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Homers power Darlington past #4 Shullsburg/Benton
SHULLS/BENT catcher Alex Wand applies the tag to Darlington runner Jesse Sturtz on a close play at the plate in Wednesdays regional championship game.

    DARLINGTON – Just like a top-seed should, Darlington took advantage of their home field to knock off the #4-ranked and #2-seed Shullsburg/Benton co-op to earn their program’s first-ever spring baseball regional championship.
    The Redbirds sent three long balls over their short-porch in right field to power their way past the Miner-Zephyrs, 11-8, in a WIAA Division 3 regional final game played at Otto Ruf Field on Wednesday, May 31.
    “We were the beneficiary of it today, but on a different day it could have been anyone’s advantage,” said Darlington head coach Brad Solberg after leading the Redbirds to their first regional title since 1994.
    Darlington advanced to the Whitehall Sectional Tournament on Tuesday, June 6, where they met Wisconsin Heights (18-5) in the second sectional semifinal game. [The game did not get over in time to make this edition of the paper.]
    The winner went on to face the winner of the first semifinal game between Aquinas (17-9) and Lancaster (15-7) for a berth in next week’s WIAA State Baseball Tournament.
    “I’m looking forward to the experience. These guys have accomplished so much success, but never in baseball. For them to do it for the first time in spring means a lot to them,” commented Solberg.
    The winner of the Sectional #3 will meet the Sectional #1 winner in the first game of the D3 State Tournament at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute on Wednesday, June 14, starting at 1 p.m.
    Last Wednesday, the Redbirds (16-7 overall) bolted out to an early 7-0 lead in the first inning thanks in part to a grand slam home run by sophomore second baseman Nick Andrae, but the hosts had to regain the momentum after the Miner-Zephyrs (23-4) rallied to tie the game in the top of the fifth inning.
    “We haven’t had this type of situation much this season. We made a couple of mistakes early in the game and they capitalized on them,” said Shullsburg/Benton head coach Tim Strang, who brought his team into the game riding a 13-game winning streak.
    After scoring single runs in the second and third innings, Shulls/Bent struck for five runs in the fifth to deadlock the score at 7-7. Senior Chris Trejo stole home in the second and had a RBI-single in the third, while senior Hunter Matye had a RBI-double and scored the tying run on Nolan Strang’s RBI-single in the fifth.
    “This is such a great group of kids who never give up. At that point, down 7-0, you can give up, but to see them battle back to tie it up. I’m really proud of these guys for not giving up,” Strang added.
    Senior Ryan Glendenning, who started on he mound and pitched into the fifth, help his own cause by smashing a solo home run to right to kick off the bottom of the fifth for the ‘Birds.
    Senior shortstop Will Schwartz added a two-run blast in the sixth inning to help extend the Redbirds’ advantage to 11-7 heading into the final stanza.
    “It’s the same thing I’ve seen from these guys in every sport they have played. They refuse to lose. They find a way to gut-out wins towards the end of games,” noted Solberg.
    Shulls/Bent plated a run off reliever Chad Golackson and loaded the bases with just one out, but sophomore pitcher Preston Banfield stepped up to record a strike out and ground out to secure the victory for the Redbirds.
    Brooks Tiedeman, the Miner-Zephyrs’ final batter, nearly took advantage of Darlington’s short right field fence but missed a go-ahead grand slam home run by a few feet before bouncing out to Banfield for the final out.
    Glendenning (4-2) got the win after allowing seven runs (two earned) on six hits and four walks with five strikeouts. Golackson tossed a hitless inning and a third with three walks and two Ks, while Banfield notched the save by getting the two biggest outs of the Redbirds’ season with a K.
    “Ryan was strong early. Chad is a bulldog for us. He’s still not at 100 percent, but he gives us everything he has when he’s out there. For Preston to come in as sophomore who has thrown really limited innings this season, I can’t say enough about him,” said Solberg about his three pitchers who combined to hold off the Miner-Zephyrs.
    Glendenning finished 3-for-3 at the plate with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored for the ‘Birds. Schwartz also went deep and had two RBI and scored twice, while Andrae drove in four runs and senior Brayden McDonald scored twice.
    Senior Hayden Hardyman and junior Bailey McGuire each had a run and a RBI for Darlington.
    Trejo finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored for Shulls/Bent. Matye had a double with a RBI and a run, while Strang drove in two runs and Jacob Berendes added a double and a RBI for the guests.
    Sophomore Nathan Mowry (5-3) took over for Trejo on the mound in the second inning and gave the Miner-Zephyrs five solid innings in relief. He took the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks with seven Ks.
    Playing in their final game for Shullsburg/Benton on Thursday’s sectional final were seniors Nathan Wedige, Chris Trejo, Hunter Matye, Noah Wand and Brian Brant.
    “What can I say about these guys that hasn’t already been said? They are fantastic athletes and they’re great leaders and example-setters for the younger guys. We will miss these guys next year,” said Strang about his seniors.
    At Darlington, on Tuesday, May 30, the Redbirds erased an early 2-0 deficit by scoring 10 unanswered runs through the first five innings to vanquish the visiting New Glarus Glarner Knights, 10-5, in a D3 regional semifinal contest.
    Brayden McDonald went 3-for-4 with three RBI and four runs scored to lead the Redbirds’ comeback. He walked and scored in the bottom of the first inning to help the Redbirds tie the score at 2-2, and then reached on an error and scored in the three-run second to put the ‘Birds ahead for good.
    McDonald added a three-run home run in the third to extend the lead to 8-2, and doubled and scored in the fifth to make it 10-2.
    Glendenning went 2-for-4 with two RBI, while Jesse Sturtz and Hayden Hardyman each scored a run and knocked in another for Darlington.
    Sturtz (6-1) earned the win in five and a third innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts.
    At Shullsburg, on Tuesday, May 30, the Miner-Zephyrs plated seven runs in the bottom of the second inning and rolled the visiting Mineral Point Pointers, 10-0, in a five-inning regional semifinal affair.
    Nathan Mowry went 3-for-3 with a double, three RBI and a run scored to lead the rout. Alex Wand was 3-for-3 with two RBI. Hunter Matye and Chris Trejo each had a double with two RBI and a run scored, while Nathan Wedige added a double with two runs and a RBI.
    Trejo and Berendes combined on a four-hit shutout and each fanned two batters. Trejo gave up one hit over two innings and left the game after 30 pitches to give him a chance to pitch on Wednesday, while Berendes (4-0) scattered three hits over three innings to pick up the win.
Shulls/Bent… 011  050 1 –   8  6  2
Darlington….. 700  013 x – 11  7  3
Leading hitters: S/B– Chris Trejo 2x4. 2B- Jacob Berendes, Hunter Matye. Darl– Ryan Glendenning 3x3. HR- Nick Andrae, Glendenning, Will Schwartz.
WP- Glendenning. LP- Nathan Mowry. S- Preston Banfield.
At Darlington, on Wednesday, May 31
New Glarus… 200  000  3 –   5    8  6
Darlington….. 233  020  x – 10  10  3
Leading Hitters: Brayden McDonald 3x4, Ryan Glendenning 2x4. HR- McDonald. 2B- Jesse Sturtz, McDonald.
WP- Sturtz. LP- Carney.
At Darlington, on Tuesday, May 30
Mineral Point… 000  00 –   0    4  1
Shulls/Bent…... 070  3x – 10  10  0
Leading Hitters: Nathan Mowry 3x3, Alex Wand 3x3. 2B- Mowry, Chris Trejo, Hunter Matye, Nathan Wedige.
WP- Jacob Berendes. LP- James.
At Shullsburg, on Tuesday, May 30