Sparta Legion Juniors finish in third at state tournament
A heartbreaking loss in the semifinals forced the Sparta Juniors to settle for a third-place finish at the American Legion U16 State Baseball Tournament in Nekoosa over the weekend.
Holding a 3-2 lead over Bayport in the bottom of the seventh inning, Sparta committed a pair of errors that led to a 4-3 semifinal loss.
Sparta opened the double-elimination regional tourney with a 10-5 victory over the La Crosse Juniors and made it two in a row with a 7-3 defeat of Bayport in the second round.
Sparta’s first loss in the regional came in the third round, where the Spartans were blanked 9-0 by Waupun.
Sparta bounced back after that, earning a berth in the semifinals with an 11-1 thumping of Viroqua, before falling a game shy of the finals with the 4-3 loss to Bayport.
Sparta 10, La Crosse 5
A big first-inning lifted Sparta to a first-round win over La Crosse.
Brett Stuessel and Adam McKee opened the game with back-to-back singles in the top of the first and Nick Church moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
A walk to Ethan Krueger loaded the bases for Sparta and Phillip Richards was hit by a pitch to push Stuessel home and put the Spartans on top 1-0.
McKee scored on a groundout off the bat of Austin Stuessel and Noah Freit followed with a two-run double to increase the Sparta advantage to 4-0.
The North Stars answered in their half of the first, scoring three times to cut the deficit to 4-3 after one inning of play.
Both teams went scoreless over the next three frames, before Sparta struck for three runs in the top of the fifth.
A walk to Church, a single by Krueger and a bunt single by Richards loaded the bases for Sparta with zero outs.
Austin Stuessel followed with a two-run single and Dalton Mayer drove in a run on a sacrifice to extend the Sparta lead to 7-3.
La Crosse pushed a solo run across in the bottom of the fifth, but Sparta kept it going on offense with another rally in the sixth.
Church fueled Sparta’s outburst with a one-out single and back-to-back walks to Krueger and Richards loaded the bases.
Church scored on a balk and Krueger came home on an error to up the Sparta cushion to 9-4.
The North Stars scored their final run in the bottom of the sixth to trim the deficit to 9-5, but Krueger’s second single of the game gave Sparta another run and a 10-5 lead.
La Crosse didn’t threaten in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Sparta to secure the win.
McKee started and tossed three innings to earn the victory on the mound for Sparta.
Austin Stuessel drove in three runs on two singles and Krueger was 2-for-3 with one RBI to lead Sparta, while Brett Stuessel and Richards added two hits each and McKee, Church, Mayer and Freit finished with one hit apiece.
Sparta 7, Bayport 3
Hunter Steinhoff gave up just two hits in six innings of work to lead Sparta to a second-round victory over Bayport.
McKee doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Church to give Sparta a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Richards singled and scored on a groundout off the bat of Kody Schaitel in the second and Sparta manufactured a run in the third with the help of a Bayport error and a single by Krueger to open up a 3-0 lead.
After a scoreless fourth frame, Sparta got back to work in the bottom of the fifth with a four-run rally.
Brett Stuessel fueled the rally with a lead-off double and scored one out later on a double off the bat of Church.
Three straight walks pushed another run across and Jess Sullivan came through with a two-run double to give Sparta a 7-0 cushion.
Bayport finally got on the board with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth, before scoring its only other run in the seventh to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Steinhoff picked up the victory on the mound for the young Spartans.
Sullivan and Richards both went 2-for-2 with a double to lead Sparta on offense and Austin Stuessel, McKee and Church finished with a double apiece and Krueger added a single.
Waupun 9, Sparta 0
The bats went silent in the third round, as Sparta managed to get just three hits in a 9-0 shutout loss to Waupun.
Waupun generated all of the offense it needed with a solo run in the bottom of the first.
Four more runs in the second extended the Waupun lead to 5-0.
Waupun pulled away down the stretch, scoring a solo run in the fourth, two more in the fifth and another solo run in the sixth to up its advantage to 9-0.
McKee, Sullivan and Austin Stuessel each finished with a single to pace Sparta on offense.
Sparta 11, Viroqua 1
Sparta jumped out to an early lead and rode a strong performance on the mound by McKee to topple Viroqua and earn a berth in the semifinals.
Sullivan belted a two-run double and Church and Krieger drove in a run each to help Sparta build a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Krueger belted a two-run double and McKee drove in a pair with a single to ignite a five-run rally that extended the Sparta advantage to 11-0.
Viroqua’s only run came in the top of the fourth, cutting the deficit to 11-1, but Sparta was able to end the threat and score the win after five innings because of the 10-run rule.
McKee scattered four hits in five innings of work to earn the complete-game victory on the mound for the Sparta Juniors.
Krueger went 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles and three RBI and Sullivan had two singles and two RBI in three trips to the plate to lead the Spartans, while McKee and Church added a single apiece.
Bayport 4, Sparta 3
Sparta held a one-run lead late, but a pair of errors gave Bayport the win and ended Sparta’s quest for a state title.
Both teams went scoreless in the first, before Sparta scored a pair in the top of the second to forge an early lead.
A lead-off double by Richards and a Sullivan single got the rally started and Schaitel followed with a two-run single to put Sparta on top 2-0.
Bayport battled back with a two-run rally of its own in the bottom of the third to knot the score at 2-2.
Sparta regained the lead at 3-2 in the top of the fifth, when McKee singled and scored two outs later on a RBI single off the bat of Richards.
The Spartans held the narrow lead into the seventh inning, but Bayport used two singles and two Sparta miscues to score twice and earn a 4-3 walk-off win.
Schaitel was 2-for-3 with two RBI and Richards had a double, a single and one RBI to lead Sparta at the plate, while Mayer added a double and a single, Krueger finished with a pair of singles and Brett Stuessel, Austin Stuessel, McKee and Sullivan had a single apiece.