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State Bound: Cumberland knocks off Mondovi in Division 3 sectional final

The 2024 Cumberland Beavers aren’t your typical state qualifying baseball team. Cumberland got off to an 8-7 start, underwent a mid-season coaching change and looked like it was headed towards a somewhat forgettable year.

But the Beavers suddenly got hot. Starting with a win over Saint Croix Falls on May 3, the small 12-man roster ripped off wins in 14 of its last 15 games, including the postseason. Cumberland came into the sectional on an improbable run and the message was simple.

“Go have fun today,” Cumberland co-head coach John Peterson said of the message. “Baseball’s fun. It should be fun no matter what the pressure or situation is. So we just focus on having fun and going 1-0 every single day.”

Cumberland heeded the request. The Beavers are headed to the WIAA Division 3 state tournament. The Beavers won a close sectional semifinal 3-2 over top-seeded Saint Croix Falls to start the day after plating the decisive run in the top of the seventh.

The Beavers then trounced Mondovi 9-1 in the sectional finals to reach their sixth ever state tournament.

“This team is incredible,” Peterson said. “They endured some amazing adversity this year… This goes out to those ballplayers over there for busting their tails.”

The third time turned out to be the charm for Mondovi in its sectional semifinal as the Buffaloes upended Dunn-St. Croix rival Elk Mound. The top-seeded Mounders had lost just one game on the season and swept Mondovi (16-9) in the regular season, but the Buffaloes got the better of Elk Mound in the semifinals, winning 4-1 to move a game away from state.

Porter Bauer toed the rubber for Mondovi in the sectional final, but it was the Cumberland lineup that set the tone early. The first three Beavers that came to the plate each were able to get aboard with a base hit, the last of which was a double for junior Uriah Johnson that scored one and put runners on second and third with nobody out before a walk juiced the bases without a batter retired.

Cumberland (21-8) tacked on two more in the frame with a sacrifice fly and an RBI-single to right from Sloan McCreary. That gave a 3-0 lead to Beavers starting pitcher Cooper Schramski and it was more than enough for the junior left hander, who tossed a 1-2-3 first with a pair of strikeouts.

The Beavers kept piling it on in the second. A walk and hit batsman to the first pair of batters of the inning forced a quick pitching change, with Hunter Sandberg entering the game looking to keep the Beavers at bay.

Sandberg got two outs and nearly escaped the jam, but Gavin Prinsen — one of three Cumberland seniors — crushed a double to the left corner to score two more runs.

An inning later, Cumberland loaded the bases with nobody out and a pair of bases-loaded walks and a sac-fly made it 8-0 Beavers before the third inning was even over.

“We’ve been scoring a pile of runs,” Peterson said. “We’re super fast, and we try to put the ball in play and we beat out a lot of balls and it’s awesome. It’s really exciting.”

Cumberland baseball

Cumberland is advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2017.

Schramski, meanwhile, kept Mondovi completely out of sync at the plate. The Buffaloes had a chance to get on the board in the second inning after a couple of wild pitches — including a dropped third strike — put runners on the corner, but the junior pitcher induced a ground ball to short to escape unscathed.

The Buffaloes then went down in order in the third and fourth innings before a rain delay interrupted the sectional final in the fifth.

Schramski went back out to the bump after the weather delay and Mondovi got its lone run of the game when Bryton Bauer laced a line drive to center, scoring a runner from third and giving the Buffaloes their first base hit of the game. The junior pitcher then struck out the next batter to end his outing after five innings.

Uriah Johnson took over and worked around five baserunners to toss two scoreless innings, sending the Beavers to the state tournament. The Division 3 semifinals will take place at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute. The Division 3 championship is at noon Thursday.

Eleva-Strum walks off Royall to clinch first ever trip to state

Eleva-Strum is heading to state for the first time in program history. The Cardinals knocked off two opponents ranked higher than them in the sectional rounds to punch their ticket to the Division 4 state tournament.

The first roadblock for Eleva-Strum was Pittsville in the semifinals. The Panthers were the No. 2 ranked Division 4 team in the final Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association rankings, but the Cardinals controlled the game from start to finish, winning 4-0.

Cardinals starting pitcher Tyler Webb tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing just three hits. Eleva-Strum was clinging to a 1-0 lead until the fifth inning when the Cardinals delivered a knockout blow in the form of a three-spot in the top of the frame.

In the sectional finals, Eleva-Strum took on Royall — the No. 12 ranked Division 4 team in the state — who crushed De Soto 9-1 in its sectional final.

The final was a low-scoring pitching duel between Cardinals starter Carter Gunderson and Royall’s Seth Brandau. A sac-fly from Webb gave Eleva-Strum a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but Royall evened the game in the top of the fifth.

Eleva-Strum was veering towards disaster in the top of the sixth. With the game still even at one, Royall had the bases loaded and nobody out. Royall’s Tucker Wildes sent a fly ball to left field that Ty Fjelstad made the catch on.

The Cardinals left fielder then fired the ball home and the catcher, Jake Bjerke, came up the third-base line, gloved the ball and made the tag for the 7-2 double play. Royall couldn’t come through, setting the stage for the Cardinals in the bottom of the seventh.

With a chance to walk the game off, Eleva-Strum itself loaded the bases with one out for Noah Martinson. On a 1-1 count, Martinson hit a fly ball to shallow center that fell for a base hit, but Gunderson had to hold up at third in case the ball was caught.

Gunderson made a mad dash for the plate and Royall alertly threw the ball home for the force out. The throw beat Gunderson home, but it was dropped by the catcher and Eleva-Strum punched its ticket to the state tournament.

“Making it to state is so big for this community, words can’t even describe it,” Eleva-Strum head coach CJ Christianson told the Leader-Telegram while stressing that the Cardinals aren’t satisfied yet. “They’ve been waiting for this for way too long. I couldn’t be more happy for the fans and kids.”

The Division 4 semifinals are scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Hudson advances to state tournament for first time since 1974

The Hudson Raiders are heading back to the state tournament for the first time since 1974 after overcoming deficits in the sectional semifinal and final. Hudson beat top-seeded Stevens Point 3-1 in the sectional title game to punch its ticket.

Hudson’s state hopes were in trouble early in its sectional semifinal against Big Rivers foe River Falls. The Wildcats had built up a 6-2 lead after two, but the Raiders battled back, eventually plating two in the bottom of the sixth to take its first lead of the day. Hudson held on for a 7-6 semifinal win.

Stevens Point struck first in the sectional final, but the sixth inning was the decider once again as the Raiders scored a pair of runs that ultimately made up the difference.

Eau Claire North and Altoona eliminated in sectional semifinals

Eau Claire North was eliminated in the sectional semifinal round by top seed Stevens Point. The Huskies fell 6-0.

Altoona was also eliminated in the semifinals of its chaotic sectional. The fourth-seeded Rails were in deep trouble before they even came to bat as No. 6 La Crosse Logan plated seven runs in the top of the first inning.

The Rails scratched and clawed to get back into it, making it as close as a 7-5 game after three innings, but the Rangers settled in after that. Logan scored a pair of insurance runs in the seventh and knocked off Altoona 9-5, denying the Rails back-to-back trips to state.

Logan went on to upset top-seeded Medford 7-5 in the sectional final.