Late call pays off as former Barons star is duped

The Burlington Barons pose for a team photo Wednesday night after an 8-7 win at Beaumont Field in Burlington. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

BURLINGTON – After two decades of pacing the dugout with Burlington High School varsity baseball head coach Scott Staude, assistant coach Ryan Hoffman has learned a few tricks of the trade – stuff you can’t find in a box score.

You know, the wacky, zany, risks, like forcing a pickle to fool the defense, suicide squeezes, double hit-and-runs and “taking one for the team.”

While Staude has made a career of out-strategizing opponents with quirky, in-game moves, Hoffman, the player-manager of the Burlington Barons, is getting pretty good in his own right.

The latter’s calculated call paid off Wednesday night, allowing the Barons to walk off in their final at-bat for a thrilling 8-7 victory over the Pewaukee Muskies at Beamount Field in downtown Burlington.

A sloppy, error-filled affair saw the Barons overcome two-run deficits in both the sixth and seventh innings.

Tied 7-7 in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, it was up to Cal Tully with two outs and runners on the corners. Paul Archambault advanced to third after singling with two outs, and Kyle Gendron added a base hit.

With two strikes, Hoffman reached into his bag of tricks.

He called for Gendron to lead off first base and intentionally get into a pickle, and Pewaukee pitcher Brian Henschel, a former Barons star brought in to retire Tully, had a severe brain freeze.

Henschel stepped off the mound, turning his back to the winning run, Archambault, at third and tossing the ball to first base. The Pewaukee infielders tried to quickly tag the speedy Gendron, a 2018 Wilmot Union High School graduate, but a few seconds were all Archambault needed to trot home for the winning run.

Pewaukee never was able to tag Gendron, and nobody even considered Archambault amid the confusion.

Archambault, who also kept the inning alive in the sixth with a two-out hit, earned an obligatory mobbing from his teammates.

The final run was made possible because of the stellar base-running of Mike Polizzi. The current UW-Parkside (Division 2) player saw a passed ball scooted only a few feet behind the Pewaukee catcher, but without hesitation, Polizzi darted home and slid in safely to cut the Pewaukee lead to 7-6.

After the game, Hoffman said Staude does stuff like that all the time, and he wanted to force the defense’s hand. Hoffman said the worst-case scenario would’ve been if Henschel had just thrown a pitch and allowed Gendron to simply steal second, so they had nothing to lose.

The ridiculous, yet effective play helped Burlington improve to 10-3 overall and advance in the Wisconsin Amateur Baseball Classic tournament.

Only four years ago, Henschel was the Barons’ ace, along with Karl Richter, who started for the Barons Wednesday night.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, down 5-3, Tanner Strommen doubled and scored for the Barons, and Gendron wrapped an RBI double to score Archambault, who singled.

But at 5-5, things got sloppy for the Barons, as a Hoffman error with two outs led to a run, and a walk made it 7-5.

Burlington will continue tournament play this weekend.