with a 26–8 record.
Wanek drew a one-out walk and later scored on Ahnen’s two-out dinger over the left field fence to five Fennimore a 2–0 lead in the top of the fifth.
PdC loaded the bases without on out in the fourth, but Fitzgerald struck out the next three batters to get out of the jam unscathed.
Prairie du Chien got a run back in the bottom of the fifth and tied the game on Hunter Davis’ RBI single in the sixth. But Wanek played the role of hero, when he belted a two-out offering from Gillitzer over the left field wall in the top of the seventh to give Fennimore a 3–2 lead. He then relieved Fitzgerald in the bottom of the seventh and pitch around a pair of singles and ultimately struck out Ryan Mcgrath to end the game and record the save.
“For the most part we played pretty good defense,” said Fennimore coach Heath Ahnen. “We hung with them and got a couple big hits from Will and Trevor (Wanek). Maguire moved the ball around a lot. He used a lot of off-speed and he was spotting the pitches. When they put the ball in play we played very good defense behind him. It was a real team effort. It was a fun game.”
Fitzgerald (1–1) picked up the win, allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits and five walks in six innings. He struck out 10. Fitzgerald was not with the team Friday or Saturday as he was in Oshkosh for the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star Game.
“We didn’t have quite as many games as we had last year due to rainouts and other reasons, so Maguire didn’t pitch much this summer. But he stepped up when we needed him to on Monday.”
Gillitzer, who broke his wrist last Wednesday in a practice for the WFCA All-Star Game, pitched Monday with a splint on his left wrist. He took the loss, allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings. He struck out nine and walked one.
Prairie du Chien scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning off Wanek to take an early lead in the winner-take-all championship game. Fennimore got on the board with an RBI single by Fitzgerald in the top of the second.
The host Grasshoppers capitalized on a Fennimore error in the third and an RBI squeeze bunt by Mcgrath made it 3–1.
Warren Adam ripped an RBI single in the top of the fourth to drive in Noah Hromdka and Adam came in to tie the game at 3–3 when Druw Fifrick reached on an error.
Cory Check gave PdC the lead for good with a two-out RBI double off Fennimore reliever Trevor Neuroth and Check later scored when Grant Martin reached on an error. Back-to-back two-out Fennimore errors allowed Prairie du Chien to plate a pair of insurance runs in the fifth to make it 7–3. Mcgrath drove in the final run with another squeeze bunt in the sixth inning.
“We played a pretty tight game for half the game,” said coach Ahnen. “We were tied 3–3 in the fourth. We hit the ball well, but we didn’t have the timely hits to drive in runs, and we didn’t play as well on defense as we needed to. But that’s baseball.
Fennimore ended the 2019 Legion season 6–8 but missed out on seven potential games — three due to rainouts, four more when they had to withdraw from the North Crawford tournament two weekends ago due to a lack of players.
“We ended the season just under .500, but I think out team was better than our final record showed,” said Ahnen. “We played some tough competition in this summer and our regional was very tough with the number 1 and number 2 ranked teams in the state.
“I do think the kids got a lot out of this summer despite the games we missed out on. All in all the kids realized we have the ability to play with the better teams. We also showed a lot of growth in our play and we learned perseverance at the regional tournament with our wins over Westby and Prairie du Chien. There were a lot of positive things to take away from this season. The season didn’t end the way we hoped, but we made a good run in the regional.”
American Legion Coulee Region Tournament
Fennimore 3, Prairie du Chien 2
(from Monday, July 22 @ Prairie du Chien)
Fennimore.............000 020 1 — 3 7 1
Prairie du Chien...000 011 0 — 2 6 0
Leading hitters — F: Trevor Wanek 3x3, Tyler Hach 2x3. 2B — F: Hach. HR — F: Will Ahnen, Wanek.
W — Maguire Fitzgerald (1–1, 6IP, 4H, 2R, 1ER, 10K, 5BB). L — Gavin Gillitzer (7IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 9K, 1BB). SV — Trevor Wanek (1, 2H, 0R, 2K, 0BB).
American Legion Coulee Region Tournament Championship
Prairie du Chien 8, Fennimore 3
(from Monday, July 22 @ Prairie du Chien)
Fennimore.............010 200 0 — 3 9 5
Prairie du Chien...201 221 x — 8 8 2
Leading hitters — F: Trevor Wanek 2x3, Trevor Neuroth 2x3; PdC: Cory Check 3x4. 2B — F: Noah Hromadka, Gavyn Muench. 3B — PdC: Drake Coleman, Clayton Ducharme.
W — Zach Mara (3.1IP, 3H, 0R, 1K, 0BB). L — Trevor Neuroth (1–1, 3H, 5R, 2ER, 4K, 4BB).