Marna Diemer | Special to The Leader
APPLETON – The good news for the Webster baseball team is that it must be considered a very early favorite to reach the 2018 state finals.
Making the trip a year from now would be both a fitting finale and a redemption for the Tigers, following the trip they made on Wednesday. The Tigers reached this year’s WIAA Division 4 state semifinal and faced Independence-Gilmanton for a spot in the final, but were done in by a pair of ninth-inning runs in a 5-3 extra-innings loss at Fox Cities Stadium.
The Tigers recovered from a 3-0 deficit the Indees built with just one at-bat by scoring the next three runs and forcing extra innings before repeated miscues that led to an early deficit, returned to help the Indees score two more in the ninth.
“After the first inning, we did what we needed to have a chance to win,” Webster coach Jarrod Washburn said. “It just wasn’t enough.”
In the first inning, the Indees were the target of enough pitches to bring home some runs in the opening at-bat. Webster pitcher Jack Washburn hit the first batter he faced and missed on a pickoff throw that advanced the runner before the second batter of the inning was hit by another pitch. A triple from Samuel Killian scored the game’s first two runs, and a third crossed the plate with a Washburn wild pitch.
Jarrod Washburn said both teams were affected by the state-final atmosphere and the Tigers proved that in their first at-bat. Hunter Gustafson hit a sacrifice fly that scored Trevor Gustafson to make a 3-1 game; then Brad Sigfrids hit an RBI single that scored Jack Washburn to pull Webster within a run at 3-2.
But the game changed after the first inning. The teams turned in four scoreless innings after combining for five in the first inning. Webster was the beneficiary when the scoring resumed.
Washburn hit a two-out single and reached third on a fielding error in the sixth when Hunter Gustafson hit the RBI single to tie the game at 3-3.
The tie remained through the end of seven innings, and the game went into extra play, as late-morning temperatures approached 90 degrees. However, the Tigers didn’t change strategy due to heat or a potential state final game to play.
“We would worry about tomorrow, tomorrow,” Jarrod Washburn said. “We were just going to try and do whatever we could to win, today.”
Webster was not trying to repeat any of the early mistakes that helped the Indees to three first-inning runs, though they did. Jordan Larson – who pitched both innings of extra play – hit the leadoff batter and then committed a balk that moved the runner to second. Back-to-back sacrifice bunts scored one run for the Indees, and a RBI single gave them a 5-3 advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Sigfrids gave the Tigers hope with a one-out single, and the game-tying run was put on base with a two-out walk, bringing the game-winning run to the plate. Killian avoided another inning and a potential loss by striking out Caleb Pardun to end the game.
Jack Washburn pitched six innings, totaling ten strikeouts and allowing three walks. Sigfrids led the offense with two hits and a RBI; Hunter Gustafson had a hit and two RBI.
Webster and its coaching staff do have reason to look forward to next season with nearly the entire roster eligible to return, which is not good news for the competition.
“We lose one (player) from this roster, so we’ll be all right,” Jarrod Washburn said.
The Tigers finish the 2017 season with a 21-7 overall record.