Eleva-Strum wins first conference title in baseball in 46 years
STRUM - The score was 3-2 with just one out and runners on second and third. No. 5 ranked Eleva-Strum was clinging to the one-run lead over No. 10 ranked Independence/Gilmanton at Spangberg Field on Tuesday, May 16.
Time was called and a discussion took place on the mound. Or rather a reminder according to E-S head coach C. J. Christianson.
"I told them to relax and reminded them they were still a good team in an advantageous position," Christianson said. "We had the top of our batting order coming up in the bottom of the seventh so even if they tied it or took the lead we'd still have that last at bat to get it back. The worst thing we could have done is panic and give up a lot of runs and we didn't and that's why we find ourselves where we're at."
Where the Cardinals were at, for the first time in 46 years is Dairyland Conference champions after pitcher Ty Webb put out an Indee runner trying to score at home and then snagged a sharply hit grounder for the final out and the win.
Instead of making a pitching change Christianson stuck by Webb and he went the distance.
"He had all confidence in us," Webb said. "He told us to keep going and get the job done like we've done all season."
Webb said he made the right bet that the Indee runner on third would try to score given how aggressive they are on the basepaths and to tie the ballgame. Down 3-0 in the top of the 7th, I/G scored a pair of runs off hits from Brandon Sylla and Nathan Pyka. But Webb and the Cardinal defense rose to the occasion to get the final two outs.
E-S also notched some needed insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Alex Anderson cracked an RBI-double to do so as did teammate T. Fjelstad with a single. E-S's Marcus Steffenson was able to beat a tag at the plate to score the game's first run early in the ballgame.
This win, plus an 12-1, six inning triumph at Melrose-Mindoro on Thursday, May 18, has given Central the outright conference crown. It also has them 17-1 overall and No. 5 in the state in Division 4, earning a No. 1 seed in their WIAA regional tournament. The Cardinal play this weekend in a triangular at Amherst then close their regular season at home May 22 vs. Alma/Pepin. Then they will be off until the regional semifinals where they will face either No. 8 seed Wisconsin Rapids Assumption and No. 9 seed Cochrane-Fountain City at Spangberg Field, 5 p.m.
"Remember we're only two season into this and they're just learning how to win ballgames," Christianson said. "And I reminded them once again they're a good club that only beat themselves and I think took that to hear today and all season too. It's a grind to win this league, 18 games, three, sometimes four a week. It's tough and they've proven they're the champions. "
It was a goal of Central; to win the league title this season after late-season losses cost them a year ago. Now that this goal has been reached, the next thing for the ballclub to learn to be able to work for new goals.
"Now that we've reached the league title we have to reset and work for and accomplish new goals," Christianson said. "And that's winning the regional, the sectionald and going on to state."