State baseball: West Bend West caps undefeated season with title – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MEQUON – Perfection is not easy.
Just ask Logan Rupnow.
The West Bend West relief pitcher turned in the save of his life by allowing just one hit in the final 2 2/3 innings, leading the Spartans to a tense 6-4 victory over Milwaukee Marquette in the summer baseball championship game at Kapco Park.
The Spartans finished the season with a 33-0 record.
“It wasn’t me,” the junior said. “I made the save in the score book, but our team got the win.”
With four Division I recruits, West Bend West was ranked No. 1 all season and won its games by an average score of 9-2. The Spartans not only claimed their first title since 2007, they joined Brookfield Central and Oak Creek with the most summer championships (four).
“Guys felt pressure all year, but like we talked about, pressure is a good thing,” West Bend West coach Bill Albrecht said. “It means you have a good team and it’s meaningful games that you’re playing.”
Marquette (27-8) finished as state runner-up for the second straight season after trying to win its first crown since 2008.
BOX SCORE: West Bend West 6, Marquette 4
“I’m very impressed with West Bend West,” Hilltoppers coach Sal Bando Jr. said. “I didn’t see many holes in that team. We knew we had our hands full.”
West Bend West pitcher and Oregon State recruit Nathan Burns would have started the game, which was postponed from Friday night by rain, but he’s missed the last three weeks with an arm injury.
So the Spartans turned to freshman Gavin Hinckley. The right-hander, now 7-0, was staked to a 5-1 lead after allowing just two hits in the first four innings.
But after a walk and back-to-back singles to load the bases in the fifth, he hit Pat Sisk to bring in a run and end his day. Rupnow replaced Hinckley, and it took one pitch for things to unravel.
Zach Schmidt hit a ground ball up the middle that was fielded by second baseman Nate Block. But as he tried to tag Sisk, who was running to second base, he dropped the ball as the runner jumped to avoid him and two runs crossed the plate to trim West Bend West’s lead to 5-4.
“It was my bad,” Block said. “My heart dropped after that. I felt terrible.”
Rupnow got Niko Kershner to fly out and thought the inning was over when Rob Gueldner hit a ground ball to Block. But he was charged with an error when he misplayed it and the bases were loaded again.
“You’ve just got to stay cool,” Rupnow said. “Coach teaches us all year long, in the face of adversity, you’ve just got to keep going.”
Rupnow did just that, as he got pinch hitter Parker Panich to fly out to right field to end the inning.
“That was a sigh of relief,” Rupnow said. “Bases loaded, it was a little nerve-racking.”
The Spartans helped Rupnow’s cause with a run-scoring double from Oklahoma recruit Anthony Schlass in the seventh for a two-run lead, and the pitcher tossed a perfect bottom of the frame.
Fittingly, the game ended when Kershner grounded out to Block.
“I was hoping the last one was coming to me,” Block said. “It was great for the last one to come to me.”
West Bend West gave up a run in the opening frame to trail for just the fifth time this season – the team overcame a two-run deficit Friday to beat Franklin, 6-2, in the semifinals – and the Spartans did not have a hit in the first three innings.
But that all changed in the top of the fourth.
Evan Albrecht, a junior who already has committed to Purdue, led off with a double over the head of Kershner in right field and scored on a single to right by Schlass.
After a fielder’s choice and single, Marquette had a golden opportunity to get out of the inning when Nate Fleischman hit a ground ball to second baseman Brendon Hafemann. He got the force-out at second, but Fleischman was safe at first to negate the Hilltoppers’ inning-ending double play and give his team a 2-1 lead when UW-Milwaukee recruit Jack Thelen scored from third.
Hinckley followed with a deep fly ball to left field that was off the glove of Hank Lamers as he approached the warning track.
The Spartans added two crucial runs in the fifth, as consecutive bases-loaded walks to Thelen and Lukas Broske gave them a 5-1 lead.
“Against a team like West Bend West, you give them an inch they’re going to take a foot,” Bando Jr. said.