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by Marlys Kruger
Although the week did not start very well for the Boyceville baseball team, it ended much better as they secured a share of the Dunn-St. Croix Conference championship with a win at Mondovi June 4.
Just three days earlier, the Bulldogs were dealt their first loss of the season, 2-1, at Spring Valley.
With a pair of conference games left, at home against Elk Mound June 7 and in Durand June 8, the Bulldogs (11-1 and 13-1) hold a two-game advantage over Elk Mound and Spring Valley.
With the top seed and the state’s number one ranking, Boyceville earned a first-round bye in the WIAA Division 4 playoffs and will host the winner of the Prairie Farm (#5) and Chippewa Falls McDonell Central (#4) contest in a regional semifinal to be played next Tuesday, June 15. The regional championship is June 16.
The Bulldogs had defeated the Cardinals earlier in the season 5-0 but this game ended up being a pitchers duel between Walker Retz and Connor Sempf for Boyceville, and Michael Bauer of Spring Valley.
Boyceville scored right away in the first inning when Trett Joles and Sempf hit back-to-back doubles with Joles scoring on a groundout by Trevor Hollister.
But little did anyone know that would be the only run that Boyceville would score and the only hits of the game as Bauer shut the Bulldog’s high-powered offense down from that point on.
Spring Valley knotted the score in the third on a walk to Tyler Bowman, followed by a single and a wild pitch that allowed Bowman to score, and it remained 1-1 until the bottom of the seventh.
The Bulldogs had just three baserunners after the first inning, two by free passes and one by getting hit by Bauer.
With the Cardinals batting in the bottom of the seventh, Sempf, now in relief of Retz, forced Bowman to fly out, but a base hit, a Bulldog error and a groundout for the second out moved the runner to third. A wild pitch ensued and allowed the winning run to score.
Retz whiffed nine Cardinal batters and gave up just three hits, while Sempf threw the sixth and seventh innings, giving up two hits and striking out three.
“Losing is never fun,” coach Michael Roemhild said after the game.
“Spring Valley is a good team with a great pitcher. It is hard to win a game when you have more errors than hits. Hat’s off to them, they had a good game plan and never wavered from it. We had two uncharacteristic errors in the outfield but our pitchers did enough to win. We just didn’t do enough to help them offensively,” he added.
In what began as a blowout when Boyceville jumped ahead 10-1 after an inning and a half of play, turned into a slugfest as the Buffaloes scored seven times in the bottom of the inning to cut Boyceville’s advantage to 10-8.
The Bulldogs used four doubles including two by Joles, three singles, two walks, two players were plunked by pitches and a Buffalo error to score their 10 runs.
Boyceville added a pair of runs in the fifth, and another in the sixth but those were countered by three Mondovi tallys in the bottom of the inning to make it 15-11 for Boyceville, and they put a couple more runs up in the seventh for some insurance.
The Bulldogs pounded out 16 hits with 11 of them coming off Mondovi ace, Tanner Marsh. Joles and Sempf both had three with all of Joles’ being two baggers. Retz, Trevor Hollister, and Braden Roemhild both smacked a pair of hits and Retz scored four times while Joles, Sempf, and Roemhild all came home three times. Sempf brought in three runs and Tyler Dormanen had two RBIs.
Jacob Granley started on the mound for Boyceville and gave up eight runs on just three hits, but walked five and struck out five in less than two innings. Sempf took over for four innings and surrendered four hits, three runs and whiffed eight Buffalo batters and Hollister struck out one batter in the final inning.
“This was a huge win for us,” said Coach Roemhild. “We had too much confidence after our second inning of hitting, and we had to fight each inning after that to get a win. The guys were hit and tired after a 3 hour game, but the bus ride home from Mondovi is so much sweeter with a win.”
“Defensively, this was probably our worst game of the year. We had 4 errors in the second inning that allowed them to score 7 runs. We did not look like a Varsity level team in the second inning, but that is why the game continues for 5 more innings,” he added.