The season is still alive for the Waupaca Lakemen baseball team.
The Lakemen handed Plover a 3-1 defeat Sunday in the BABA South-Central Division finals and will now head to East Division Clintonville to take on the A’s at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 29. The winner of that game will play for a BABA Grand Championship the following weekend.
Waupaca and Plover split the season series, with each team winning close games at their home park. This one would prove no different, except the visitors won.
The game was scoreless through three frames. The Lakemen did get two two-out walks in the first, but could not cash in. Plover got one walk, but no more.
The Lakemen wasted David Yeska’s leadoff double over the left fielder’s head in the second inning. A groundout moved Yeska to third, but two strikeouts killed the chance. Plover got two more walks off Jeff Riddle in the second, but got nothing in the run column and both teams went 1-2-3 in the third with the top of their lineups.
Waupaca loaded the bases in the fourth, as Braden Kaminske beat out an infield single with one out. After a strikeout, Rocky Mondello walked and Wes Austin was hit by a pitch. However, Josh Peterson popped up to second to end the inning.
Plover scored a gift run in the fourth. The first batter reached on an error and stole second and third before scoring on a sacrifice fly to center by Brian Brom.
The fifth inning proved crucial to the Lakemen. Riddle led off with a smash single to left. Pinch runner Ethan Dayton was moved to second on Jason Wanty’s sacrifice bunt and Luke Behm grounded into the hole between first and second, but the second baseman made a superb diving stop to keep the ball in the infield with Dayton stopping at third and Behm reaching first.
Andy Wanty then lined a ball over the right fielder’s head that got to the fence. Dayton scored easily with Behm not too far behind. Wanty legged it to third and beat the cutoff throw for a triple. Kaminske then flew out to just deep enough right field so that Wanty could tag and score the third run of the inning.
Mondello got the Waupaca’s only hit over the next three innings with an infield hit off of the pitcher’s glove. Unfortunately, nothing more developed, as Jason Jones ended up getting the next nine men in order. Riddle got through the fifth unscathed and gave up his first hit, a single to left by Drew Tomatczak, with two out in the sixth. In the seventh, Jason Pezewski singled with one out, but got no further. Finally, the lead off man reached on an error in the eighth. He would eventually steal second, but Riddle got the No. 2,3 and 4 hitters in order to keep the game at 3-1 entering the ninth.
The Lakemen had a chance to add to their lead, as Austin led off with a hit and went to second on Eric Brehmer’s bunt. Riddle was walked intentionally, but pinch hitter Tom Wanty drew a walk to load the bases with only one out. Behm then bounced a one-hopper to the first baseman, who made a nice throw to the plate for a force out. Wanty then struck out and the Lakemen were left to protect a two-run lead.
Things got really nerve-wracking in the bottom of the frame after Riddle walked the first man and Brom followed with a line single to left. A tiring Riddle then “sucked it up” and got an infield fly rule pop out to short. The No. 8 man in the order then blooped a pop foul behind first base that Yeska made a nice catch for the second out.
Riddle got ahead of the No. 9 hitter with two quick strikes before throwing a wild pitch that put the tying runs in scoring position. Things got tighter when that man walked to bring up the leadoff hitter with the bases loaded. Riddle got a quick strike on him before inducing him into a groundball to second that was played to first for the final out of the game.
Game totals show the Lakemen with seven hits, but no one with more than one. Yeska’s double and Wanty’s triple were the only extra base hits in the game. Eight Lakemen hitters struck out, four walked and one was hit by a pitch. The Lakemen left 10 men on base. Plover managed just three hits off Riddle, who struck out four and walked five. Plover left nine runners on base and the Lakemen committed the only two errors of the game.
So the playoffs now move east. Fans will no longer hear the crack of the bat, but more likely the “ping,” as the East Division uses aluminum bats. Most Lakemen hitters will probably choose to join them, but manager Dave Peterson is going to let each individual player decide for himself what type of bat to use.