BLANCHARDVILLE, Wis. — The Southwestern baseball team’s tournament run continued in thrilling fashion on Tuesday afternoon.
The Wildcats earned their first trip to the Wisconsin state tournament since 2010 after knocking off Barneveld, 1-0, and Bangor, 4-2, in the WIAA Division 4 Pecatonica sectional at McKellar Park.
Southwestern (11-10) advanced to Monday’s state semifinal at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute at either 11:05 a.m. or 1:30 p.m., depending on the re-seeding.
“Pinch me, I think we are going to state,” Southwestern coach Isaac Stanton said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys. We had kids step up and make big plays to beat two really good baseball teams.”
The Wildcats found themselves in a pitching duel in the sectional semifinal against Barneveld, where Southwestern was held to just two hits. Peyton Edmonds, the team’s lone senior, drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Jordan Stanton, who reached base on a dropped third strike.
“I thought that was the greatest moment ever, until the end of our second game,” Edmonds said. “I knew what I was looking for, and I felt confident that I could get the bat on the ball. I can’t even describe the feeling after I hit it and saw Jordan score. This has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid.”
Juniors Peerson Kephart and Jordan Stanton split the pitching duties in the semifinal, both staying under their pitch count. Kephart went 4 1/3 innings, striking out seven, walking one and giving up just one hit. Stanton entered in relief in the fifth, where he struck out three and walked two.
“I thought Peerson and Jordan both dug really deep today to give us everything they had,” Isaac Stanton said. "They had a solid defense behind them and they each did their jobs very well.”
The Wildcats got a single from Kephart in the first inning, but didn’t put another baserunner on until the sixth inning when Gavin Jochum was hit by a pitch.
“We knew Barneveld’s pitcher had a great arm and we couldn't get down in the count,” Kephart said. “Peyton came up with a huge hit and that momentum carried over into the second game.”
Southwestern advanced to the sectional final against Bangor, who had defeated Royall, 1-0, in the first game of the day.
“We knew we needed to get out to a better start in the second game,” Kephart said. “We all looked at each other and said that we can do this.”
The Cardinals were able to score one run in the top of the third inning, but the Wildcats answered in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single from Jace Mess.
“We don’t just rely on a couple kids,” Isaac Stanton said. “Every game we’ve had different kids step up and today was no different.”
The Wildcats added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth when a bases-loaded hit from Colson Splinter went off the right-fielder’s glove.
“We knew we were going to have to get more hits in the second game, and I just wanted to try to move the runners,” Splinter said.
Splinter was then called on to come in for relief of Kephart, who had exceeded the pitch limit in the sixth inning.
“Coach told me to be ready to go in, and I just tried to stay calm,” Splinter said. “It was a big moment but I tried to just focus on each pitch and not think about anything else.”
Splinter gave up one run in the sixth before getting out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout to keep the lead at 4-2.
“I’m so proud of all of my teammates,” Kephart said. “Everyone came out and performed their best and it’s just an incredible feeling.”