Black Sox set to open State Tournament Friday
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Following a two-year hiatus, the Plover Black Sox American Legion Baseball team is back in the State Tournament.
The Black Sox outscored their opponents by a 49-13 margin to win the Region 2 Regional Tournament at Wisconsin Rapids to move on to the AAA State Tournament in Marinette.
Plover (28-14) is set to open against Green Bay Southwest (17-10) at noon Friday, July 27, while the double-elimination tournament will run through Tuesday, July 31.
“It feels great,” said Plover catcher Derek Baumgartner. “After the last couple of years, a little disappointing, but it feels great to get back and just live up to what we have been in the past.”
“The last two years, not only were we not in the State Tournament, we weren’t very competitive,” said Plover manager Wayne Sankey. “But to get back to being a team in the state that people know to look out for, that’s where we want to be.
“And it’s a credit to these kids, their hard work and where they want to be,” he said. “And like I said to them about two weeks ago, ‘I don’t want to wait until next year, I want to do something this year. And they took that to heart and they did it.”
After five consecutive trips to the AAA State Tournament from 2011 through 2015, which included three straight State Championship Game and National Regional appearances from 2013 to 2015, the Black Sox went 12-18 in 2016 and 17-20 in 2017.
They bounced back this year with a young group that includes only three recently graduated high school seniors, with a combination of players from Stevens Point Area Senior High School, Pacelli, Almond-Bancroft and Westfield high schools, and Logan Schulfer from Ben Franklin Junior High last school year.
“What’s unbelievable about it is, when you think about all of the kids from different high schools, and you think about the age group,” said Sankey. “You’ve got a freshman in Logan Schulfer and three that were seniors in high school, and how spread out these guys are, and how a lot of them haven’t even played together before.
“And the way they just mesh is a credit to them and how great their personalities are, and what great kids they really are,” he said.
“There’s a lot of screwballs on this team, but we have a lot of fun together,” said Baumgartner. “It’s a great feeling in the dugout, just being a part of a team like this.”
Plover is set to open at state against Green Bay Southwest, which won 5-1 over the Black Sox at the Sheboygan Tournament June 16. Southwest lost to Marinette 2-1 in the Championship Game of the Region 3 Regional at Manitowoc last weekend but advanced to state as the Region 3 representative, as the top two teams in that Regional advanced to state since Marinette has an automatic bid as the host.
“We played them earlier, it was a good game, and it’s going to be tough,” said Sankey. “But we’re going to hopefully attack and get after it.”
Other first-round matchups at state Friday include a rematch of last year’s State Championship Game, as reigning State Champion Eau Claire (24-7) will take on State Runner-up Oshkosh (28-5) at 5 p.m., while Hartland (15-7) will play Sheboygan (22-16) at 2:30 p.m., and Hartford (13-8) will face host team Marinette (23-8) at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of the Plover and Green Bay Southwest game will play the winner of Eau Claire and Oshkosh game at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 28, while the loser will play the loser of Eau Claire and Oshkosh at noon Saturday.
The Black Sox have faced two other State Tournament teams this season, as they won 2-1 at home over Eau Claire June 23, while they’re 2-2 against Sheboygan in four games this summer.
“During the regular season we try to play teams that we’re going to see later in the year,” said Sankey. “That’s what helps you get better and helps you prepare for the Regional, and to hopefully win the Regional by doing that.”
Plover finished one game back in the Wisconsin Valley Legion League this season, but following a 6-4 loss at Stevens Point July 10 that knocked them out of the conference lead, the Black Sox are 9-3 and have averaged 10.4 runs per game.
Plover’s starting pitching staff at the Regional included Cam Stampfl, Schulfer, Brett Ehr and Austin Beyer, with Dylan Trigg, Kaden Roberts and Dylan Davis working out of the bullpen.
“We started a 15-year old, two-16 year olds and a 17-year old over the course of the tournament, they’re all young, so it’s going to be great for them going forward with the experience that they got,” said Plover assistant coach Corey Opper. “And you always worry about what’s going to happen when you put them in that situation, because it’s a 19U Tournament and they just kind of rolled with it.
“They’ll follow the lead, and they did a great job, and they really stepped up,” he said. “I was impressed with how they really pounded the zone, and how they showed all of the work that put in during the summer, showed up at the end.”
This will be the Black Sox’ 10th State Tournament appearance in program history, as they also made trips in 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007, along with 2011 through 2015.
The top two finishers at the State Tournament will advance to the Great Lakes National Regional in Toledo, Ohio, Aug. 8-12.
“We’re hot,” said Plover second baseman Michael Glodosky. “We’re hitting the ball just like we want to, we’re playing defense and getting good outings from our pitchers.
“If we keep playing like this, I like our chances in Marinette,” he said.
“Our bats are going to have to come with us, we’ve got to play adequate defense, and we’ve got to get the pitching,” said Sankey. “And just the experience for these guys, with this team and how young they are, and with everybody returning next year, we’re not just there to be there.
“We want to win some games too,” he said.
2018 Wisconsin AAA Legion Baseball State Tournament at Marinette
Friday, July 27
Game 1: Plover (28-14) vs. Green Bay Southwest (17-10), noon
Game 2: Hartland (15-7) vs. Sheboygan (22-16), 2:30 p.m.
Game 3: Eau Claire (24-7) vs. Oshkosh (28-5), 5 p.m.
Game 4: Hartford (13-8) vs. Marinette (23-8), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 28
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3, noon
Game 6: Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 4, 2:30 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 3, 5 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 4, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 29
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, noon
Game 10: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 2:30 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 5 p.m.
Monday, July 30
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Loser Game 11, 5 p.m.
Game 13: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 31
Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13, 5 p.m.
Game 15: If necessary, 7:30 p.m.