|6/8/2018 10:13:00 AM|
No need to dream the impossible dream; reality for Pointers is state tournament berth
A few things are certain.
One, there is no crying in baseball (wanna bet?)
Two, there is no glass slipper.
Three, momentum isn't everything....but it helps.
Add one more item to the list and that is the Mineral Point baseball team has fought and clawed its way to the WIAA state tournament and they had to knock out the best of WIAA Division 3 to get there.
To claim the Regional title and get a sectional berth the Pointers had to survive two days of facing Shullsburg/Benton and came away with the hardware after a hard fought back and forth effort highlighted by some gutty pitching, hitting and defense over 9 innings.
Traveling to La Crosse to play on the Northwoods League La Crosse Loggers field at Copeland Park the Pointers were paired with a recent state tournament entrant in Wisconsin Heights in the second game of the three game set. They already knew they would be taking on once beaten Prairie du Chien, the SWC champions and the number two ranked team in the state if they won.
Just another day at the baseball field, right?
The Pointers methodically went about their business, seized their opportunities and beat the Vanguards 4-3 to set up a showdown with highly ranked Prairie du Chien.
Maybe people were looking at the high tech Blackhawks and saying it was a nice run but the Pointer squad was eyeing the challenge differently
So they changed pitching plans, used the squeeze play and jumped ahead of the Hawks right away. They then went on to keep them off the board until the last inning, let in a couple harmless runs, and won the sectional title game 8-2.
Pointer coach Jordan Tibbits was reminded this week that the last time, and only time for that matter, the Pointers made it to state in baseball was 1974 when his father, Rick, played left field for the Ted Evans coached team.
"People will have a hard time remembering that," Jordan quipped Tuesday after knocking off both obstacles and having his team earn a chance to play on a professional baseball field, home of the Timber Ratters in Appleton.
"They have something new to remember now," he said.
When Rick Tibbits played, the Pointers were in the summer SWAL and the game took place in late summer. Evans remembers it well and says it has some similarity to this year's win.
"What an exciting time for these kids, fans and community," said coach of the '74 state team Ted Evans. "This year's team is a very talented and athletic group of young men. They are competitors to say the least."
Evans does not feel the '74 trip is on the back burner even though it was a few years ago.
"Coach Tibbits said the fans will remember this one because his dad's trip was so many years ago," Evans said. "But those players and especially Ricky still remember the experience and the fun they had while at state. Like this year's team we were not expected to compete much less win at their sectional in '74 but similar to this group of players the '74 team went out and played fundamental baseball and found a way to win."
Evans, now retired from education, keeps a strong eye on the Pointers through his position as SWAL commissioner.
"It's been a heck of a spring season for MP as softball was sectional runner-up, golf team had a shot at sectionals and a chance to get to state, track teams scored points at the state meet and now baseball is two games away from a gold ball. It would be a great finish to another great school year."
Being in that position was made possible by contributions throughout the line-up and a dose of philosophy preached day in and day out by Tibbits.
"We talk mental toughness every day and these kids are tough as nails," he said proudly.
They showed that the first game when they plated the tying and lead run in the sixth that held up for a 4-3 win over the Vanguards.
The Pointers took a 1-0 lead in the first when Grant Bossert and Curtis Cox singled with two outs and Bossert scored on a costly Heights error.
Heights came back to score twice in the fourth and take a 2-1 lead. Zach Watkins singled, Curtis Young reached on an error and both scored, Watkins on the error and Young on a ground out.
Heights increased the margin to 3-1 in the fourth. Ethan Cribbs singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
The Pointers got one back in the fifth when Uriah Ottoway singled then advanced and scored on successive hits by Liam Stumpf and Justin Baehler.
With starting pitcher Grady Gorgen in his groove the Pointers kept the Vanguards off the board and put the game away in the bottom of the sixth. Bossert started it with a single, Cox made it on base on an error and both scored courtesy of an Owen Stephenson two run single.
The Vanguards had the tying run in scoring position thanks to a pair of walks in the top of the seventh but three strikeouts allowed the Pointers to move on.
Before the Prairie du Chien game Tibbits had some decisions to make. One was how to pitch the prolific hitting Blackhawks.
He answered that when he walked past his intended starter and put the ball in the hands of Curtis Cox, normally the number three pitcher for the Pointers.
"I had a feeling they would struggle with his off speed stuff and his control," Tibbits said.
Once again, in the biggest of big games so far this season, he was right.
Cox went to the mound and put big goose eggs on the board while his teammates were knocking out SWC all-conference performer Cory Check and putting eight runs on the board. With two harmless runs scoring in the seventh Cox had delivered for his teammates and his teammates had done the same for him.
"Curtis twirled a gem," Tibbits said. "He had Prairie du Chien guessing every pitch."
Tibbits also unveiled a new wrinkle for the hard hitting Pointers...the squeeze bunt. They executed it perfectly twice in the first inning and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. That was something new for the Blackhawks to deal with and they never got into the flow.
One of those instructed to bunt was the lone senior on the squad Joey Dolphin. He had been telling his teammates what a great experience this was and to keep on working to get back again.
But at 6-2 and 270 pounds he does not have your normal build for a bunter. No matter. He was able to execute perfectly and joined Cox with rbi squeeze bunt singles.
"We practice it every day," Dolphin said. "Everyone on the team can bunt."
The third run scored on Bossert's rbi single to right.
The Pointers struck for three more in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead.
It started when Uriah Ottoway singled and later scored on an rbi ground out by Liam Stumpf. Baehler then walked and was replaced by courtesy runner Will Straka, Isaac Lindsey was hit by a pitch and Bossert singled to score Straka. An error allowed Lindsey to score and jump the lead to 6-0.
Dolphin got to the second chapter of his day in the sun when he doubled to the wall in the bottom of the sixth to score Straka and Bossert.
Cox got to his 100th pitch in the top of the seventh and Tibbits went to Stumpf who closed it out, recording the final out with a strikeout.
The Pointers had 11 hits in the win. Bossert and Lindsey both were 2x3 with Dolphin and Cox both 2x4. Stumpf, Baehler, and Ottoway all had one hit.
"Everything just came together for us today," Tibbits said. "We were down in the first game but the kids kept on battling. I am so happy for them, the community and our coaching staff."
"We were well represented at La Crosse with a great support system and I know they will be right there with us in Appleton," Tibbits added. "Since being down 4-0 in the regional finals and fighting back to win in 9 innings to being down in the sectionals and coming back to win, this ride has been unreal"
"I am so happy for our lone senior Joey Dolphin who had a great game in the finals. It is a great way for him to end his career and a great way for these young guys to evolve with a program we have been trying to build over the past three years,"
DIVISION 3 PREVIEW
Wednesday, June 13
Division 3 Semifinals - 1 p.m.
Game 1 - St. Mary Catholic vs. Mineral Point
Game 2 - Webster vs. Kenosha St. Joseph
The Zephyrs come from the Neenah area and are coached by Phil Jameson. They were 17-2 at the end of the season with a team batting average of .314.
Leading hitters are
Christian Jack .358 2 home runs
Caden Uhlenbrauck .475,
Drew Zimmer .302
Holden Fischer .378
Chris Seveska .333
Leading base stealers
Christian Jack 16
Caden Uhlenbrauck with 14
Skryzpczak 7-1 1.32 era
Davis Wilson (sr) 7-0, 1.12 era
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