GRAND CHUTE - Oconto entered Wednesday's Division 3 state baseball semifinal with an 0-3 record at the state tournament,
so the Blue Devils wanted badly to win the program's first tournament game.
However, with two innings to play Oconto trailed 3-0 and appeared headed for an 0-4 record.
But the Blue Devils didn't give up, rallied for three runs in the sixth inning and then won in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the eighth as Oconto defeated Osseo-Fairchild, 4-3, at Fox Cities Stadium.
The Blue Devils will play at noon Thursday in their first-ever state title game.
"(It feels) awesome," Oconto coachh Brian Sohrweide said. "There's no other way to put it."
"We're going to the state championship," freshman pitcher Grant Frazer said. "It's just awesome."
Oconto (15-4) showed the will state championship-caliber teams show in tough spots. The Blue Devils couldn't get anything going through five innings, but Sohrweide thought he knew the reason: he didn't like his
players' approach at the plate.
"I said be more patient at the plate because we were chasing balls out of the zone and making easy outs for them," Sohrweide said. "I said, 'If he's going to struggle, make sure we are hitting good pitches.' If we were patient we could get guys on and get something going, and we did."
Oconto plated three runs on three hits in the sixth inning, with Trent Mehlberg supplying the big hit — a two-run
double down the left-field line.
Frazer then kept the Thunder silent, allowing his offense two chances to win. First, in the bottom of the seventh the bases were loaded with two outs and Frazer, ironically, was at the plate.
He fouled out to right field to end the inning, but he once again kept the Thunder off the scoreboard in the top of the eighth. Oconto loaded the bases again, this time with one out and Bryce Bostedt was at the plate.
He launched a fly ball to right field and the right-fielder dropped the ball, allowing the winning run to score.
Even if caught, there was a good chance Mehlberg would score.
"I almost cried, that's how happy I was," Bostedt said of driving in the game-winning run. "Can't wait for
tomorrow. That's all I'm looking forward to at this point."
Bostedt said he never lost faith that his team would rally for the win.
"I was thinking we've been behind before, we can come back from this," Bostedt said. "Just got to get a few runners on base and we can do it."
Sohrweide will take any win, but he joked it would've been nice if it was easier.
"I would've liked the 10-run rule in the fifth inning, to be totally honest," Sohrweide said. "It's a little bit easier on the nerves. We've been doing this stuff all year long. These guys just never give up. They just come through in the cluth and I couldn't be prouder."
As for Frazer, the state tournament is quite a stage for any athlete, let alone a freshman. Nonetheless, he
handled the semifinal game like a veteran.
"First pitch wwas really nerve-wracking," Frazer said. "After that, I settled down. Playing at a stadium like this was something special."
"He's got poise," Sohrweide said of Frazer. "I have all the confidence in the world in him."
Tyler Trepanier will start Thursday's title game and Mehlberg will also be available, Sohrweide said.
Nevertheless, the Blue Devils weren't thinking about Thursday moments after Wednesday's win. They wanted to savor the program's first state tournament win.
"It feels amazing," Frazer said. "It's a victory for Oconto. We're in the state championship now. It's awesome."
- Notes: Mehlberg and Brandon Bahde each had two hits for Oconto, which had seven for the game. ... Frazer improved to 2-0 on the season. He entered Wednesday having pitched just 15 innings. ... Trepanier is 6-1 on the season and has thrown 43 innings. The wins and innings lead the Blue Devils.
- Game ball: Frazer. The freshman came up big at the state tournament and also had one hit and scored one run.
- Numbers game: 1 Win away Oconto is from its first state title.
Click link for complete boxscore: http://www.wiaawi.org/Portals/0/PDF/Results/Baseball_Spring/2013/d3game1.htm
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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