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by Marlys Kruger
After slipping past Cadott a week earlier 1-0 in the first round of regional play, the Boyceville Bulldogs knew the road to a WIAA Division 3 title would have to come by way of defeating a pair of fellow Dunn-St. Croix teams.
The quest began with a 4-3 win at home against Spring Valley June 1 but just 24 hours later, that quest fell short as they ended their season with a 4-3 loss to Elk Mound in Elk Mound.
Boyceville is the defending Division 4 state champion but moved back up to Division 3 this year with an increase in enrollment. They finished second in conference play, two games behind the Mounders and just ahead of Spring Valley, and split their contests with both teams this year.
The Cardinals started things off quickly, scoring a run on a walk, a stolen base, a hit by Tyler Bowman and a Bulldog error in their first at-bat. But Boyceville hurler Jacob Granley had had enough of that nonsense as he whiffed three straight Cardinals to leave Bowman on the base paths.
The Bulldogs knotted it up in their half of the inning as lead-off hitter Braden Roemhild drew a walk off Spring Valley’s ace, Connor Ducklow. After he swiped second, Roemhild came home on a Granley base hit.
The Cardinals threatened to add another run in the third when Bowman slammed a two-out triple, but another Granley strikeout finished off the inning.
Boyceville had their own chance to add runs in the bottom of the third when Devin Halama and Roemhild both earned free passes but a double play eliminated Halama and sent Roemhild to third. Granley reached on an error but a groundout ended the inning with two runners left on base.
The Cardinals took a one-run lead, thanks to a couple of Bulldog errors and a base hit, but catcher Tyler Dormanen gunned down a Cardinal trying to steal second and Mr. Clutch Granley whiffed two more Cardinals, limiting the damage to just the one run.
The Bulldogs finally figured Ducklow out as they smacked three base hits in a row off him in their half of the fourth. Chase Hollister started the streak, Dormanen followed and Nick Olson banged the third hit. After a groundout, Halama added another hit and when the inning ended with two fly ball outs, the Bulldogs were up 4-2.
The Cardinals made it interesting again when Charlie Maier sent a ball over the fence to bring them to within a run to lead off the sixth, but after a single, Dormanen again cut down the runner trying to steal second and a strikeout and a groundout left the Bulldogs up by a run.
Boyceville went down in order in the fifth and sixth and Granley made it a quick ending as he whiffed all three Cardinals in the seventh, giving him 12 for the game. Earlier in the contest he recorded his 100th career strikeout and finished his career with 111.
“The rubber match did not disappoint anyone tonight,” Boyceville coach Michael Roemhild said. “Our guys wanted this win and it showed. Jacob Granley was dominant once again, striking out 12, giving up just four hits and walking just one batter. Tyler Dormanen showed why we have trust in him behind the plate. We knew if Spring Valley’s top of the order got on they were going to try and take extra bases. They were successful in their first attempt but he gunned out two that tried again. Defensively we made most of the plays we should have but had a few too many errors, both mental and physical, that allowed Spring Valley to score two runs we felt they shouldn’t have,” he added.
Boyceville finished with five hits in the game, all singles with Roemhild, Hollister, Olson and Dormanen all coming home once, and Granley, Olson, Isaac Bartz and Halama all credited with an RBI. Granley earned the win, allowing just four hits with those 12 Ks and one free pass while throwing 98 pitches.
The Mounders were a number one seed and have been ranked number eight in the state as of late. They were coming off an 8-7 walk off win over another conference opponent, the Mondovi Buffaloes, the day before. In this contest, the Bulldogs outhit the Mounders 6-1 and committed just one error while the Mounders had four, but Elk Mound (16-2) showed having better statistics doesn’t win games.
Braden Roemhild continued to do the job of a lead-off batter as he started things off for Boyceville with a slam all the way out to the centerfield fence for a double. After Mounder starting pitcher Kamron Diermeier threw a pitch off the mark, his catcher couldn’t find it and Roemhild came all the way around to score. A groundout became the first out of the inning and Granley smacked a single but was stranded when Diermeier forced a fly out and another groundout.
Chase Hollister started on the mound for Boyceville and had some jitters to begin things as he walked the first two Elk Mound batters. After a fly ball out, Hollister hit a batter and threw a couple of balls Dormanen had trouble handling that ended up by the backstop and two runs scored. A single followed for the third Mounder run but Hollister got out of the inning without any further damage on a groundout and a fly ball out.
Boyceville came back in the third inning with Roemhild again reaching base on an infield error. Another Mounder error in the infield put Ira Bialzik on base and Granley smacked a single to left but Roemhild was gunned down at the plate by left fielder Kaden Russo. Granley went to second on the play and Dawson McRoberts promptly sent a base hit to the outfield to bring in the tying runs. A pop up for the second out was followed by a long shot to left field which was snared by Russo to end the inning.
After Hollister got two quick outs to start the Mounder third, he walked two batters but left them on base after he fielded a ground ball and threw to first base for out number three.
The Bulldogs had something going in the top of the fourth when Olson set down a slick bunt and the ball was overthrown to first. Isaac Bartz sent a hard shot to right field but once again a perfect throw, this one by Lucas Johnson nailed Olson as he tried to get to third base. Back-to-back outs came after that leaving Bartz on base.
Hollister was settled in at this point, putting the Mounders down in order in the fourth and fifth innings with help from a solid defense which included a long running catch by Roemhild in left field. But the Bulldog bats had been silenced in return as they failed to get the ball out of the infield in the fifth and sixth innings.
Things began to fall apart for Boyceville in the bottom of the sixth when an infield single, a walk and a dropped ball on a throw to third base loaded the bases. Hollister put the hammer down by striking out the next two batters, but as fate will have it sometimes, he had reached that magical number of 100 pitches which the WIAA allows for in one game. Simon Evenson, who had just a few innings pitching under his belt for the season was called on to put the fire out, but he got just a little too far inside and hit the batter, bringing in the go-ahead run. Evenson forced a lineout to the shortstop to get out of the inning.
Diermeier, just a freshman, was in control as he forced a groundout and a flyout before Roemhild reached base again on another Mounder error. But a pop fly to deep second base put the flame out, sending the Mounders to La Crosse for the sectionals this week.
Granley and Bartz finished the game batting 2-for-3 while McRoberts and Roemhild both had one hit. McRoberts picked up a pair of RBIs while Roemhild, Bialzik and Granley scored the three runs for the team. Hollister threw 5 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits with five strikeouts and five free passes.
Diermeier earned the win, striking out four Bulldogs and did not walk a single batter.
“On paper Elk Mound looks like the better team. But people forget this was our third regional championship game in a row. We have been here, we know what to expect, and we had no pressure. The pressure was on Elk Mound, not on us. The players and coaches on this team expected to be here, we expected to beat Elk Mound, and we expected to be playing in La Crosse next Tuesday. We fell short of our expectations and that stings,” stated Coach Roemhild.
“These young men worked their butts off and deserved to be in this game. Heck if you look at the stats, people would wonder how we didn’t win. We gave up 1 hit…..1 hit, and still lost. We had six hits. Did we have a few errors? Sure, but so did they. We had to shake some of the nerves off in the first inning, unfortunately those nerves led to 3 runs. After that we looked poised. Chase threw great the rest of the way but ran into a high pitch count at the end. We came out in the first 3 innings and were hitting the ball and scoring runs. We put them in uncomfortable spots,” continued Roemhild.
“The biggest difference in the game was Elk Mound didn’t give us very many free bases. Their pitcher didn’t walk one guy and Braden was the only one who advanced on a past ball. With all that being said, our guys never gave up. We went down 3-1 real quick and fought our way back. This team this year had grit and were used to winning, so they weren’t going to accept anything less than that,” he added.
“Baseball is alive and well in Boyceville, and we are already looking forward to completing next year!” concluded Roemhild.
Boyceville concluded the 2022 campaign with a 15-4 record while Elk Mound moved on to the sectional tournament in La Crosse June 7.