EagleHerald/Billy Betts
Several Peshtigo players come together to celebrate after defeating Bonduel to win the WIAA Division 3 regional championship in Peshtigo on Wednesday.
EagleHerald/Billy Betts

Several Peshtigo players come together to celebrate after defeating Bonduel to win the WIAA Division 3 regional championship in Peshtigo on Wednesday.

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PESHTIGO — Despite coming into its WIAA Division 3 regional final game as the one seed, Peshtigo had some adversity to overcome, facing a scrappy Bonduel baseball team.

Trailing 3-1 through the first four innings, the Bulldogs scored three runs in the fifth and were guided by a stellar pitching performance by Darren Dionne to defeat the Bears 5-3 on Wednesday.

Peshtigo looked to break the game open in the fifth when the first four batters reached base. Zach Wellin was hit by a pitch, Travis Plym walked and Nick Nielson reached on an infield single to load the bases. Brandon Eick followed by drawing a run-scoring walk, cutting the deficit to 3-2 without any outs.

What looked to be a great opportunity was almost squandered when the next two Peshtigo hitters popped out. With two outs and the bases loaded, Mitch Peters, who doubled earlier in the game, stepped in and smashed a single to left, plating both Plym and Nielson to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 4-3.

“When we loaded the bases with not outs and scored to cut the deficit to one, you could feel the whole crowd really get into it,” Peshtigo coach Neal Henrigillis said. “I could not be happier for Mitch. He’s battled back from two ACL tears and he’s just a hard-working kid.”

The Bulldogs added an insurance run in the sixth after Dionne singled to left, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Wellin before scoring on a sac fly to center by Plym.

Bonduel jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

The Bulldogs started Brody Heroux, with the game plan of inserting Dionne whenever the situation called upon itself, which came earlier than expected. After Heroux coaxed a flyout to center to start, two singles, sandwiched in with a walk loaded the bases, prompting Henrigillis to bring in Dionne.

After walking the first batter he faced to bring in a run, Dionne got a flyout to center, driving in Bonduel’s second run, but a thrown down to second got the third out, getting the Bulldogs out of the jam.

“For us to get out of that inning with only allowing two runs was huge,” Henrigillis said. “Brody really didn’t pitch bad, but they had a nice hit to center and I just felt the situation called upon bringing Darren in.

Throughout the next six innings, Dionne bobbed and weaved his way out of trouble. After grounding into a double play in the fourth, Dionne responded by facing only seven batters through the next two innings to get himself into the seventh at 94 pitches.

Dionne got a quick popout to first to start the seventh and had two strikes on the next hitter, needing one more to be able to face the third, but a ball and a foul ball put him out of contention of finishing the game. Dionne did get a groundout to create two outs, setting up Henrigillis to bring Heroux back in.

Bonduel made it interesting by drawing a walk, followed by Parker Bohm reaching on an infield single, but Heroux got out of it by getting a ground out to third for the final out.

“Darren has been our closer all year and no matter what inning it is, we have a ton of confidence when he comes in,” Henrigillis said. “He’s been pitching in playoff games since his freshman year, so the moment is never too big for him.”

Dionne earned the victory, tossing six and one-third innings while allowing just one run on two hits with six strikeouts.

“I wasn’t sure when I would be coming in when the game started, so I just had to be ready whenever the team needed me,” said Dionne. “I never thought when I was a freshman that I’d be helping lead us to a regional championship by the time I was a senior. This is such a great feeling and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Bohm suffered the loss for Bonduel, allowing two runs in two innings of relief. Joey Wagester started for the Bears and held Peshtigo in check, giving up three runs on four hits.

“We had a laundry list of mistakes we made out there, but I’m really proud of this group for battling back through everything,” said Henrilligis.

With the victory, Peshtigo travels to Crandon next Tuesday for its sectional semifinal game against Saint Mary Catholic at 1 p.m. This is the first time Peshtigo advanced to sectional play since 2011.

WP — Darren Dionne 6 1/3 IP, 1R, 1ER, 2H, 6K, 2W

LP — Parker Bohm 2IP, 2R, 2ER, 3H, 0K, 2W

Leading hitters (Peshtigo): Mitch Peters 2x3, 2B; Jake Gordon 2x3; Brandon Eick 1x2, 3B; Nick Nielson 1x2; (Bonduel): Bohm 3x4; Riddick Bohm 1x3

Bonduel 200 100 0 — 3

Peshtigo 001 031 x — 5