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LA CROSSE — After winning a pair of one-run regional games, the Elk Mound baseball team found itself on the opposite side of a similar outcome in the sectional tournament in La Crosse a week ago Tuesday.
The 8th-ranked Mounders, who trailed throughout much of their WIAA Division 3 Sectional baseball semifinal played Tuesday afternoon, June 7 at Copeland Park in La Crosse against second-ranked La Crosse Aquinas Blugolds, scored three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead. That one-run advantage, however, wouldn’t last the inning as the Blugolds plated two runs of their own in the bottom half of that frame and then held off an Elk Mound rally for a 4-3 victory and a trip to the championship game.
Aquinas’ bid for a state berth, however, was upended in the following game as St. Croix Falls, ranked fourth in Division 3, shut out the Blugolds 3-0 and earned the sectional crown and trip to this week’s state tournament in Grand Chute.
The sectional semifinal contest between Elk Mound and Aquinas was an evenly matched affair as the Mounders finished with five hits compared to six by the Blugolds.
Avery Kaanta, who led the Mounders with a pair of hits, singled with one out in the top of the first inning but was left stranded when Carter Vieth struck out swinging and Jerome Delikowski grounded out to the shortstop to end the inning.
The Blugolds took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the first when Eddie Peters was plunked by Elk Mound starting pitcher Kaden Russo. Peters advanced to second on a single by teammate Calvin Hargrove and came in to score on a line drive to center by Blugold Riley Klar.
The game stayed a one-run affair until the bottom of the third when Aquinas tacked on a another score for a 2-0 advantage. With two out, Kyle Keppel reached base when Mounder shortstop Kaanta misplayed the ball which allowed Keppel to reach on an error. Keppel then moved all the way to third on two wild pitches and came home on a double to center by Michael Lium. Russo was finally able to get out of the inning without any further damage when he fanned Kahler Key for the Blugolds’ third out.
Joe Javanovich would finally pick up the Mounders second hit of the game in the top of the fifth when he led off with a hard-hit single to right field. Lucas Johnson’s sacrifice then pushed Javanovich to second where, unfortunately, he was left stranded when Ryan Bartig flew out to center and Kamron Diermeier grounded out to first.
In the bottom half of the fifth, the Blugolds chased Russo from the game as he surrendered back-to-back walks with one out. Diermeier took the mound in relief and got a Blugold batter to line out to center field for out number two. Diermeier then walked the next batter to load the bases but was able to get out of the jam when he got another Aquinas batter to fly out to center to end the at-bat.
Elk Mound would finally get on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth.
Kaanta delivered a lead-off single, his second hit of the game. Vieth then hit a pop up behind the Blugolds’ shortstop that fell in for a hit. Delikowski was next and drew walk off Blugold reliever Will Deets, who had taken over for starter Kahler Key that inning, to load the bases for Elk Mound. Deets then walked Ethan Johnson which brought Kaanta to home plate with the Mounders’ first score of the game. Russo then bounced out to third but Vieth was able to score to knot the game at two all. Javanovich grounded to short for the Mounders second out but Carter Garnett, who was pinch running for Delikowski, crossed home plate with the go ahead run. Lucas Johnson grounded out to short to end the Mounders’ innings.
Unfortunately, Elk Mound could not hold on to the lead.
Diermeier gave up a lead-off single but got the next two Blugold batters to fly and ground out, respectively. Another Aquinas hit allowed a run to score to tie the game at three runs apiece. But, the Blugolds were not finished. Diermeier surrendered back-to-back free passes that allowed Aquinas to load the bases. An error on Mounder catcher Carter Vieth brought another run to home plate giving Aquinas a 4-3 advantage before Diermeier could get a Blugold to fly out to end the inning.
Down to their final at-bat in the top of the seventh and trailing by a run, the Mounders appeared to have something going when Bartig led off with single and Diermeier drew a walk. Kaanta moved Bartig and Diermeier over to second and third bases, respectively, with a sacrifice back to the pitching mound. With one out, Vieth drew a walk to load the bases but Delikowski grounded into a double play to end the game and Elk Mound’s season.
Kamron Diermeier took the pitching loss despite going just an inning and two thirds. The freshman hurler allowed two runs on a pair of hits and three walks and did not have any strike outs. Kaden Russo, who started and went four and a third, got a no decision after giving up four hits for two runs while walking five, Russo also had seven strikeouts.
Besides Kaanta’s two hits, Vieth, Javanovich and Bartig each had one for the Mounders.
Aquinas’ starting pitcher, Kahler Key, also got a no decision after throwing five innings and allowing just one run on three hits while striking out five and walking two. Will Deets pitched just the sixth inning to get the win despite giving up the lead on a hit and two runs and a pair of walks. Blugolds’ Eddie Peters came on in the seventh to earn the save.
Elk Mound finished the 2022 season with a 16-3 record.