Panthers fight off late rally, claim 13th consecutive regional title
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT – The SPASH baseball team continued its dominance in the regional round of the playoffs, capping off another regional championship game with a win.
Sitting with a one-seed, the Panthers hosted Wisconsin Valley Conference foe Wausau West in the regional final at Bukolt Park on Jun. 1.
SPASH gradually ran down the Warriors with runs in a 5-2 victory.
Seniors Devin Mrozek and Ben Fonti led the way offensively with two hits.
Braylen Nystrom, a junior right fielder, got his lone hit of the evening in the second inning.
A quiet first inning led to both defenses putting zeros on the board.
Nystrom got the second inning started with a leadoff double for SPASH.
Fonti followed that up by slapping a pitch to the outfield for an RBI single, scoring the game’s first run.
The Panthers continued to pack the base pads, allowing Stetler to drive home another run.
That 2-0 advantage was held through the third inning. Wausau West got a runner on third in the top half of the third but couldn’t take advantage.
More pressure led to two more Panther runs crossing in the fourth and fifth, extending the lead to 4-0.
Junior Ty Rechner had a smooth start on the mound for SPASH.
He cruised through four innings, giving up no runs on two hits.
Rechner fanned six Warriors in the process.
Josh Opiola came in for relief, keeping the shutout intact through five and a half innings.
With runners on the corners and two outs in the sixth, SPASH’s Benett Klish roped one into the gap, pushing the lead to 5-0.
In one final attempt at a comeback, Wausau West started a rally in the seventh.
The Warriors scored twice and still threatened with a runner on base.
The game ended on a tag-out at second after a high throw to first was too high.
SPASH advances to the sectional semifinal on Tuesday, Jun. 6, in Marshfield.
A matchup with No. 5-seeded River Falls is on tap for a 10 a.m. first pitch.