Errors hurt Freedom in title game
By Greg Seubert
Two down, two to go.
The Waupaca baseball team won its second straight regional championship June 1 with a 6-3 win over Freedom after opening WIAA state tournament play the day before with a 9-2 win over Little Chute.
The top-seeded Comets improved to 21-4, hosted third-seeded Valders June 7 in a Division 2 sectional semifinal and the winner advanced to a sectional final later that day.
The sectional champion will advance to state, scheduled for June 14-16 at Neurosciences Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
Waupaca 6, Freedom 3
Three first-inning errors from three different Freedom infielders helped the Comets take an early 3-0 lead.
Johnny Popham reached on a two-out error and moved to second on Jason Ellie’s single. Freedom starter Charlie Jadin hit Hayden Neidert to load the bases and Popham and Ellie scored on an error. Courtesy runner Mike Johnson later scored on Freedom’s third error.
The Comets tacked on two more runs in the second. Shane Olsen signed and scored on Popham’s single and Popham scored on Ellie’s single.
Waupaca made it 6-0 in the third after Brenden Canterbury walked and eventually scored.
The Irish got on the board with a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
Walker Smith scattered five hits and went the distance to get the win on the mound.
“Walker’s been great on the mound,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “He’s got a presence about him and a confidence about him. He’s throwing three pitches for strikes, moves the ball around and commands all four quadrants of the strike zone.
“If you can do that, you keep hitters guessing and you can get a lot of guys out,” he said. “He has an idea of how to get a guy out and that’s always important for a pitcher. He’s had a great season.”
Popham and Ellie had two of the Comets’ six hits, while Dakota Brockman had two hits to lead the Irish.
Waupaca 9, Little Chute 2
Waupaca scored in each inning to defeat the Mustangs for the third time this season despite committing three errors.
The Comets came up with two runs in the first, fourth and sixth frames and single runs in the second, third and fifth.
Little Chute scored in the first two innings.
Jacob Popham had three of Waupaca’s 13 hits, while Smith and Olsen had two hits each. Ellie got the win on the mound and held the Mustangs to five hits.
The regional championship came after the Comets also won the first-ever North Eastern Conference title.
“We dominated our league as far as the record is concerned,” Koronkiewicz said. “(There were) a lot of competitive games, a lot of close games. We haven’t always scored a lot of runs, but our pitching staff has been outstanding, particularly in the second half of the season.”
Waupaca made it to a sectional final game last year, falling to eventual Division 2 state champion Milwaukee Lutheran.
“We put pressure on them from the very beginning,” Koronkiewicz said. “We said, ‘This is a very good baseball team and we just have to compete game in and game out.’ We’re going to have our share of success just because of the makeup of our team, but you still have to earn a championship. No one ever gives it to you. Over the course of the year, I think we can say we earned this one.
“We have a lot of good players,” he added. “If you take a look at our squad, there are a lot of knowledgeable baseball players that understand the game, like the game and like playing with each other. If you have all of those, ingredients, you have the makeup of a pretty good baseball team.”