GRAND CHUTE — Minutes before a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal baseball game Tuesday night, Waunakee senior Riley Ripp lay prone on the Fox Cities Stadium field, surrounded by medical staff, coaches and family.
Ripp, the Badger North Conference co-player of the year, was struck in the face with a batted ball during pregame drills and had to be taken for medical attention.
Through the emotion of seeing their fallen teammate and 11 tense innings, the Warriors persevered and pulled out a 3-1, extra-innings victory over Green Bay Preble in the semifinal.
Warriors coach Spencer Lee shuffled his lineup after scratching Ripp as the starting first baseman and No. 3 hitter.
And for the next three hours, the rest of the Warriors (20-6) handled the tension and the challenge presented by Preble (21-4).
“I didn’t know how it was going to end,” Lee said. “I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to end.
“I just have to give so much credit to our kids. They are tough kids. They have a lot of grit and a lot of determination and never, never backed down through a lot of tough things that happened over the course of the game.”
Waunakee will play in the Division 1 final at 6 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Tuesday night’s late semifinal between Hartland Arrowhead and Janesville Craig.
It will be the second appearance in a state title game for Waunakee. The Warriors finished as runner-up in Class B in 1978.
Senior Will Connors’ double to right-center scored sophomore Taiten Manriquez, who had singled, to give Waunakee a 2-1 lead in the top of the 11th. Junior Brody Royston then knocked in the third run with a single.
“This is awesome,” said Connors, who ranked it as the best hit of his prep career. “We get to go play for a title on Thursday. How sweet is that?
“With the go-ahead at-bat, I tried to put a good swing on it and do it for my teammates. These teammates mean everything to me.”
That includes Ripp, whom Lee said would be OK.
“I went in the huddle (before the game) and I said, ‘We have to play for the people who can’t play,’ ’’ Connors said. “And that was our mentality through the whole game. I love Riley. He’s one of our teammates. I’d do anything for him.”
But that didn’t make it any easier for Lee or the Warriors to watch Ripp be taken off the field.
“Riley is the toughest kid I have coached. That was a tough one,” Lee said. “There were some tears in the dugout before the game started, because everyone loves that kid.”
Manriquez permitted one unearned run on four hits while striking out seven in eight innings against Preble. He had to be removed after eight innings because his pitch count for the day was 103 (he threw three pitches in the first game). Seniors Ben Nordloh and Derek Lee blanked the Hornets over the final three innings.
The Warriors scored the game’s first run in the top of the sixth. Junior catcher Nate Stevens doubled to straightaway center field. Nordloh, who had three hits, lined a single to left , scoring courtesy runner Will Ross.
But the Hornets answered with a run in their half of the sixth. With two out and runners at first and third, Preble sophomore Max Wagner hit a grounder that Waunakee senior shortstop Jarrett Fueger handled cleanly but threw on a bounce past senior second baseman Derek Lee for an error. Preble designated hitter Jordan Gaulke scored the tying run from third.
Waunakee 12, Eau Claire North 8
The Warriors scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, snapping a 7-7 deadlock and defeating Eau Claire North in Tuesday’s first quarterfinal.
Ripp singled in the go-ahead run, Nordloh doubled in three runs and senior shortstop Jarrett Fueger doubled in the final run during the Warriors’ sixth inning .
Waunakee raced to a 5-0 lead after four innings, but the Huskies (21-4) rallied with five runs in the top of the fifth. The Warriors took a 7-5 lead in the fifth; Eau Claire North again came back, tying the game at 7 in the top of the sixth.
“We are not always the most talented team out there, but we are always going to give it 100 percent. Sometimes, it works our way,” said Nordloh, who pitched the first four innings before being lifted for Ripp.
It worked the Warriors’ way, aided by five Eau Claire North errors.
“What they always say is defense wins championships,” Fueger said. “It’s kind of a tired cliché. But it came true out here today. They had five (errors) and we had none and that was the difference.”
WAUNAKEE 3, GREEN BAY PREBLE 1 (11)
Waunakee 000 001 000 02 — 3 13 2
Green Bay Preble 000 001 000 00 — 1 7 4
WAUNAKEE (ab-r-h-rbi) — Lee 2b/p 5-0-0-0; Connors rf 6-0-2-1; Jezik pr 0-1-0-0; Stevens 4-0-1-0; Treadwell pr 0-0-0-0; Ross pr 0-1-0-0; Nordloh dh/p 5-0-3-1; Tachick pr 0-0-0-0; J. Fueger ss 6-0-1-0; R. Fueger cf 4-0-0-0; Smith 1b 5-0-2-0; Luebke lf 4-0-1-0; Manriquez p/3b 5-1-2-0; Royston 3b 1-0-1-1. Totals 45-3-13-3.
GREEN BAY PREBLE — Dougherty cf/lf 3-0-1-0; Wagner p/ss 4-0-1-0; Roeser c 4-0-1-0; Veriha pr 0-0-0-0; Nicklaus ss/3b 4-0-1-0; Graff rf/1b 4-0-1-0; Z.D. Renier 5-0-1-0; Gaulke 5-1-1-0; Z.T. Renier 3-0-0-0; Mariucci ph 1-0-0-0; Dorner lf/ph 2-0-0-0; Bobholz 1b 2-0-0-0; Stefiuk p/1b 0-0-0-0; Williquette 1b/p 0-0-0-0. Totals 37-1-7-0.
Pitchers (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — W: Manriquez (8-4-1-0-1-7), Nordloh (1.2-1-0-0-3-3), Lee (W; 1.1-2-0-0-0-3); GBP: Wagner (5-4-1-1-1-2), Williquette (L;5.2-9-2-2-2-2), Stefiuk (0.1-0-0-0-0-1).
E — J. Fueger, Smith; Z.D. Renier 2, Nicklaus, Z.T. Renier. 2B — Connors, Stevens; Nicklaus. 3B — Z.D. Renier. SB — Dougherty. CS — Veriha. SAC — Lee, Luebke; Nicklaus, Z.T. Renier.
HBP — Dougherty (by Manriquez). IBB — Stevens; Graff. LOB — W 14; GBP 10.
WAUNAKEE 12, EAU CLAIRE NORTH 8
Eau Claire North 000 052 1 — 8 11 5
Waunakee 101 325 x — 12 9 0
WAUNAKEE (ab-r-h-rbi) — Lee 2b 4-1-2-1; Connors rf 1-0-0-0; Ripp 1b/p 3-0-1-1; Jezik pr/lf 0-2-0-0; Stevens c 1-0-0-0; Treadwell pr 0-2-0-0; Tachick pr 0-1-0-0; Nordloh p 2-1-1-3; Ross lf 1-0-0-0; J. Fueger ss 4-2-2-2; R. Fueger cf 4-1-2-2; Smith dh 3-0-1-1; Manriquez 3b/p 2-2-0-0; Luebke lf/1b 0-0-0-0; Royston 3b 0-0-0-0. Totals 25-12-9-10.
EAU CLAIRE NORTH — Stange rf 5-2-2-2; Pippenger ss 5-2-4-2; Venne p/ph 3-0-0-0; O’Brien pr 0-0-0-0; Rasmussen p 0-0-0-0; Williams cf 4-1-2-2; Hanson 1b/p 1-0-0-0; Thompson 1b 1-0-0-1; Dillon lf 3-0-0-0; Greenlund c 3-0-1-1; Phillips pr 0-1-0-0; Kron 3b/2b 3-1-1-0; Hesselman 2b/p 4-1-1-0. Totals 32-8-11-8.
Pitchers (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — W: Nordloh (4-4-3-3-3-2); Ripp (W, 2.2-7-5-5-3-1; Manriquez (S, 0.1-0-0-0-0-0). ECN: Venne (3.2-5-5-4-2-4); Rasmussen (0.1-0-0-0-0-0); Hanson (1-1-2-1-1-0); Hesselman (L, 1-3-5-5-3-0).
E — Greenlund 2, Pippenger, Williams, Hesselman. DP — ECN 1. LOB — ECN 11; W 4. 2B — J. Fueger 2, Lee, Ross; Williams. 3B — Stange. HBP — Stevens (by Hanson); Venne (by Ripp), Greenlund (by Ripp). SH — Nordloh, Connors. SB — Manriquez 2, Connors. WP — Nordloh; Hanson. PB — Greenlund.