The Waupaca Lakemen continued their recent trend of solid baseball Sunday with a 7-2 win over Clintonville in a BABA semifinal matchup on the A’s home field.
Waupaca will take on Tigerton at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 5, in the 65th BABA Grand Championship in Tigerton.
Waupaca faced left-hander Luke Westphal and countered with Jeff Riddle.
“We have five lefty hitters in the starting lineup, so it was a big challenge,” manager Dave Peterson said. “We have a gifted right-hander in Jeff Riddle to fall back on and try to use our defense to support. On this day, both came through wonderfully.”
Both teams managed nine hits and had three reach via walk or hit by pitch. The Lakemen struck out 12 times, but Riddle got eight A’s to carry their bats back to the bench. The Lakemen committed one error, while Clintonville had two.
Clintonville struck first in the bottom of the first inning, as leadoff hitter Griffin Wiley bounced one off the top of the center field fence for a double. He scored two outs later after Jared Westphal hit one off the bottom of the fence down the right field line for another double.
After two Lakemen struck out in the second, David Yeska had a tremendous at bat against Westphal, which ended with a monstrous blast over the right field fence after fouling off several 3-2 pitches.
Jason Wanty walked with two out in the Lakemen third and Luke Behm shot an RBI double into the left center field gap to give the Lakemen the lead. Andy Wanty followed with a soft liner to center that drove in Behm and reached second after the throw to the plate got by the catcher. Braden Kaminske soon drove Wanty in with a single of his own that was just out of the reach of the defense. That quick spurt gave the Lakemen a 4-1 lead they would never relinquish.
The Lakemen defense then came into the headlines in the fourth, with Behm making a diving stop at third and throwing out a potential runner. The next batter reached on a hit, but was picked off on a quick move to first by Riddle.
In the fifth, Al Soldner blasted a solo home run to left to cut the margin to 4-2. Wiley singled and Aaron Everts reached when his potential double play ground ball was thrown away.
With two men on, Eric Brehmer made a nice running catch in center and Yeska followed with a diving catch of a sinking liner to left to get the Lakemen out of the jam still leading 4-2.
Kaminske led off the Lakemen sixth with a solid single and stole second before Yeska walked. After a strikeout, Wes Austin smashed a groundball just out of reach of the third baseman that plated Kaminske. Shawn Peskie, who was pinch running for Yeska, scored on a wild pitch and pinch hitter Dean Nelson bounced a ball that the pitcher knocked down and the second baseman threw to first without a run scoring. However, Riddle came through with a clutch two-out single that plated Austin and gave the Lakemen a 7-2 lead. Now it became a matter of could the Lakemen hold on, as they had only two more baserunners in the game.
The A’s did threaten in the sixth with a one-out walk and single that put runners at the corners. The runner at first stole second. Soldner hit a shot headed up the middle, but Riddle knocked it down and got him at first without any advances on the bases. He got the last batter on a grounder to short and seemed to breeze through the seventh and eighth by getting all hitters in order.
Then came the toughest three outs in baseball, the last three in the bottom of the ninth. The first batter fouled out to catcher Kyle Douglas and Soldner singled.
After a strikeout, Wiley got his third hit of the game and Everts walked to load the bases. John Dunlavy then hit a popup into short right field and about on the foul line. It looked like Jason Wanty and Austin might collide, but at the last second, Austin reached up and caught the ball to end the game.
Hitting totals show Wiley and Andy Heiman with three hits each and Soldner with two. Riddle, Kaminske and Austin led the Lakemen with two each. The Lakemen stranded only five runners, while the A’s left 10 men on.
“Fans should note that gametime is set for 2 p.m. instead of the usual 1:30 p.m. start,” Peterson said. “A big crowd is expected and although the field conditions at Tigerton are good – albeit a very short outfield fence – there is not a great amount of bleacher seating. Fans are urged to arrive early and/or bring their own chairs in hopes of a seat along the fences.”
Tigerton advanced with a 13-5 win over Hatley behind two homers from Jon Berg.
Sunday’s game will be Waupaca’s 21st trip to the Grand Championship and the first since falling to Little Falls in the 2007 title game. Tigerton is playing in the game for the fourth time and the first since defeating Clintonville in 2004.