The Waupaca Lakemen accomplished a major step toward defending their Badger Amateur Baseball Association Grand Championship with a 10-2 win Sunday, Aug. 21, over New London at Lakemen Field.
Waupaca will represent the BABA South-Central Division Sunday, Aug. 28, in the BABA semifinals, as the Lakemen host East Division championship Neopit at 1:30 p.m. Fans are urged to arrive a bit early for the best seats because a large crowd is expected.
The Lakemen finished the regular season with a 12-2 mark in division play and also knocked off Weymont and New London of the South-Central in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“Our only two defeats to a South-Central opponent came at the hands of Plover,” manager Dave Peterson said. “That 14-2 overall record against the South-Central is quite an achievement, as the division was well balanced this year.”
Lakemen starter Zac Peterson got through the first inning, but had a bit of a struggle. He opened the game by striking out Kyle Prey, but Nate Krake and Andy Brooker singled. He got an out on a groundball to second that moved the runners up a base, but a strikeout ended the threat.
“After going 11 innings the week before, it was not in Zac’s best interest to have long or tough innings,” Dave Peterson said.
Peterson got a huge boost from the Lakemen offense, as Waupaca sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the first. Jeff Riddle led off with a single and stoke second before Jason Wanty walked. Luke Behm bunted down the third base line. Pitcher Zac Dunbar had to charge off the mound and quickly turn and fire to first, but no one covered the base and the ball went down the line and Riddle. Braden Kaminske bounced out to second, but drove in Wanty in the process. Rocky Mondello then slapped a two-strike single to left to plate Behm. Dave Yeska grounded to the third baseman, whose throw to second was dropped for an error. Andy Wanty added an RBI single and Casey McDaniel popped out with the bases loaded for out No. 2. Wes Austin then hit what looked like a checked swing blooper over the third baseman’s head for a two-run single. Riddle’s second hit of the inning completed the six-run outburst that came on five hits and two errors.
The Merchants had two runners on base in the second on an error and hit batter, but Peterson got two big strikeouts.
The Lakemen went down in order in the second and got only a leadoff single from Yeska in the third. The Merchants did their scoring in the third, as Krake and Brooker led off the inning with back-to-back hits. Lance Poppy walked to load the bases with nobody out. Krake scored on a passed ball and Brooker hustled home after Riddle dropped a line drive.
New London’s fourth inning featured Krake’s third straight hit, but Peterson retired Brooker on strikes to keep the 6-2 lead.
The top of the fifth started with a sparkling defensive play, as Poppy ripped one into the hole at Riddle. He made a nice play and a long throw that Behm dug out at first for the putout. That helped Peterson sail through that inning, although he was tiring.
The Lakemen finally got a little momentum back to their side in the fourth, as Jason Wanty was plunked by a pitch. Behm followed with a bullet hit to left. Kaminske struck out and catcher Jim Thorpe tried to catch Behm off the bag. He failed, but Wanty alertly went to third on the throw. The two of them then pulled off a double steal, as Wanty beat a return throw to the plate.
The Lakemen added their eighth in the fifth, as Yeska led off with another solid single to right field. Pinch runner Eric Brehmer stole second and scored as Andy Wanty dropped a single into left center.
Joe Sambs singled into the left center gap for New London in the top of the sixth and was held to a single because Brehmer alertly backed up on the play and cut off the ball after it skipped past Kaminske, who tried to make a play on it. Sambs was cut down on a force out and catcher Kyle Douglas threw out Matt Bruette trying to steal to end the frame.
The game’s final two runs came in the sixth, as Behm led off with a ground single to right, Kaminske flied out to deep left and Mondello reached on an error. Pinch hitter Cam Nicewander came through with a double to the gap in right center that made it 10-2.
Peterson had tired enough on the mound to require relief. The Lakemen brought in Jim Nigbor, who has done a great job in his short appearances throughout the year. He did not disappoint, as he retired all nine of the batters he faced, including five on strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Lakemen tried to add some more insurance runs. Ethan Dayton dropped a single almost on the line in left field in the seventh, but was cut down trying to stretch it into a double. Josh Peterson led off the Lakemen half of the eight with a line single to center. He was erased on a groundball and the Lakemen got only a walk to Brehmer the rest of the frame.
Waupaca outhit the Merchants 13-6. Neither team surrendered many easy bases, as only two Lakemen walked and one was hit by a pitch. Only one Merchant walked, while another was hit.
Waupaca struck out seven times, but Peterson and Nigbor combined for 11. Krake and Brooker led New London in hits with three and two, respectively. Riddle, Behm, Yeska and Andy Wanty led Waupaca with two hits each, while Andy Wanty, Nicewander and Austin had two RBIs each.
Following the game, the South-Central handed out its end-of-the-year trophies. Each playoff team received a trophy and individual award winners were Peterson, pitcher of the year (6-0 league mark, 0.88 ERA); hitting awards went to Mondello (.457 average), Aaron Dobbe of Rosholt (.450), Jack Marx of Scandinavia (.406), Jason Steinbach of Manawa (.392), Jason Berrens of Scandinavia (.373) and Jordan Baitinger of Weymont (.368). More statistics can be found at www.babasc.org.