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By Amber Hayden
CHIPPEWA FALLS — It is hard to beat solid pitching and good hitting.
And Boyceville demonstrated both in last Tuesday’s sectional baseball tournament.
The Bulldogs’ got lights out pitching from sophomore hurlers Connor Sempf and Walker Retz along with timely hitting and run production to boost Boyceville to its first sectional championship and state berth in 19 years leaving the Boyceville Baseball nation in a state of euphoria.
Sophomore Connor Sempf pitched a two-hit, complete-game shut out to lead Boyceville to a 2-0 semifinal victory over a good Neillsville squad to advance to the championship game which was played about an hour following the completion of its semifinal’s victory.
In that sectional final, the Bulldogs’ broke out their bats as they collected a dozen hits highlighted by sophomore Trett Joles’ fifth-inning grand slam home run and Walker Retz went the distance on the mound, striking out six and allowing just three hits, as Boyceville pelted the Beavers of Cumberland 13-2 in five innings to capture the 2019 WIAA Division 3 Chippewa Falls Sectional crown held June 4 at Casper Park.
The Bulldogs currently sport a 19-3 record as they head to state.
This is just the second time in program history that baseball-rich Boyceville has reached the state championships. The inaugural visit came back in 2000 when the Jeff Riek-coached Bulldogs finished as the Division 3 state runners-up. That squad beat Algoma 10-3 in the state semifinal before falling to 11-1 to DeSoto in the state champion contest.
This year’s team is scheduled to take on Stratford in the opening Division 3 state semifinal this Wednesday, June 12 at 1 p.m. on Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, a suburb of Appleton. The second semifinal features Markesan and Ozaukee. The two semifinal victors will meet at noon the following day (Thursday, June 13) to decide the state championship.
Stratford (20-2) is the champion of the Marawood South Conference. The Tigers beat Nekoosa (1-0), Stevens Point Pacelli (3-0) and Marathon (5-1), who finished second to Marawood South and split with Stratford in the regular season, to win the regional title. Stratford then took down top-seed Iola-Scandinavia 3-2 in the sectional semifinal game and nipped St. Mary Catholic, last year’s state D3 runner-up to Webster, 4-3 to win the Crandon Sectional title.
Boyceville head coach Michael Roemhild explained he had asked his players about two weeks ago what their goal was (for the tournament) and up and down the line-up, it was to go to state and they knew they could as they were practicing more and playing better.
That belief and hard work got the Bulldogs to their collective goal – a shot at a state championship.
Boyceville’s first battle of the June 4 sectional tournament at Casper Park in Chippewa Falls came against a solid 14-8 Neillsville Warriors’ squad which had finished third in the Cloverbelt East behind champion Greenwood and runner-up Gilman.
In what would turn out to be a low scoring affair, Boyceville struck first as it took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The Bulldogs then added a second run in the bottom of the very next inning. And as it turned out, those would be the only two runs Boyceville scored and needed as Connor Sempf took control and dominated the Neillsville batters. In an exemplary pitching performance, the sophomore had a lot to do with locking down the Bulldogs’ 2-0 victory over the Warriors as he struck out eight batters over seven innings of work to earn the shut out victory.
“Connor Sempf, Connor Sempf, Connor Sempf! Wow, what an amazing game Connor pitched for us,” said coach Roemhild of the two-hit shut out from Sempf. “First game of sectionals, against a team we aren’t familiar with. And he goes all seven innings for us.”
The sophomore pitcher performed exactly how Roemhild expected him to as he allowed just two hits while striking out eight Warrior batters and allowed just two base on balls to earn the 2-0 win.
Sempf also scored Boyceville’s second and final run in the second inning when he was walked on base and scored when Ira Bialzik hit a ground ball into a fielder’s choice.
Walker Retz scored the Bulldogs’ initial run in the first inning after hitting a triple to center field. Trett Joles grounded out to the pitcher on the next play which allowed Retz to score for a 1-0 Boyceville advantage.
“Defensively, we took away Neillsville’s small ball approach,” Roemhild explained. “Brady Nye didn’t make a play at third, but just his presence was what we needed. He would listen to the number of steps I wanted him to come in and without hesitation he did it.”
Jaden Reisimer made some huge catches for the Bulldogs in center field with the knowledge that had they got past him it would of changed the dynamic of the game entirely.
“Neillsville’s pitchers were throwing well,” commented Roemhild. They were a very tough team, I am proud of the way our guys battled.”
Retz’s triple and a single by Joles were the only hits by the Bulldogs garnered off Neillsville’s pitchers Braden Trunkel and Cole Hediger. Joles and Bialzik each finished with an RBI and Jacob Granley drew two of the Bulldogs five walks.
BOYCEVILLE 2, NEILLSVILLE 0
Boyceville….….…..…..1 1 0 0 0 0 X – 2
Neillsville.….….….……0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0
Boyceville (2) AB-H-R: Brendan Sempf 2-0-0, Trett Joles 3-1-0, Walker Retz 2-1-1, Trevor Hollister 4-2-1, Connor Sempf 2-0-1, Jaden Reisimer 3-0-0, Jacob Granley 1-0-0, Ira Bialzik 3-0-0, Logan Knudtson 3-0-0. Total 22-2-2.
Neillsville (0) AB-H-R: Cole Hediger 2-0-0, Carson Opelt 3-0-0, Luke Erickson 2-0-0, Braden Trunkel 3-0-0, Lane Kranz 1-1-0, Hunter Roenz 2-1-0, Monte Diestler 3-0-0, Jonah Zoschke 3-0-0, Luke Mayer 3-0-0.Total 22-2-0.
Pitching: Boyceville — Connor Sempf 7 IP, 2 H, 8 K, 2 BB, 0 R; Neillsville — Braden Trunkel 2 IP, 1 H, 1 K, 3 BB, 2 R (2 earned), Cole Hediger 4 IP, 1 H, 5 K, 2 BB, 0 R.
With the weight of a state berth resting on their shoulders, the Bulldogs went out and did what they have done all season, find the determination to win.
Boyceville’s determination was evident early as they faced Cumberland in last Tuesday afternoon’s, June 4, sectional championship. And that determination never wavered for the Bulldogs as they punched their ticket to the state baseball championships with a 13-2 five-inning win over the Beavers, a 6-2 victor over Bloomer in the day’s other semifinal, highlighted by a six-run fifth inning that featured a grand slam by sophomore Trett Joles.
“After being in the heat and trying to cool down, hydrate and get some food I didn’t know how we were going to come out playing,” said Coach Roemhild of the championship game against Cumberland. “I would say after the third inning it was easy to see.”
Boyceville finished with a dozen hits including a 4-for-4 performance by Trevor Hollister that included a double and a pair of hits in three plate appearances by Brendan Sempf and Ira Bialzik. Jaden Reisimer finished with a double and two runs scored.
Boyceville once again struck first, this time in the top of the first inning. Trett Joles was sent to first after he was plunked by a pitch. Joles advanced to third on a wild pitch from Beaver’s pitcher Wyatt Tift and scored on a Hollister line-drive single into right field to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 advantage.
In the second inning, Boyceville grew that lead to 3-0 as it pushed two more runs over home plate. Brendan Sempf was walked on base to kick things off and would take second base after a balk by Cumberland’s pitcher.
Ira Bialzik came up to bat after the balk and was able to bring in the RBI after he hit a single to left field. Bialzik also scored the second run of the inning when Jaden Reisimer hit a double into left field.
“I would say all around 1-9 our guys either hit the ball, put down some good bunts or had great at bats,” Roemhild explained. “We were able to steal bases and take advantage of mistakes made by Cumberland.”
Walker Retz was on the mound to handle the pitching duties for the Bulldogs, and through five innings and a couple of jams he was able to keep Cumberland to just three hits and two runs which came in the bottom of the third inning.
Trett Joles took a couple of quick time outs in the third inning to talk with Retz after a run had scored due to a balk, the pep talk seemed to work for Retz as he struck out six batters and kept Cumberland at bay through the remaining two innings.
“Walker pitched a great game and our defense backed him up,” stated Roemhild. “Everybody knew what was on the line and brought their best behind Walker. All we had to do was play solid defense and score some runs for him. I would say goal accomplished.”
Boyceville racked up three more runs in the top of the third for a 6-0 lead.
Joles opened the frame with a walk. Hollister came to bat and singled to right as Joles advanced all the way to third base. Connor Sempf then took his turn at the plate and reached on a bunt attempt after Beavers’ pitcher Wyatt Tift had an error which also allowed Joles to score the Bulldogs’ fourth run and Hollister, who had stole second, to go to third.
The locals lead went to 5-0 after Brendan Sempf singled to center to score Hollister and sent Connor Sempf to third. Boyceville made it 6-0 a couple of plays later when Ira Bialzik grounded back to the pitcher and Connor Sempf scored.
Cumberland got its only two runs in the bottom half of the third on a fielder’s choice and a Retz balk.
In the fourth, Boyceville scored another run when Jaden Reisimer drew an opening walk, took second on a passed ball, third on Joles’ bunt out and scored on Hollister’s double to center to make it 7-2 in the Bulldogs’ favor.
The game looked as it was headed to a sixth inning during the Tuesday Sectional final’s game before singles from Brendan Sempf and Jacob Granley reignited the Boyceville offense.
After Bialzik ground out advanced Sempf and Granley to third and second respectively, Brendan Sempf scored a run on a Cumberland balk. Logan Knudtson reached first after a bobbled ball by Wyatt Tift allowed him to reach the base and Granley touched home to make it a 9-2 lead for the Bulldogs
A walk and another single, by Retz, loaded the bases for catcher Trett Joles, who has hit well all season when Boyceville needed him to. Joles watched two balls go past him for strikes before putting the barrel to the ball for a grand slam home run, his only hit of the game, to bring in KKnudtson Jaden Reisimer and Walker Retz. Joles finished with four RBIs and scored three runs.
Retz rang up two quick strike outs in the bottom of the fifth before allowing two on base via walks, but six pitches later Walker Retz retired the side and ended the game and was swarmed by his teammates as the Bulldogs took the victory 13-2 and earned the state berth, their first since 2000.
“It has been 19 years since the baseball team has been to state,” Roemhild explained. “It was great to see the support from our community members. The atmosphere around the school has been great.”
Teachers have checked in with Roemhild to see what the teams were like that the Bulldogs would be facing, Roemhild explained.
“The whole town of Boyceville seemed to be at our game,” Roemhild stated. “Being from a small town, people take pride in these sorts of situations. We are happy that we are able to bring that pride to our fans, school and community.”
BOYCEVILLE 13, CUMBERLAND 2
Boyceville….….…..…..1 2 3 1 6 – 13
Cumberland.….….……0 0 2 0 0 – 2
Boyceville (13) AB-H-R: Brendan Sempf 3-2-2, Trett Joles 2-1-3, Walker Retz 4-1-1, Trevor Hollister 4-4-1, Connor Sempf 3-0-1, Jaden Reisimer 2-1-2, Jacob Granley 3-1-1, Ira Bialzik 3-2-1, Logan Knudtson 3-0-1, Erick Loback 1-0-0. Total 28-12-13.
Cumberland (2) AB-H-R: Riley Bodsberg 2-0-1, Maddux Allen 1-0-0, Jack Martens 2-0-0, Trystin Netzel 3-0-0, Travis Runberg 2-0-0, Wyatt Tift 2-1-0, Dylan Wackerfuss 2-0-0, DaShaun Ames 2-1-0, Dylan Weber 2-1-1. Total 18-3-2.
Pitching: Boyceville — Walker Retz 5 IP, 3 H, 6 K, 4 BB, 2 R (2 earned); Cumberland — Wyatt Tift 4 1/3 IP, 9 H, 6 K, 4 BB, 11 R (8 earned), Jacob McWilliams 0 IP, 3 H, 0 K, 0 BB, 2 R (2 earned), Riley