BRODHEAD, Wis. — For the second consecutive year, the Prairie du Chien Blackhawks were denied a trip to the state tournament with a loss in the WIAA Division 3 sectional final game.
The sixth-ranked Markesan Hornets (21-5) used a strong pitching performance from Division 1 Central Michigan recruit Shane Ryan and a three-run third inning to defeat No. 2 Prairie du Chien, 3-1, on Tuesday at Brodhead High School.
The Hornets advance to next Wednesday’s state semifinals in Appleton.
“You really have to credit Markesan’s pitchers today,” Prairie du Chien coach Mark Pedretti said. “They were throwing heat, and we were not able to come up with that big hit against them.”
Ryan, who pitched the fifth and sixth innings of the sectional semifinal game, threw 4 2/3 innings against the Blackhawks. He struck out five and gave up three hits, including two to lead-off hitter Gavin Gillitzer.
Gillitzer threw a gem for the Blackhawks in a semifinal win against Viroqua earlier on Tuesday, where he went all eight innings.
Prairie du Chien won the game on a suicide squeeze bunt by Mark Welter to score pinch runner Aaron Neisius for a 2-1 victory. The Blackhawks scored their first run in the fourth inning on a bases-loaded suicide squeeze by Drake Coleman.
“Gavin threw an outstanding game, and we played a great game against a great team,” Pedretti said. “The guys were all pumped up after that, and we hoped to take the momentum into the second game.”
The Blackhawks (19-3) led off the sectional final with a single from Gillitzer, but left two runners on base to end the inning.
“We didn’t get a lot of opportunities to score in that game, and when we had chances, we just couldn’t execute to get the run across the plate,” Pedretti said.
Prairie du Chien pitcher Ryan McGrath did keep the Hornets off the bases for the first two innings before giving up a one-out double that was lost in the sun in the third. Cayden Plagenz followed with a another double to left-center, driving in the Hornets’ first run.
An error then allowed a second run to score. The Hornets took a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning.
“We had a couple errors and Markesan cashed in on them,” Pedretti said. “That shook us a little bit, but we have been a good, competitive team all year. I knew they would battle back.”
The Blackhawks, who were defeated in last year’s sectional final by Mineral Point, tried to put together a late rally in the top of the fifth inning.
Dylan Coleman reached on a walk before Tyler Smock singled. Jon Nicholson then drove in a Blackhawk run on a fielder’s choice, but, again, a pair of runners were left stranded on the base path.
“We have 15 seniors on this team, and they will certainly be missed,” Pedretti said. “It wasn’t the way we wanted it to end, but these guys still have plenty to be proud of.”