GRAND CHUTE — Liam Stumpf had one of those days that never really surprises his coach or teammates.
Stumpf wasn’t quite a one-man show, but he was a big reason the Mineral Point baseball team downed Belmont 6-2 in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal on a wet Wednesday at Fox Cities Stadium.
The second-ranked Pointers will play for their first state championship on Thursday against defending Division 3 champ Webster (29-0), the state’s top-ranked team.
Stumpf, a sophomore, went 2-for-3 with a home run and triple, scored three runs and was just as good on the mound. He pitched five innings, didn’t allow an earned run, scattered three hits and struck out 11.
“We didn’t hit the ball as well as we usually do, but we did the little things today that got us the win — playing some small-ball, playing some good defense,” Stumpf said. “Overall, I think we played a heck of a game.”
Out of the 21 outs recorded by Stumpf and reliever Justin Baehler, 15 came via strikeout.
“We feel pretty good about our pitching,” Mineral Point coach Jordan Tibbits said. “Obviously, Liam pitched extremely well and we feel really good about having our two other aces, I guess, ready to go tomorrow.”
Belmont had its chances all game long. The Braves stranded 12 runners, seven in scoring position. But Stumpf got the job done.
“That’s just Liam’s mental toughness, and mental toughness is something we talk about a lot,” Tibbits said. “He persevered extremely well under pressure and he had an overall great day for us.”
Said Pointers center fielder Grady Gorgen: “I think he’s the most relaxed kid out there on the field. He’s been doing this for his whole life, playing baseball, and he’s been in those situations before.”
The Mineral Point players appear to be on a mission. After qualifying for state for the first time last season, the Pointers lost just one player from the team that fell in a Division 3 semifinal.
Getting to state in 2018 added fuel to the fire of the returning players.
“They’ve just matured a whole lot more since then. They’ve matured physically and mentally,” Tibbits said. “They came up here last year kind of just happy to be here, because it was kind of a shock to get here. This year, expectations were high. And the boys have done everything that we’ve asked them to.”
Mineral Point (27-0) didn’t waste much time in the opening inning. Isaac Lindsey hit a two-out single to drive in Stumpf, who had reached on an error. After Lindsey advanced to third on a wild pitch and throwing error, Grant Bossert slapped an RBI base hit.
Stumpf led off the third with a home run over the left-field fence that just stayed fair, making it 3-0.
Belmont (17-9) loaded the bases in the fourth with nobody out, but Stumpf worked his way out of the jam. A throwing error, made while trying to pick off a runner from third, led to the Braves’ first run, but Stumpf struck out the next three hitters looking.
Mineral Point loaded the bases in the fifth and Curtis Cox laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Stumpf for a 4-1 lead.
After the Pointers added a pair of runs in the sixth, Belmont scored one run in the seventh and eventually loaded the bases. But Baehler induced a pop out to end the game.
Mineral Point’s victory sets up a matchup of unbeatens in today’s championship game. Webster beat defending Division 4 champion Athens 4-3 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“What else would you want?” Tibbets said. “The defending Division 3 champs — go with the best. That’s what we want to do.”
Said Stumpf: “I think that will be a really fun game. We’re very excited to play them. I think everybody’s been looking at that game all year from the beginning.”
Belmont 000 100 1 — 2 7 5
Mineral Point 201 012 x 6 5 1
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — B: James (L; 5.1-4-3-4-2), Austin (0.2-1-0-0-0); MP: Stumpf (W; 5-3-0-4-11), Baehler (2-4-1-2-4). WP: James 1, Austin 1; Stumpf 1. HBP: James; Stumpf 2.
Leading hitters — B: Christensen 2x3, Kamps 2x3. 2B: Christensen; MP: Stumpf 2x3. 3B: Stumpf. HR: Stumpf. S: Lindholm; Cox 2. CS: James; Stumpf. DP: MP 1. LOB: B 12; MP 6.