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Hoppers respond to opening game loss, reach second straight Class A State Championship

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PdC’s Caydon Lomas stretches to catch a throw from Bryce Lenzendorf to force the Jackson hitter out by half a step. (Derick Kelly/Courier Press)

Bryce Lenzendorf rounds second on his way to third on a base hit by Hunter Jones during the Hoppers win over Jackson. (Derick Kelly/Courier Press)

The Hoppers greet Maddox Cejka (15) at home plate after he hit a 2-run home run in the first inning of Monday's state tournament win over Jackson.

By Derick Kelly

 

The 2023 Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Class A State Tournament kicked off for the Prairie du Chien Grasshoppers with an inauspicious start.

After getting through a scoreless first inning of their opening game against Little Chute on Friday, July 28, the ever threatening sky finally opened up on St. Feriole Island and forced the game to be suspended until 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Once action resumed Saturday morning, the Hoppers got an early lead thanks to a RBI single by Drake Ingham in the second inning.

Starting pitcher Maddox Cejka maintained that 1-0 lead by shutting out Little Chute through five innings. The Hoppers pushed two more runs across in the top of the sixth inning to increase their lead to 3-0.

Little Chute responded in their half of the sixth inning by using one single, one walk, and three hit-by-pitches to score two runs. The Hoppers were unable to add to their lead and that would come back to hurt them as Little Chute used back-to-back singles with one out to earn a 4-3 win. 

Prairie’s offense scored 3 runs on 7 hits, including RBI singles from Ingham, Caydon Lomas, and Tommy Mara. Cejka (5 hits, 4 runs (4 earned), 4 walks, 3 hit batters and 8 strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched) took the loss on the for the Hoppers.

The loss forced the Hoppers into an elimination game against Fennimore that afternoon.

Following a scoreless first inning, Fennimore scored two runs in the top half of the second inning before the Hoppers responded right away as Lomas singled to begin the bottom of the second inning before Mara reached on an infield single and Noah Pedretti walked to load the bases with no outs. Lucas Lendosky came back to strike out Dawson Eastman for the first out of the inning. However Bryce Lenzendorf then drew a walk to bring home Lomas to get the Hoppers on the scoreboard. Ingham reached on a bunt to drive in Mara and Pedretti and give the Hoppers a 3-2 a lead before Lendosky got the next two batters to ground out to get out of the inning.

PdC starting pitcher Caydon Lomas settled down as neither team was able to score over the next three and a half innings. Cejka changed that though as he began the bottom of the sixth inning by crushing a pitch over the center field fence for a solo home run to make the score 4-2 and opening the gates for the Prairie offense as the Hoppers scored 7 more runs in the inning to head into the seventh inning up 11-2.

Ingham was brought out of the bullpen to close the game for the Hoppers. Despite allowing a lead-off single and a two-out walk, Ingham ended the game and Fennimore’s season.

Lomas got the win on the mound (5 hits, 2 runs (2 earned), 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts in 4 innings pitched), while also going 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored at the plate. Cejka added a 2-for-4 showing with 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs, while Eastman also drove in two runs during the game.

The victory by the Hoppers placed them in a Sunday afternoon elimination game against rival Viroqua.

Hunter Jones got the ball for the Hoppers after going 2-0 against Viroqua  during summer and was able to get an inning ending double play to escape the first inning. 

Lomas got the Hoppers on the scoreboard first by driving in Mara with a RBI single to give PdC a 1-0 lead. Viroqua tied the game up in the second on a RBI single of their own before Jones worked out of out of a bases loaded jam without allowing any further runs.

Prairie quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the second inning thanks to back-to-back walks by Lenzendorf and Jones that was followed by Ingham reaching on a fielder’s choice to load the bases for Colton Thompson who was then hit by a pitch to give the Hoppers the lead. Mara followed just missed a grand slam by a few feet as he doubled to drive in two more runs and increase Prairie’s lead to 4-1.

Jones settled down for the Hoppers and got a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third inning before  Prairie added another run in the bottom half to make the score 5-1.

The score would remain the same through the next two innings as both teams settled down.

Thompson doubled to start off the sixth as Mara followed by reaching on an error before Cejka singled to score Thompson. Lomas immediately doubled to drive in Mara before Eastman was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Pedretti added another double to score Cejka and Lomas before Lenzendorf ended the game with a double to score Eastman to make the score 11-1 in favor of the Hoppers and ending the game via ten-run rule.

On Monday afternoon, the Hoppers wasted no time in earning a trip to Championship Tuesday for a second consecutive season when they defeated Jackson 14-0 in 5 innings. Prairie scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back as they added four more runs in the third inning, and six in the fourth. Starting pitcher Logan Kiesau kept the Jackson hitters guessing all game as he pitched a complete game shutout with 3 strikeouts  while allowing just 4 hits and 3 walks.

Every Hopper hitter  in the game had at least one hit with six players having at least two hits each as the team collected 18 of them. Mara, Eastman, and Pedretti all each had three hits during the game, while Thompson, Lomas and Lenzendorf each had two hits. Cejka went 1-for-2 with a 2-run home run, a walk, 2 runs scored, and 3 RBIs. Jones and Thompson also each hit a double.

PdC advanced to face Denmark, the last undefeated team in the tournament (also 3 time defending D2 Spring State Champ and 2021 Class A Runner Up), at 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. The Hoppers needed to defeat Denmark twice to win the 2023 Class A State Championship. Results were not available prior to this week’s press deadline. Check out next week’s paper or online at pdccourier.com for final results.

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