Teams meet Thursday in Burlington with conference on line

Catcher Nick Dugandzic embraces pitcher Matt Korman (2) after the final out Tuesday in Waterford. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

For the second consecutive season, the Southern Lakes Conference baseball championship will come down to the final day of the conference season.

And for the second straight year, Waterford and Burlington will battle in a high-stakes, under-the-lights showdown.

Thanks to a 16-9 victory Tuesday night in Waterford in which they slugged 14 hits and scored in every inning, the Wolverines, an outsider only a week ago in the SLC title race, can tie for the championship if they can beat the Demons Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Beaumont Field in Burlington.

“If you would’ve told me we’d score 16 and they’d score 9, I would’ve told you you’re crazy,” said Waterford senior Matt Korman, who went 3-for-3 with three RBIs. “We came out hot, and Nick leading us off was huge. Also, Chapman was getting on base. Everybody was hitting today, and we were really seeing the ball well.”

Korman was referring to leadoff batter and catcher Nick Dugandzic, who enjoyed a huge game with three hits and three RBIs.

Dugandzic’s bases-clearing double in the five-run second busted the game wide open.

“I was just focused on hitting the ball hard,” said Dugandzic, who has recently snapped out of a slump.

A packed crowd experienced balmy weather in the mid-80s with a steady breeze, and the Waterford offense had little trouble getting the ball into the air.

The Wolverines pounded seven doubles and a home run, and they jumped all over Burlington en route to a 9-1 lead after three innings.

While the Demons got back into things thanks to four straight bases-loaded walks in the top of the fourth. Waterford Zach Stiewe couldn’t find his control, but he eventually forced a groundout to end the threat at 9-6.

But whenever the Demons inched closer, the red-hot Waterford bats kept slugging. Ryan Jungbauer slugged a home run to answer in the fifth, and Dugandzic and Aaron Chapman, who went 2-for-5 with two doubles, pushed the lead back up to 12-6 after four innings.

Burlington, which has lost three straight games after starting the season 15-1, only managed three hits.

Waterford (15-5) picked up its fourth straight win and 12th out of its last 13 games.

Despite the big lead, Waterford coach Lance Bestland knew nothing was a sure things against the state champs.

“Staude has a great program, and his kids play hard,” Bestland said. “We knew if we took care of ourselves, we’d have a chance at the end. It’s high school baseball. You never know what’s going to happen.”

“I was extremely worried. They’re too good. His kids will always rally. It’s real easy to fold and drop your head. Luckily for us, our seniors are starting to take over.”

Bestland added that Friday’s win over state-ranked Arrowhead was a huge confidence boost.

 

Burlington’s Derek Koenen was hit in the head by a pitch Tuesday. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Big innings hurting Demons

For the Demons, it’s been a case of giving up the big inning. Coach Scott Staude is hoping for a turnaround Thursday.

“We gave up seven runs in the last inning against Craig Saturday, and we gave up four runs in the first inning yesterday, and then we gave up four runs in the seventh,” Staude said. “That’s only three bad innings out of 14. And today wasn’t a very good game at all. Today, our pitching wasn’t very good. Waterford is a really good hitting team. They’re deep. But we’re not going to get rattled.”

“Our pitchers have struggled to get ahead in the count. It starts with our starting pitching, and we feed off them.”

Burlington starting pitcher Trent Turzenski, a sophomore, allowed 11 earned runs in 3-1/3, with nine hits and five walks.

For Waterford, Jungbauer improved to 5-1, giving up three earned runs and two hits in three innings.

Stiewe had trouble in the fourth but settled down in the fifth and sixth.

The Demons scored two runs in the seventh and loaded the bases, but Korman shut the door by retiring the final two batters.

Zak Ksobiech added a three-run single for Waterford, and Jungbauer and Nolan DeGreef each collected two hits.

Zach Campbell was the lone Demon with two hits.

Ryan Jungbauer earned the win on the mound and did major damage at the plate with a majestic opposite-field home run. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

“We need some good things to happen to us,” Staude said. “Are we going to take a punch and get back up, or will be lay down? I think these guys will get back up.”

Bestland said DeGreef and Austin Hoefs, two of the team’s top starters, will pitch Thursday. Staude said Campbell, Burlington’s ace, will not pitch. He wouldn’t reveal the team’s pitching plans.

If last year was any indication, Beaumont Field will be saturated from base line to bleachers to base line with legions of high school baseball fans.

“I’m hoping the guys come out with the same fire Thursday,” Bestland said. “The only hard part is it’s under the lights at 7 o’clock, which is a little bit different.”

 

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