STEVENS POINT — The look on the face of Athens senior pitcher Gunnar Tessmer told the story Tuesday afternoon.
Tessmer was wearing a blank stare as the realization of seeing another successful season come up short of the ultimate goal — the WIAA state tournament.
The Bluejays watched their season come to an end in sectional play for the third straight year with a 7-1 loss to Pacelli in a Division 3 sectional semifinal at Bukolt Park.
“I’m very proud of the way we had, I guess you could say, a record book season for Athens,” said Tessmer of the 16-4 campaign. “We were glad to be here for the third year in a row. I wish we had gone a little further, but that’s the way it goes.”
Pacelli then lost the championship 4-1 to St. Mary Central.
For five innings Tuesday, the Bluejays had every reason to believe a trip to the sectional title game for a second straight season was in the cards.
That dream ended in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Pacelli put up five runs with the help of four Bluejays errors.
“That’s what happens when you have a lot of young guys,” said Athens coach Ryan Scheithauer, who started five freshmen.
Tessmer turned in five solid innings on the mound to keep Athens in the game. Using a mix of breaking balls and moving fastballs in and out, the senior right-hander kept the Cardinals hitters off-balance.
He worked out of several jams through the first four innings, stranding six runners. The lone run he allowed over that span came on a one-out single by Derek Kawlewski in the third.
“Pitching has kept us in games all season,” Scheithauer said. “Gunnar has been our horse all year, but you can’t ride your horse all the time.”
The Bluejays also had to deal with Kawlewski, a hard-throwing right-hander, who has been Pacelli’s ace all season.
To its credit, Athens had plenty of scoring chances, especially early, breaking through for a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Shane Coker’s RBI single.
The damage could have been worse, however, but Kawlewski — who struck out nine — left a pair of runners in scoring position and did so again in the third.
Scheithauer will miss his seniors — Tessmer, Jayden Dobbs and Brent Radloff.
“Those guys meant the world to this team. They took control of this team and were great leaders,” the Athens coach said.
WP — Derek Kawlewski. LP — Gunnar Tessmer. 3B — A: Daltan Lavicka.
Records: Pacelli 20-9; Athens 16-4.