Union Grove players mob winning pitcher Jake Zimmermann following the team’s sectional title win last Tuesday (Jason Arndt/Westine Report).

Grove baseball team snaps long state tournament drought

By Tim Wester

Union Grove High School’s state baseball tournament drought came to end last Tuesday at Carthage College.

In two WIAA Division 2 sectional contests, the top-seeded Broncos opened with a 7-1 defeat of No. 1 Greendale and advanced to the sectional final, where they ousted No. 1 Whitefish Bay 9-2 to punch their ticket to the WIAA state championship series for the first time in 67 years.

For the Broncos, who last appeared in the state tournament in 1952, the sectional title is testament to the players.

“It’s a pretty big accomplishment,” said Union Grove coach Nate Meyer, who is in just his second season as manager. “All these guys worked so hard to put it all together this season.”

Union Grove put it all together after a sluggish 2-2 start in early April.

Since then, Union Grove (26-3) has gone 24-1 and collected a Southern Lakes Conference, Regional, and Sectional championship along the way.

The Broncos will battle McFarland in a WIAA Division 2 State Semifinal game 6 p.m. Wednesday at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.

McFarland, seeded second in the tournament, advanced to the state championship after winning 3-2 against top-seeded Madison Edgewood in the Baraboo sectional on Tuesday.

The Spartans are 20-9 overall and finished their Rock Valley Conference slate 11-7.

“Our guys are obviously extremely excited,” Meyer said. “They wanted this more than anything to prove everyone wrong. They were motivated because they didn’t get the credit that they felt they deserved.”

The Broncos certainly have earned the respect now after flexing their muscle against state-ranked opponents Greendale and Whitefish Bay.

Union Grove 7, Greendale 1
The fifth-ranked Broncos, according to a May 20 Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association poll, edged third-ranked Greendale 7-1 in the sectional semifinal.

Pitcher Luke Hansel set the tone for the Broncos, striking out eight while walking three, and allowed one earned run on six hits through 6-2/3 innings.

At the plate, Hansel went 2-for-3 with a double, run scored and two RBIs while Nick Williams batted 1-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.

Michael Jocius went 3-for-3, doubled, scored once and knocked in a run.

Offensively, the Broncos scored six runs in the top of the third inning, and added their seventh in the fifth.

Owen Erickson (1-for-4, run) and Cody Horon (0-for-3) each had an RBI.

Union Grove 9, Whitefish Bay 2
Union Grove trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the third inning against fourth-ranked Whitefish Bay (27-3, 16-2 North Shore).

The Broncos responded by scoring two runs in the bottom of the third inning followed by another three in the next frame to build a commanding 6-2 lead.

Union Grove added three more in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Jake Zimmermann, whose lone blemish came in the top of the third inning, went the distance on just 68 pitches to send the Broncos to their first state tournament in 67 years.

Zimmermann, who walked none, struck out four while allowing two earned runs on five hits through seven innings.

Meyer said he felt confident in starting Hansel and Zimmermann.

“We went with Luke in game one, but we couldn’t have gone wrong with starting Luke or Jake,” Meyer said. “We have plenty of good arms that have led the way for us all season.”

Offensively, the Broncos received strong contributions from Hansel (2-for-4, three RBIs) and Jocius (1-for-3, two RBIs).