An error here, a walk there. They all added up to hurt the Waupaca baseball team.
Waupaca’s season ended June 4 with a 5-4 loss to Waupun in a Division 2 sectional semifinal.
The Comets advanced to their first sectional in four years with state tournament wins over Winneconne and Omro and ended up with an 18-6 record.
Waupun 5, Waupaca 4
WAUPUN – The Comets had 3-1 and 4-2 leads against the top-seeded Warriors, playing in their eighth straight sectional.
Bryce Buchholz put the Warriors on the board with a solo home run to lead off the Waupun half of the second inning, but the Comets came up with three runs in the third. After striking out five of the first eight Comets he faced in the first and second innings, Waupun starter Arik Tavs walked six Waupaca batters in a row – Johnny Popham, Jared Erickson, Joe Nelson, Beau Ash, Jake Reedy and Alex Hoffman – with Popham scoring on a bases-loaded walk and Erickson and Nelson coming home on wild pitches.
Waupaca ended up stranding three runners after Jordan Moul robbed Josh Houtman of an extra-base hit with a diving catch in the outfield.
Collin DeBoer scored on a wild pitch for Waupun in the bottom of the third to cut the lead to 3-2, but Waupaca came up with another run in the fifth, as Beau Ash drew the Comets’ eighth walk of the game and scored on a Jake Reedy single.
Waupun tied the game in the fifth on three hits and a Comet error. Casey Ausloos led off with a walk and scored on an error on Comet third baseman Nate Nelson. Jordan Daene followed with an RBI single that scored Jared Larsen to tie the game.
The Comets loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on Popham’s single, Erickson’s double and Joe Nelson’s walk, but Ryan Schmitt retired the two Waupaca players he faced after a pitching change to keep the score tied at 4-4.
Zander Neuville and Alex Grall singled for Waupaca in the top of the seventh, but the frame ended with Neuville stranded at third.
DeBoer and Daene opened the bottom of the seventh with walks and the Comets intentionally walked Jordan Moul to load the bases. Schmitt, who earned the win on the mound despite pitching only two-thirds of an inning, then stepped up to the plate and drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Reedy had two of Waupaca’s seven hits. Waupaca stranded 10 runners, including five in the last two innings. Nelson took the loss on the mound.
Waupaca 9, Winneconne 0
WAUPACA – Nelson tossed a two-hitter to lead the Comets to a regional championship over the Wolves May 29.
“Joe did what we wanted him to do, an opportunity to win the ballgame,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “He had pretty good stuff all day, his velocity was up and he threw his off-speed pitch for a strike enough to keep them off-balance.”
Waupaca took a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning after coming up with a run in the bottom of the third, but added four runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth.
“The big play was the double play with runners on first and second in a tight game with nobody out,” Koronkiewicz said. “We get out of that inning without them scoring the tying run or more. From then on, our sticks got going. We got runners on, moved them around, had some clutch hits and we win going away.”
The game was part of a big day for the team’s seniors, who graduated less than three hours after the contest ended.
“The hardest thing this time of year for a baseball player is to keep your focus,” Koronkiewicz said. “There are a lot of distractions not only for your seniors, but for your underclassmen as well. You have graduation, you have the end of the year, everybody’s winding down and looking forward to summer. I told them that the biggest obstacle is being mentally tough and mentally ready.”
Although they’ve graduated, the seniors are still a part of the team, according to Koronkiewicz.
“They’re still part of our program until we no longer get to play,” he said. “We’ll be able to practice Thursday, Friday and Monday. Then we get on a bus early Tuesday, take a long ride to Waupun and play in sectionals for the first time since 2009, when we made it to the sectional finals.”
Erickson had three of Waupaca’s 11 hits, while Houtman, Popham and Brandon Nowak added two each.
Waupaca 12, Omro 2 (5 inn.)
WAUPACA – Neuville and Reedy hit three-run homers and combined for seven RBIs for the Comets in a win over the Foxes, while Joe Nelson drove in three runs.
Neuville picked up the win on the mound.