By Paul Lecker
APPLETON – It took a while for Stratford to get at Boyceville relief pitcher Walker Retz, but finally, the Tigers came through.
Stratford scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to bust open a tie game and went on to defeat Boyceville 7-5 in a Division 3 semifinal at the 2019 WIAA State Baseball Tournament at Fox Cities Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
With their 14th-straight win, the Tigers move into their first-ever state baseball championship game. Stratford will play Markesan (22-5) at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Thursday for the Division 3 state title. The game will be broadcast on WOSQ-FM 92.3 and wdlbwosq.com, and televised live on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
“It’s amazing,” Stratford coach Marshall Lehman said. “These kids have battled all year long. They have been caught in a lot of situations and have gotten out of them. That’s a test of a championship team. We’re excited to see what tomorrow brings.”
The baseball finals will be the fourth state championship match for Stratford during this school year. The girls volleyball, and boys wrestling and football teams all lost in the state finals in their respective sports earlier this year.
“It’s a huge deal,” Stratford starting pitcher Lance Heidmann said. “We’re really putting Stratford’s name out there, that’s for sure. We’re really getting a lot of people to watch us and hear about us, and come watch us because we have such great talent on our teams. It means a lot seeing so many people watching us.”
Stratford jumped on Boyceville starter Connor Sempf right away, scoring four times in the bottom of the first inning.
Chandler Schmidt singled, Colten Schillinger was hit by a pitch, and Dawson Moen followed with an RBI single. After Kade Ehrike walked to load the bases, Riley Bauman singled to score Schillinger, and Licciardi ripped a two-run single to make it 4-0.
Boyceville responded with three runs in the second against Heidmann.
Only one of the runs was earned as a throwing error allowed one run to score and another runner to move to third, who then scored on a sacrifice fly. Jaden Reismer added a run-scoring single to cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-3.
The Bulldogs tied it in the third when Trevor Hollister singled, moved up one base each on two groundouts, and scored on a single by Jacob Granley.
The score remained tied until Stratford finally got to Retz in the fifth.
Retz, who entered in relief in the second inning, gave up one hit and a pair of walks in his first three innings of work before the Tigers cracked him in the fifth.
After two walks and a groundout, Bauman delivered an RBI double, Licciardi followed with an RBI single, and Bauman scored on a fielder’s choice grounder hit by Devyn Palmer, giving Stratford a 7-4 lead.
“Our bats were pretty hot, we slowed down a little bit, but we were really watching the ball come out of his (Retz) hand and we were on it today,” Licciardi said.
Heidmann hit Boyceville’s leadoff hitter in the sixth and was lifted for Schmidt. After a strikeout and a fielder’s choice, Reismer and Retz had back-to-back singles to plate a run and cut Stratford’s lead to 7-5.
Schmidt was unfazed. After allowing a one-out hit in the seventh, he picked off the runner at first and struck out the final batter looking to earn the save and send the Tigers to the championship game.
Heidmann improves to 8-1 with the victory, as he allowed six hits and one walk, while striking out two in five innings.
“We had a couple of mental mistakes and after that (second inning), coach gathered us and told us to come down and act like nobody was watching us, and play like we usually play,” Heidmann said. “I thought it was a great game. I knew that Chandler had it in the bag when he went in. He’s such a great pitcher and he always has my back no matter what. That’s what I love about him.”
Eight of the nine batters in Stratford’s lineup had at least one hit, run scored or RBI in the victory
Licciardi, Eli Drexler, Schmidt and Bauman each had two hits, with Licciardi driving in three runs and Bauman two. Kade Ehrike and Schillinger, neither of which had a hit, combined to get on base five times and both scored a pair of runs.
“We’re having a lot of fun out here playing,” Licciardi said. “We’ve been in these situations a lot (in all sports) and we know how to handle it. Everyone’s relaxed and we’re having fun playing the game.”
WIAA Division 3 State Semifinal
June 12, at Fox Cities Stadium, Appleton
Tigers 7, Bulldogs 5
Boyceville 031 001 0 – 5 9 2
Stratford 400 030 x – 7 9 2
WP: Lance Heidmann. LP: Walker Retz. SV: Chandler Schmidt.
SO: Connor Sempf (1 inn.) 0, Retz (4 inn.) 1, Trevor Hollister (1 inn.) 0; Heidmann (5 inn.) 2, Schmidt (2 inn.) 2. BB: C. Sempf 1, Retz 4, Hollister 0; Heidmann 1, Schmidt 0.
Top hitters: B, Jaden Reismer 2×3, RBI; Retz 3×3, RBI; C. Sempf 2×4. S, Eli Drexler 2×4; Schmidt 2×4, run; Colten Schillinger 2 runs; Kade Ehrike 2 runs; Riley Bauman 2×3, 2B, 2 RBIs, run; Mav Licciardi 2×2, 3 RBIs.
Records: Boyceville 19-4; Stratford 21-2.
2019 WIAA State Baseball Tournament
June 11-13, at Fox Cities Stadium, Grand Chute
Tuesday, June 11
Division 1 Quarterfinals
Burlington (24-5) 3, Green Bay Preble (24-4) 0
Sun Prairie (23-7) 3, Oak Creek (21-7) 0
Eau Claire North (23-4) 15, Sussex Hamilton (19-9) 12
Fond du Lac (14-12) 2, Brookfield East (18-9) 1
Division 1 Semifinals
Sun Prairie (24-7) 6, Burlington (24-6) 1
Eau Claire North (24-4) 8, Fond du Lac (14-13) 4
Wednesday, June 12
Division 4 Semifinals
Webster (29-0) 4, Athens (18-5) 3
Mineral Point (27-0) 6, Belmont (17-9) 2
Division 3 Semifinals
Stratford (21-2) 7, Boyceville (19-4) 5
Markesan (22-5) 10, Ozaukee (12-8) 0
Division 2 Semifinal
Thursday, June 13
Division 2 Semifinals
Antigo (19-5) vs. West De Pere (27-2), 8 a.m.
McFarland (20-9) vs. Union Grove (26-3), 8 a.m. (at Nienhaus Sports Complex)
All games televised live on Fox Sports Wisconsin
Division 4: Webster (29-0) vs. Mineral Point (27-0) approximately 10:30 a.m.
Division 3: Stratford (21-2) vs. Markesan (22-5), approximately 1:30 p.m.
Division 2: TBA, approximately 4:30 p.m.
Division 1: Sun Prairie (24-7) vs. Eau Claire North (24-4), approximately 7:30 p.m.
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to OnFocus sports.