Badgers to regional final
By BURT ANGELI
NIAGARA, Wis. – Niagara downed Goodman-Pembine 14-3 in a five-inning battle of young WIAA Division 4 baseball teams Wednesday at Memorial Park.
The Badgers and Florence, a 9-7 victor over Three Lakes in another regional semifinal Wednesday, will clash at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Red Johnson Field. The regional champion moves on to the sectional Tuesday, June 10, at Tigerton.
Niagara tallied six hits including a pair of Dillon Neuens doubles. But six errors, six walks and two hit batsmen also took their toll.
“They have a lot of young kids but we’re young, too,” said Badgers manager Dean Neveau, noting an all-freshmen infield around the battery of sophomore pitcher Hunter Kaldor and junior catcher Patrick Moreau. “The kids played good ball and hung in there. They took advantage of the Goodman-Pembine errors.”
The Patriots stranded Jake Garrelts after a first-inning double. They produced three straight singles from Randall Bose, Garrelts and Trent Heath for a pair of third-inning runs to close the gap to 6-2.
Heath, a senior in his final at-bat for the Patriots, launched a home run over the left-field fence.
“This season wasn’t ours from the get-go it seemed in a lot of ways with having snow forever and playing in the gym,” said Patriots coach Evan Neuens. “We’re a young team. For a lot of guys this was their first time playing organized baseball.
“Tonight we had some errors that plagued us and guys were in positions they shouldn’t have been in.”
The Patriots started the season with 15 players and concluded with 10 eligible for the regional opener.
“That definitely hamstringed us pretty bad,” Neuens said. “The guys were happy about going into different spots and giving it all they got.”
Niagara put the game away with six runs in the fourth inning. Chase Champagne and Neuens each scored three times in the game while Jacob Bousley, Dillon Lantagne and Domenic Spigarelli each had two.
Kaldor, with an arsenal of four pitches, scattered four hits over four innings. He also fanned six and walked two.
“Hunter needs to get a little more confident with his pitching,” Neveau said. “He struggled a little bit.”
Ethan Blagec, who moved from shortstop to pitcher for the fifth inning, will get the start against Florence.
“I’d like to mix them up (against Florence) because there’s a difference in speeds,” Neveau said.
Heath yielded just two hits in the Badgers’ four-run fourth frame.
“Heath was pretty much throwing heat,” Neveau said. “Usually once our kids catch on to a pitcher they start hitting. We didn’t hit the ball as well as we normally do.”
Neuens, a Florence High School grad, is very familiar with both regional finalists.
“Niagara and Florence should be a pretty good game,” Neuens said. “In high school baseball, especially up here with short seasons, putting the ball in play makes all the difference in the world. A boot here and walk there changes the game.
“Athletically and talent-wise they match up pretty good. Best of luck to both of the guys (Neveau and Florence coach Dave LaPoint). I have strong connections to both teams.”
Goodman-Pem. 0 0 2 0 1 – 3
Niagara 2 4 2 6 X – 14