EagleHerald/Billy Betts Peshtigo shortstop Travis Plym makes an acrobatic throw to first against St. Mary Catholic on Tuesday.
EagleHerald/Billy Betts Peshtigo shortstop Travis Plym makes an acrobatic throw to first against St. Mary Catholic on Tuesday.

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CRANDON, Wis. — Facing a perennial state tournament qualifier in St. Mary Catholic in its WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal game, Peshtigo needed to play the best game of its season.

The Zephyrs experience, coupled with miscues throughout the field by the Bulldogs, led to a 9-2 victory for the Zephyrs, helping them advance to the sectional championship Tuesday in Crandon.

“St. Mary Catholic has been to the sectionals and state tournament many times throughout the years and that was evident today,” Peshtigo coach Neal Henrigillis said. “They executed their brand of baseball, which is putting pressure on their opponents. We were in the right positions, but just couldn’t execute the plays.”

A rough start for the Bulldogs set the tone as the Zephyrs scored two runs in the first innings to take a 2-0 lead. Drew Zimmer led the game off with a single and scored on a double by Caden Uhlenbrauck. Uhlenbrauck then reached third on a fielder’s choice grounder by Chris Seveska before scoring on an error at short.

After Seveska scored to make it 3-0 in the third on an RBI groundout by Mitchell Lukasik, St. Mary Catholic extended its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth on an error at second, a passed ball and an RBI single by Isaac Griffith.

With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Peshtigo made things interesting. Zack Wallin drew a walk, Travis Plym reached on an error at third, advancing both runners to second and third to bring up Nick Nielson, who the Zephyrs then intentionally walked to load the bases to set up Brandon Eick. Working a full count after fouling off several pitches, Eick ripped a hard grounder to second, which was misplayed, bringing in courtesy runner Jared Potkay and Plym to cut the deficit to 5-2.

“I was excited when they walked Nick to set up Brandon with the bases loaded,” Henrigillis said. “Just put the ball in play, like they had been doing to us and good things will happen.”

All the momentum the Bulldogs gained went away on three plays in the sixth. Zimmer and T.J. Skrzypczak roped singles to start the inning. A grounder by Seveska set-up a play at home, which beat Zimmer to the plate, but was dropped, allowing him to score. An overthrow to first on a bunt off the bat of Bryce Puls drove in Skrzypczak and another error, this time at third drove in Seveska. An RBI single by Lukasik completed the damage by the Zephyrs as their lead grew to 9-2.

“We knew going into this game we had to limit them to 21 outs and not have any mistakes,” Henrigillis said. “We made seven or eight errors out there and at times, let the moment get a little too big for us. I thought our pitchers threw well and kept us in, we just didn’t make the plays for them.”

Nielson started the game for Peshtigo, tossing three and one-third innings and allowing three runs (one earned), on four hits with four strikeouts. Darren Dionne, who relieved Nielson in the fourth and got out of a runners at second and third jam unscathed, gave up six runs (one earned), on five hits with three K’s.

Uhlenbrauck earned the mound win for the Zephyrs as he threw six and two-third innings of two-run ball (none earned), allowing four hits and striking out five. Seveska coaxed a flyout to first to end the game.

“They kept putting pressure on us every inning, but we played our butts off and never quit,” said Henrigillis. “Their experience helped in a big way. The only way to get experience is to play in games like this, so this was huge for our development as a program.”

It was the final game for Peshtigo seniors Dionne, Plym, Eick, Potkay, Nolan Lemke and Jared Madsen.

“Before the season, the goal was to win the Packerland Conference, which we finished as Co-champs and win our regional, which we did,” Henrigillis said. “It was a great season and we’ve made leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons, starting with the great work Pat Robbins did and carrying over with this group. This was a very accomplished senior group and our younger kids grew throughout the season.”

Earlier in the day, Stratford defeated Iola-Scandinavia 3-2 and then went on to beat St. Mary Catholic 4-3, advancing to the State Tournament to face Boyceville.

WP — Caden Uhlenbrauck 6 2/3IP, 2R, 0ER, 4H, 5K, 3W

LP — Nick Nielson 3 1/3IP, 3R, 1ER, 4H, 4K, 3W

Leading hitters (St. Mary Catholic): Drew Zimmer 4x5; Uhlenbrauck 2x4, 2B; Holden Fischer 1x3; (Peshtigo): Nielson 2x2; Jacob Gordon 1x3, 2B; Nolan Lemke 1x3

St. Mary Catholic 201 024 0 — 9

Peshtigo 000 020 0 — 2