Despite winning Fox Valley Association titles in 2012 and 2013, the current group of Kimberly seniors had never qualified for the state baseball tournament.
Now the wait is over for Scott Schreiber and six other Papermakers seniors who will join their team at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute next Tuesday.
Kimberly never trailed in its two games at the sectional tournament, defeating Hortonville 9-4 in the semifinals and beating West De Pere 5-1 in the championship game at Bayorgeon Field Tuesday.
“The last few years we’ve been knocked out in the sectionals,” said Schreiber, who blasted a home run in the title game and was the winning pitcher against Hortonville. “This just feels great to have my teammates here and a lot of great guys here, just coming out and competing and grinding this out.”
West De Pere beat Appleton North 5-3 in the other semifinal game.
Kimberly (17-7) will play Hartford in the WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinals Tuesday at about 3:30 p.m. It’s the Papermakers’ eighth trip to state but their first since 2010.
The Papermakers enter the state tournament on a seven-game winning streak, which followed three straight losses. The team is now playing together after getting through some internal battles.
“Towards the end (of the season) we really came together as a team,” Schreiber said. “Before that we were kind of clashing. Now we have that team chemistry and we all have each other’s backs and I really think that’s what got us here.”
The meat of the Kimberly lineup — Schreiber, Nate Thyssen and Travis Vander Hyden — did much of the damage in Tuesday’s games. The three combined to drive in 10 of the Papermakers’ 14 runs.
“Those three guys have been solid,” Kimberly coach Ryan McGinnis said. “They’ve been the biggest reason we have come together as a team. They embody the characteristics we believe in. It was good to see them really do what seniors can do on a day like today, and that’s to be leaders in what they do and how they conduct themselves.”
In the championship game, Schreiber opened the scoring with his solo homer to left field in the bottom of the first.
Kimberly used aggressive base running to add three runs in the third inning. Griffin Hawley led off with a walk and stole second. With one out, the Phantoms (18-9) intentionally walked Schreiber, then Thyssen and Vander Hyden followed with RBI singles.
The Papermakers then used a play they also employed against Hortonville — Vander Hyden broke for second on a steal attempt and was caught in a rundown, but that allowed Thyssen to score from third.
“They just play the game well,” West De Pere coach Joe Rukamp said. “They’re a program we look up to. They play the game the right way and we try to do the same thing. It was a good game and they came up with one or two bigger hits than us.”
Hawley drove in Turner Van Krey for the final Kimberly run in the fourth.
Brice Swick tossed the first five innings and Hawley pitched the final two innings, scattering seven hits while the Papermakers defense played error-free.
“I just tried to throw strikes and get ground balls and let the team play defense behind me,” Swick said. “They were pretty good defensively.”
Not to be overlooked was the start of the game, when the Phantoms’ Jack Paulson bunted for a hit. The next batter, Matt Bald, fouled off two bunt attempts, then Paulson was tagged out at second base when he tried to advance on a wild pitch. Van Krey, Kimberly’s catcher, dug out the pitch and made a good throw to Brady Townsend, who tagged out Paulson.
“That was big,” McGinnis said. “Turner made a great play and Brady Townsend did a great job sticking with that tag because (Paulson) overslid the base.”
|West De Pere||000||010||0||—||1||7||0|
WP: Brice Swick. LP: Aaron Fink. Leading hitters: Jack Paulson WDP 2×4, Brendan Meissner WDP 2×3, Scott Schreiber K HR, Nate Thyssen K 3×3, Travis Vander Hyden 2×3, Turner Van Krey K 2×3, 2 2B.
WP: Scott Schreiber. LP: Alex McIntosh. Leading hitters: Scott Schreiber K 2×4, 2 2B, 2 RBI; Travis Vander Hyden K 4×4, 3 RBI; Nate Thyssen K 2 RBI; Reece Fredrick H 2×3.
|West De Pere||004||010||0||—||5||9||1|
WP: Brendan Meissner. LP: Dan Rothbauer. Leading hitters: Max Wickman WDP 2×4, Brad Pierre WDP 2×2, Reece Lade WDP 2×4, Connor Rolain AN 2×3, Dan Rothbauer AN 2×4, Evan Polce AN 2×3.