Toppers battle top seed Johnson Creek today at 5 p.m.

Catholic Central’s Tyler Swanson, one of the Toppers’ leading hitters, slides home safely during Tuesday’s playoff-opening win. (Jake Hill/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

The Catholic Central baseball team loaded the bus and drove a little more than an hour to Johnson Creek Wednesday only to be told to leave and come back the next day.

The Toppers were just starting to take infield and outfield practice a half hour before the 5 p.m. scheduled WIAA Division 4 regional championship tilt against top-seeded Johnson Creek when rain came pouring down and caused the game to move to Thursday at 5 p.m. at the same site.

Catholic Central, a No. 2 seed and ranked ninth in the state in Division 4, should match up well with the Bluejays, who are ranked No. 8.

Catholic Central head coach Jim Friend, who was traveling back to Burlington Wednesday evening, said the Toppers aren’t intimidated by the top-seeded Bluejays.

“I don’t worry about other teams,” Friend said. “If we play baseball the way we’re capable, we’re fine.”

Perhaps Friend was feeling confident because the day before his Toppers busted out the bats for 13 hits in a 10-8 regional semifinal victory over No. 3 Deerfield at Beaumont Field in Burlington.

Eight of the hits came via the bunt, and John Huffman alone tallied three bunt singles and four hits total with two RBIs.

Charles Robinson added two hits and two RBIs, and Frank Koehnke smashed two hits including a triple.

Tyler Swanson sparked the Toppers in the first inning with a two-run double, but the Demons tagged Topper starter Luke Heiligenthal for five runs in the third to take a 5-3 lead.

But Catholic Central, which scored a run in every inning except the second, put up a four spot in the fourth to take control at 8-5.

In the fourth, Marcus Robinson led off with a double before four consecutive RBI singles from Chad Zirbel, Huffman, Charles Robinson and Koehnke.

As a team this season, the Toppers are hitting .340.

Jimmy Keeker closed the door for the Toppers, tossing the final 4-2/3 innings and giving up two unearned runs while striking out three.

“The game was close but it wasn’t that close,” Friend said. “Keeker pitched very well. He pitched to contact, and we made some plays.”

“Overall, I was very pleased with our play. We stayed positive, and that’s what you need in playoff baseball.”

Swanson added a triple.

Chad Zirbel, Cade Dirksmeyer, Chas Miles and Marcus Robinson each added a hit.

Friend said Huffman will take the mound for the Toppers Thursday.


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