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Baseball: SV's run ends in shutout; Panthers' depth leads to regional comeback

Spring Valley senior Jack Walkky was 3-for-4 at the plate in his final game as a Cardinal on Tuesday, May 29. Walkky and the Cardinals were eliminated from the 2018 WIAA playoffs after losing 6-0 to the Regis Ramblers. (File photo)1 / 2
Ellsworth's Cole Woodland recorded three hits, two of which were doubles, and two RBI in the Panthers' 9-3 regional comeback win over the Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks on Tuesday, May 29. (File photo)2 / 2

The Regis Ramblers put an end to Spring Valley's 2018 baseball season with a 6-0 WIAA Division 3 regional shutout on Tuesday, May 29.

Though Tuesday's box score may not show it, there's a lot of hope for the future of Spring Valley (9-7) baseball.

The Cardinals entered into the wacky 2018 baseball season with one returning varsity starter, Jaydon Nyeggen. Since their first game of the season, the Cardinals have racked up nine total wins, produced promising underclassmen, and were led by five seniors who finally got their chance to show their skills on the varsity level.

"The seniors finally got their chance to play after waiting behind others," Spring Valley's head coach Brad Baker said. "I think they all gave it their best shot."

Craigen Anderson, Tanner Bowell, Alex Johnson, Nyeggen and Jack Walkky all played their final high school baseball game on Tuesday, in which they were outhit 9-4 by the Ramblers, but put up 13 quality at bats to the Ramblers' 14.

Baker thought his team had some good at bats, but said that his players weren't able to get a "clutch hit" with runners on base. The Cardinals left nine runners on base, while the Ramblers just left three stranded.

"I don't think all nine players had their best game, but it was a good team effort," Baker said.

Walkky led his team at the plate in his final game as a Cardinal by recording three of his team's four hits. Anderson added a double to his team's hit column.

The Ramblers earned six runs off of nine hits on pitcher Aaron Borgerding, but Baker was pleased with his sophomore pitcher's performance on the mound and his team's overall defensive effort.

"We played about as well as we could on defense," Baker said. "Aaron felt good about his pitching. He just couldn't get the last outs in a couple of innings.

"Regis hit some good pitches. Give them credit; they were the better team last night."

The No. 1-seeded Ramblers gave the Cardinals' youngsters a taste of WIAA playoff baseball, and the experience will last with them as they return for another year of ball in 2019.

"A lot of young players got a lot of experience so I think things are looking good for the future," Baker said.

Regis will No. 3 Elk Mound on Wednesday, May 30, at Carson Park at 3 p.m. for the WIAA Division 3 Sectional 1 regional finals game.

Ellsworth 9, Baldwin-Woodville 3

The Panthers earned a trip to their upcoming WIAA Division 2 regional final game thanks to a balanced, comeback team effort on Tuesday, May 29.

Ellsworth (13-6) trailed 3-0 to the Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks (13-7) after four innings, but preserved its reputation as an unfazeable team in the second half of the game when multiple Panther players stepped up during crucial moments.

Ellsworth used three doubles and a single in the fifth inning to tie the game at 3-3. Charlie Stuhl created the Panthers' momentum with the sole single, which was followed by doubles from Cole Woodland, Drake Flom and Ryan McGregor.

After his team created a clean slate at the plate, Shane Elsen returned to the mound in the bottom of the fifth and recorded two strikeouts and retired the Blackhawks on a fielder's choice before he and his teammates put up a six-run sixth-inning.

Woodland created another heroic play at the plate in the sixth by sending a two-run double to center field, which threw B-W's defense for a loop. After Woodland's hit, B-W's Alex Bishop walked Flom on a 4-0 count and allowed Woodland to advance to third on a passed ball. Elsen, McGregor and Owen Matzek each added a single to the dominant Ellsworth frame to give their team a six-run lead before Matzek and Flom would settle things on the mound in the regional game's final two innings.

Matzek and Flom combined for three strikeouts and zero hits while on the mound, and Caleb Boelter took care of the game's final out by recovering a fly out in the bottom of the seventh.

"Owen Matzek came in a tough situation during the middle of an at bat and did a tremendous job on the bump, which carried some momentum to the sixth inning when we took the lead," Ellsworth's head coach Ryan Christenson said. "Once we scored, the boys definitely had an extra hop in their step and they did not let off the gas."

Elsen was the game's winning pitcher after he allowed two earned runs on six hits and struck out three batters in his 2 ⅔ innings on the mound. The senior pitcher replaced starting pitcher McGregor who gave up one earned run on three hits in the first two innings of Tuesday's game. All four of Ellsworth's Tuesday night pitchers will be eligible to return to the mound in their upcoming Thursday, May 31, regional final game.

"Fortunately we have a half dozen guys that have proven they can get guys out consistently in the regular season, which allows our coaching staff the flexibility to be comfortable pitching any one of them in a win-or-go-home playoff game," Christenson said. "Both Baldwin and Saint Croix Central tested the strength and depth of our pitching with their strong hitting lineups, but our pitchers proved again last night that they were more than up for the task."

While Ellsworth's seniors took care of mound duties, Woodland and Jon Cain were both 3-for-4 at the plate in Ellsworth's 14-hit night.

"Overall, the boys probably had their most balanced night of hitting," Christenson said. "Cole Woodland was the spark that ignited our team last night. It was great to see Jon Cain also have a solid night at the plate. Having both Jon and Cole on base throughout the game allowed us to turn the lineup over with guys in scoring position. No doubt this contributed to us having two big innings late in the game. Our coaching staff has watched both Jon and Cole get more and more confident with every game, which we will continue to need as we look ahead at our next opponent."

The No. 3-seeded Panthers will continue to utilize their depth and comeback mentality when they face the winner of No. 1 Prescott vs. No. 4 Osceola on Friday, June 1. The Prescott vs. Osceola game that was originally scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed to Thursday, May 31, due to weather conditions.

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