Junior Black Sox advance to State Tournament
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The Plover Junior Black Sox earned a trip to the 17 and Under State Tournament after they won the Wisconsin Rapids Regional Tournament at Holland Field in Nekoosa Friday through Monday, July 12-15.
Reigning State Runner-up Plover went 4-0 in the tournament to improve to 31-2 on the season, as it beat Marshfield 11-7 in the Championship Game Monday, and will head to the State Tournament at Hackman Field in Marshfield Friday through Tuesday, July 19-23.
“We’ve been having a great year,” said first-year Junior Black Sox manager Jeff Sadlemyer, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the team. “Our talent all around, from pitching, to hitting, to defense, it’s probably been the best that we’ve had in the three years that I’ve been here.
“Our lineup, one through nine, is solid, top to bottom,” he said. “We’ve played some really good competition and our guys haven’t taken their foot off the gas pedal, they’ve been taking it to teams and not letting off.”
The Junior Black Sox opened the Regional with a 7-1 win over Wausau Friday, July 12, as Thomas Hunt went 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI, and Brandon Vlcko and Drew Kedrowicz each went 2-for-4, while Jake Sankey struck out 13 and allowed one earned run on five hits over seven innings for the complete-game victory on the mound.
“We’ve pitched really well,” said Junior Black Sox assistant coach Tom Drohner. “That’s probably what sets us a little bit apart from some other teams, we just can keep throwing people out there that are quality pitchers.
“We hit the ball pretty well too, but I think the one thing that really stands out about us is probably the depth we have pitching,” he said.
Plover followed Saturday against the Stevens Point Junior Sixers, who used a two-run home run from Cade Konczal in the top of the third inning to take a 2-0 lead. Tommy Drohner had a RBI groundout in the bottom of the third inning to pull the Junior Black Sox within 2-1, while Hunt scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game at 2-2.
It stayed that way into the bottom of the seventh inning, as Plover loaded the bases with one out, when Danny Baumgartner was hit by a pitch to give the Junior Black Sox a 3-2, walk-off victory and eliminate the Junior Sixers from the tournament.
Plover followed with an 8-3 win over Marshfield Sunday, July 14, as the Junior Black Sox scored four runs in the top of the third inning to build a 5-0 lead on the way to the win. Baumgartner went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI, Tommy Drohner scored three runs, and Marcus Jaworski struck out four and allowed three earned runs on seven hits over seven innings for the complete-game victory to send Plover to the Championship Game Monday.
Meanwhile, Marshfield beat Wausau later Sunday night to also advance to the Championship Game, which clinched a trip to state for Plover, since Marshfield already had an automatic bid to state as the host team.
The Junior Black Sox looked to wrap up the Regional Title Monday, where the game was tied 7-7 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, when Jake Sankey came through with a RBI triple to give Plover an 8-7 lead, and Brycen Cashin followed with a three-run home run later in the inning to increase the lead to 11-7.
Plover went on to an 11-7 win to claim the Regional Championship, as Cashin finished 1-for-2 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBI; Tommy Drohner was 3-for-3; Jake Sankey went 2-for-4 with a triple and two runs scored; Devin Mrozek had a double, two runs scored and two RBI; and Hunt went 2-for-4 at the plate and also earned the win in relief after he allowed three earned runs on three hits over three and 1/3 innings.
“It means a lot,” said Sadlemyer of going to state. “Everybody should get to experience a State Tournament at some point in their life, and it’s a great experience for these young guys to get.
“Especially going up through a program like Plover, where varsity is usually at a State Tournament once during the four years that most guys play,” he said. “It gives the guys a little bit of an advantage, to have that experience prior to getting up to the varsity level.”
The Junior Black Sox are scheduled to open at the State Tournament against Bay Port at 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 19, with the winner to play at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20, and the loser to play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
After an 8-0 start to the season, Plover lost 4-3 to state-bound Manitowoc in the first game of a doubleheader June 16, before the Junior Black Sox won the second game 8-3, while Plover also lost 7-0 to Eau Claire at home July 6.
Team members this season include Baumgartner and Hunt of Almond-Bancroft, Cashin and Kedrowicz of Pacelli, Ben Lee of Amherst, Jaworski of Iola, Trevor Grey of Westfield, and SPASH’s Tommy Drohner, Jared Garski, Kaden Mazur, Cam McCarrier, Mrozek, Jon Nafe, Bryce Pelky, Jake Sankey, Riley Sankey, Elliot Schmoll, and Vlcko.
“Everybody on the team is a good baseball player, and there’s competition within each other, but we all pull for one another,” said coach Drohner. “It’s a nice thing to have on a team.”
The Junior Black Sox advanced to the State Championship Game last year at Veterans Memorial Park in Plover, where they fell 2-0 to East Troy to finish as the State Runner-up, while they enter the State Tournament this weekend with a nine-game winning streak and have won 23 of their last 24 games.
“After the first 10 games, we started to figure out, ‘hey, we’ve got a chance to win just about every game we play,’ and we kind of have,” said coach Drohner. “With the exception of the two losses, but to have the 31-2 in the game of baseball, that’s a pretty good record.
“But we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” he said. “You get to the State Tournament, all of the teams are really good, and it’s just a matter of us playing really well.”
“It’s going to take us playing as a team, playing for one another,” said Sadlemyer. “You get later into the year and some guys start playing more for themselves, but I think with the group of kids that we have, they’ve all bought into the philosophy that, ‘if we want to keep winning, if we want to keep moving forward, we have to play for one another,’ and not for individual statistics or stuff like that.
“I’m real proud of the way our guys have played all year, we’ve got a great group of kids, and it’s been a pleasure for me as a first-year head coach,” he said. “But to coach a team that’s 31-2, I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”
2019 17 and Under Junior Legion State Tournament at Marshfield
Friday, July 19
Game 1: Fond du Lac vs. Appleton Double Days, 11 a.m.
Game 2: Bay Port vs. Plover, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3: Manitowoc vs. Racine, 4:30 p.m.
Game 4: Chippewa Falls vs. Marshfield, 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 20
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3, 11 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 4, 1:30 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 3, 4:30 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.
Sunday, July 21
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 71:30 p.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 4 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 7 p.m.
Monday, July 22 (Note: Common Opponent Rule Could Be in Effect)
* Pairings for Game 12 and Game 13 will not match previous opponents against each other unless absolutely necessary.
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Loser Game 11, 4:30 p.m.
Game 13: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, July 23
* If three teams remain after Game 13, Winner Game 11 automatically draws the bye in Game 14.
Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13, 4:30 p.m.
Game 15: If Winner Game 11 loses Game 13 or Winner Game 12 wins Game 14 (if necessary), 7 p.m.