By Paul Lecker
EAU CLAIRE – Marshfield suffered a heart-breaking end to its season on Tuesday, falling in 11 innings to Eau Claire North 5-4 in a WIAA Division 1 baseball sectional semifinal at Carson Park.
Sam Stange scored all the way from first on a single by Anthony Pogodzinski with one out in the bottom of the 11th to give the Huskies (21-4) the victory. North moves on to play Wisconsin Rapids (17-7) in the sectional championship game after Rapids upset No. 1 seed Stevens Point (20-5) in the other sectional semifinal, 6-4. The sectional final was postponed by rain and will be played at noon on Wednesday.
On a 2-2 count, Stange was running on the pitch when Pogodzinski smacked a single up the middle. Marshfield centerfielder Brant Bohman slipped while fielding the ball, giving Stange a little extra time and he just beat the relay throw to home to score the winning run.
Marshfield’s season comes to an end with a 16-13 record and a regional title.
“Our hitting and pitching really improved a lot from last year,” Marshfield coach Jon Bauer. “We made a lot of improvements. It’s an intense group and a fun group of guys to be around. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
North jumped on Marshfield starting pitcher Will Voss with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first.
Gabe O’Brien led off with a double, moved to third on a single by Carter Hesselman and scored on a double by Stange. Pogodzinski’s groundout scored courtesy runner Ely Johnson to make it 2-0.
Marshfield tied the game in the third when Ryan Krueger tripled to plate Preston Wagner, and Krueger scored on a throwing error.
O’Brien’s second double of the game brought home Keegan Dahnke as the Huskies briefly regained the lead at 3-2 in the fourth.
The Tigers responded with a pair of runs in the fifth, knocking out Hesselman, North’s starter.
Jacob Earll walked, courtesy runner Caleb Specht went to second on a wild pitch, and Krueger was hit by a pitch to end Hesselman’s day.
Stange came in and retired Bohman on a groundout before walking Mason Coffren to lead the bases. Stange then made a pair of mistakes on the same play.
Isaiah Baierl hit a bouncer to back to the mound that Stange bobbled. After he recovered, he overthrew first base, allowing Specht and Krueger to score and give the Tigers the lead.
North quickly tied the game with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Stange led off with his second double of the game and scored on a line-drive single to left by Gabe Richardson.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Wagner relieved Voss and got out of the jam.
Wagner threw five more shutout innings, working around back-to-back two-out singles by North in the sixth and a bases-loaded mess in the ninth.
Stange led off the ninth for North with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a groundout. Marshfield intentionally walked the next two batters to load the bases and Wagner got a groundball to second where Voss threw home to gain the force out.
Wagner then picked off the runner at second base and the runner on third tried for home, got into a run down, and was tagged out to retire the side.
After a scoreless 10th, North finished off the game in the 11th.
Wagner finished with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings of relief.
“He was really effective today,” Bauer said of Wagner. “I wanted him to pitch the second game today and I wouldn’t have thought he would have to come in and throw almost 100 pitches in this one. You never know how this game is going to go.”
Marshfield left a runner on second in the seventh and guys on second and third in the ninth, its only two threats against Stange, who struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings of relief.
In the ninth, Earll walked and Specht again entered as a courtesy runner for the Marshfield catcher. Krueger was hit by a pitch and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. On the play, the North catcher threw the ball over the third baseman’s head, but Specht got tangled up on the bag at third and could not advance. Bohman then grounded out to end the threat.
“We pitched really well,” Bauer said. “When Caleb got his foot stuck at third base, that was a run we really could have used. I just couldn’t get him up and moving again.
Isaac Meverden doubled to left-center with two outs in the top of the 11th before Stange sturck out Earll to end the frame, and that would be Marshfield’s last chance.
“(Stange) was tough on us,” Bauer said. “We had a chance when Meverden had that double, if we could have got one more (hit) there, we could have had one against him, but he was tough.”
Marshfield had just five hits, two by Krueger.
In addition to his stellar pitching performance, Stange finished 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles and scored twice to lead the Huskies’ offense. Hesselman added three hits for North, which had 15 in all.
WIAA Division 1 Sectional 1 Semifinal
June 4, at Carson Park, Eau Claire
Huskies 5, Tigers 4 (11 inn.)
Marshfield 002 020 000 00 – 4 5 1
Eau Claire North 200 110 000 01 – 5 15 3
WP: Sam Stange. LP: Preston Wagner.
SO: Will Voss (4 2/3 inn.) 2, Wagner (5 2/3 inn.) 6; Carter Hesselman (4 1/3 inn.) 1, Stange (6 2/3 inn.) 11. BB: Voss 1, Wagner 3; Hesselman 1, Stange 2.
Top hitters: M, Ryan Krueger 2×3, 3B, 2 HBPs, 2 runs, RBI; Wagner 1×5, run; Isaac Meverden 1×4, 2B; Jacob Earll 1×3. ECN, Gabe O’Brien 2×6, 2 2Bs, RBI, run; Hesselman 3×6; Stange 5×6, 2 2Bs, 2 runs, RBI; Anthony Pogodzinski 1×5, 2 RBIs.
Records: Marshfield 16-13; Eau Claire North 21-4.
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to OnFocus sports.