EagleHerald/Brian Bell
Peshtigo first baseman Brandon Eick stretches out to catch a pop fly during Tuesday’s WIAA Division 3 Regional semifinal in Peshtigo.
EagleHerald/Brian Bell

Peshtigo first baseman Brandon Eick stretches out to catch a pop fly during Tuesday’s WIAA Division 3 Regional semifinal in Peshtigo.

PESHTIGO — Good pitching, smart baserunning and timely hitting propelled the Peshtigo baseball team to a 4-1 victory over Northland Pines in Tuesday’s WIAA Division 3 Regional semifinal.

The first two innings were a pitcher’s duel between Peshtigo’s Nick Nielson and Northland Pines’ Nathan Hopkins, with both pitching their way out of a bases-loaded jam in the second.

The Bulldogs finally struck first in the bottom of the third after Nielson stranded runners on first and second in Northland Pines’ half of the inning.

Nielson singled to lead off and Brandon Eick followed up with a grounder to the shortstop. The ball was bobbled, and the throw to first sailed over the first baseman’s head and went to the fence. Some head’s up baserunning from Nielson allowed him to score all the way from first on the play, and Eick advanced to third on the error. Brody Heroux then doubled home Eick to give his team a 2-0 advantage.

“The early innings were really interesting. It’s always trying when you get to these playoff games, any team that jumps out to a lead gets a huge advantage for them,” Peshtigo coach Neal Henrigillis said. “Northland Pines does a good job of hitting the ball. They had runners in scoring position in both of the first two innings and were able to get out of it, and then our guys kept putting the ball in play, they made an error and we were able to get some runs.”

In the bottom of the fourth, the Bulldogs tacked on two more runs. Travis Plym reached base on a fielder’s choice and came all the way around from first to score on Nielson’s two-out RBI-double. Eick followed suit with a double of his own to score Nielson and Peshtigo’s lead grew to 4-0.

Northland Pines scored its only run off Nielson in the top of the fifth. Hopkins hit a one-out single and scored on Tucker Wittkopf’s two-out single. The inning ended when Wittkopf’s pinch-runner was thrown out attempting to take third base on an overthrow.

Nielson shut down Northland Pines’ bats in the sixth and Darren Dionne entered in the seventh to close things out and help the Bulldogs advance to today’s regional championship game. Dionne stayed under the 30-pitch minimum so he doesn’t need any rest days, something that is huge for Peshtigo going into the title game.

Nielson, who has pitched all season with a partially torn labrum, got the win on the bump for Peshtigo. He went six innings, giving up one run (one earned) on three hits with four walks and 10 K’s.

“Nick is the ultimate competitor. He’s played all season with his injury and early in the year we kept him a little shorter on pitching, but as the season progressed he’s always the guy who wants the ball in big moments,” Henrigillis said. “He was at 93 pitches in the fifth inning and he came in the dugout and said ‘coach, I have seven more pitches, let me go back out,’ and luckily for us that was enough for a whole inning. Darren staying under 30 pitches was pivotal for us. He hammered it down in the seventh and he’s all set to go tomorrow if we need him.”

While Peshtigo got the win, the team totaled seven hits, a number that Henrigillis would like to see be a little higher moving forward. The Bulldogs also stranded eight runners on base.

“We did enough to score some runs and get the win, but to be honest, I told the guys we need to put the ball a lot more. We left guys stranded on second and third too many times, especially with one out or less,” Henrigillis said. “Time in and time out, it’s put the ball in play. We’re not playing college or pro baseball, there are no guaranteed outs in the field, so if you hit the ball hard and they make the play, all you can do is tip your cap. I was proud of our guys for the way they kept fighting at the plate and made smart decisions.”

Peshtigo hosts Bonduel for the regional championship today.

“At the beginning of the season we set two goals,” Henrigillis said. “One was to win conference and the other was to win regionals. Now, tomorrow, it’s all right in front of us.”

WP — Nick Nielson 6IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 4W, 10K

LP — Nathan Hopkins 5IP, 7H, 4R, 3ER, 1W, 2K

Leading hitters (Peshtigo): Nielson 3-4, 2B, RBI, 2R; Brody Heroux 1-3, 2B, RBI; Nolan Lemke 1-3; Jake Gordon 1-3; Brandon Eick 1-4, 2RBI, R.

Northland Pines 000 010 0 — 1

Peshtigo 002 200 x — 4