Sophomore Krause shuts down Wolverines in front of electric atmosphere

 

The Demons are ecstatic moments after winning Thursday. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

On a night when Burlington pitching coach Bob Lee threw out the first pitch, it was fitting that some of his newest protégés stole the show.

The Burlington and Waterford baseball squads battled Thursday night at Beaumont Field with the Southern Lakes Conference championship at stake, and a jam-packed crowd of a few hundred, giddy with the promise of free hot dogs for all Demon fans, witnessed a thriller.

Burlington sophomore left-hander Trey Krause showed the poise of a senior considering the electric atmosphere, and his dominant five innings of three-hit ball silenced the red-hot Waterford bats as the Demons hung on for a 6-5 victory.

Despite a furious late rally from the Wolverines, Burlington (16-4, 11-3) claimed its second straight outright SLC title.

Waterford dropped to 15-6 overall and 9-5 in the SLC. With Wilmot’s win over Union Grove Thursday, Waterford finished the conference season one game out of second place behind the Panthers.

The Demons erased Waterford’s 16-7 thrashing from Tuesday and gained a measure of revenge.

Burlington sophomore pitcher Trey Krause was masterful Thursday, allowing only three hits and one run in five innings. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

“Trey was really good today,” Burlington head coach Scott Staude said moments after parents flooded the field for celebratory team photos after the game. “For a sophomore to step up in that situation, he hasn’t seen anything like this environment. This was his fifth start, and he had great command with a fastball, curve ball and change. He set the tone.”

“After Tuesday’s game, you could feel the dugout and our players just exhale, and have a sigh of relief. They know how good Waterford is, and they remembered two days ago.”

For Krause, who remained unbeaten this season at 4-0, it was about executing the game plan. He found out immediately after Tuesday’s loss that he would get the call Thursday.

“The plan was to get ahead in the count, starting with fastballs and ending with off-speed pitches,” Krause said. “I don’t know if I had all my stuff, but I knew if I could get ahead with my fastball, I could get them.”

“It’s exciting, even as a sophomore, I know how much it means to the seniors. I think we can go back to state, and I definitely have a lot of confidence in my team.”

Waterford head coach Lance Bestland wasn’t in any kind of mood to talk to the media after the gut-wrenching loss.

“I don’t have much to say at all, to be honest,” Bestland said. “When you spot them three runs in the first, how do you expect to come back against a team that good? That set the tone, and we were playing catch up the rest of the night. Their lefty was good. All we knew was he had a pretty good curve ball. They let us back in the game.”

Pesick settles down after wild start

Krause wasn’t the only young pitcher on display. Junior Drew Pesick, who hasn’t thrown a lot of innings this season, was called on in the final two innings to close the door.

Despite hitting three batters in a row and giving up RBI singles to Cameron Prailes and Nick Dugandzic to cut the lead to 6-5 in the top of the sixth, Pesick settled down to get out of the nightmarish four-run frame.

He had help from his catcher Aaron Sturdevant, who fired down to second base after Dugandzic’s two-run knock to catch Prailes in a pickle between second and third for an out.

Then, Pesick got Aaron Chapman to fly out to deep center to end the threat.

Pesick gave up a hit with two outs in the seventh and faced the power-hitting Jungbauer, but he jammed him into a soft liner to short left field, which a running Grant Tully caught over his head to end the game.

Lee, who Staude said might be in his final season coaching pitchers with the Demons, stresses the mental side of the game on the mound. With the pressure at a season high, and so much on the line, Krause and Pesick showed they are quick studies.

“I really started to focus on my command and finishing down through the ball, and working on getting my left foot over to the other side of the mound,” Pesick said. “I was a little nervous being in a high-pressure situation, but I’ve been through it before.”

“It feels really good to be with all of my friends and the school and win conference. We have a high-powered pitching staff, and I feel we can really command the strike zone and keep hitters off balance.”

“Drew has the mental makeup for that kind of game,” Staude said.

The Demons took several team photos to commemorate their second straight SLC title. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Burlington jumps out early

Krause set the tone in the first inning with two strikeouts before allowing a base runner. However, he picked him off for the third out.

Waterford starter Nolan DeGreef had an uncharacteristic rough beginning. He walked Zach Campbell and Dale Damon on eight straight pitches, and then allowed RBI singles from Aaron Sturdevant and Jacob Lindemann.

Then, Krause helped his cause with a deep fly ball over the right fielder’s head to extend the lead to 3-0.

Burlington would’ve scored another run, but Prailes made a headfirst diving catch in right-center to end the inning.

Waterford had plenty of chances, as it loaded the bases in the third, but Derek Koenen made a nice catch near the left-field warning track for the third out.

Austin Hoefs relieved DeGreef in the fourth, but the Demon bats were ready.

While the bounces weren’t going Waterford’s way, they fueled another Demon rally. Riley Palmquist singled before Prailes made another diving catch, this time in deep left-center.

But Sturdevant and Lindemann both followed with swinging-bunt style infield hits, and Palmquist, who stole second base thanks to Waterford’s infielder dropping Dugandzic’s accurate throw, scored to make it 4-0.

Then, Krause and Tully walked to score senior Derek Morrow. A wild pitch rolled to the fence, and Lindemann hustled under the tag to break it open at 6-0.

But Waterford wasn’t close to done.

The Wolverines finally got to Krause with a run in the fifth before erupting with four runs in the sixth, sparked by three consecutive hit batters.

The momentum clearly favored Waterford, which shut down Burlington in the seventh. But the Wolverines still couldn’t get a break in their last at-bat, as a line drive by Brendon Snyder that could’ve been extra bases was hit right at third baseman Koenen. Also, without the athletic catch by Tully, Jungbauer’s blooper may have put the tying run at third base.

Sturdevant went 3-for-4, and Lindemann and Palmquist both had two hits.

Zak Ksobiech shows his swag after hitting a double. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Zak Ksobiech, who doubled and scored in the fifth, and Prailes each collected two hits.

DeGreef took the loss (4-2).

Waterford, which earned a No. 3 seed in the Burlington Sectional, could run into the Demons again at Beaumont Field, the site of the team’s WIAA Division 1 sectional June 6.

“Hopefully we can rebound and start over,” Bestland said. “We hope to see them again.”

Burlington is the No. 1 seed for the second time in Staude’s 19 years (2010).

The Demons have a chance to play for a state berth in front of their home fans.

“Waterford is really good, and they’ll bounce back,” Staude said. “I have to give our five seniors a ton of credit. They were on a great team last year, but not a lot of people were giving them a chance this season. They had a chip on their shoulder like, ‘Don’t forget about us.’ I can’t say enough about this type of atmosphere. Drew and Trey may never pitch in front of that many people again.”

“We were 15-1 at the time we got the 1 seed, and it was unanimous. The 1 hasn’t fared really well in our sectional. We play the winner of Horlick and Grove, and both those teams played us very well.”

 

Seniors pick each other up

Team chemistry has been a major catalyst for the Demons’ conference title run, according to Lindemann, who is hitting over .400 this season.

“It feels great to win it,” he said. “It’s better because we’re seniors.”

For Damon, who was 0-for-2 with two walks, it’s nice to rely on teammates to pick you up.

Jacob Lindemann slides home under the tag to score Burlington’s sixth run. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

“With me not having the greatest game, it’s great to have my guys pick me up, and it’s great to put together a win.”

Campbell, who went 1-for-3, exhausted his innings in Monday’s loss to Wilmot. He played stellar defense in center field Thursday.

“There is a target on our back as state champs,” Campbell said. “To start this week, we were a few games up in the standings, and Monday and Tuesday didn’t go so hot, so we had to come out and get the win.”

While Lindemann credits team chemistry, Damon said playing together since Little League has helped formed bonds on and off the field.

Sturdevant said this group is special.

“We come out and compete every night, and we’re not going to fold when things go wrong,” he said. “We put together good at-bats and play sharp in the field.”

“We pick each other up even after a loss,” Morrow said. “The next day is another game.”

Damon said the team could’ve folded after Waterford rallied Thursday night, but a “never quit” mentality allowed the Demons to maintain composure and make the necessary plays to win.

Campbell, the team’s ace, credited Krause and Pesick, who stepped up despite a shortage of pitching.

“They stepped up big time, Trey came through in a big spot and shoved it down their throat.”

Waterford starter Nolan DeGreef (left) takes some advice from catcher Nick Dugandzic. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

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