Justin Scoville could afford to poke fun at his game-winning hit.
Although Scoville’s looper wasn’t sharp, it certainly was effective, scoring Jacob Gonnering in the bottom of the ninth to beat Fox Valley Lutheran 3-2 in a thrilling WIAA Division 2 regional final at VFW Park on Friday.
“That was probably one of the weaker hits in the whole game and it went down,” Scoville said. “I guess that’s how baseball works sometimes.”
Freedom (19-5) will play Luxemburg-Casco — a 5-0 winner over Denmark — in the sectional semifinals at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Chilton. The winner will face either Mosinee or Notre Dame in the sectional final at 4 p.m.
Scoville’s hit ended a great pitcher’s duel between Freedom’s Mike Van Groll and FVL’s Aaron Hungerford. The game was scoreless for 5½ innings before each team hit a two-run home run.
Tyler Behle put the Irish ahead with a shot over the left-field fence with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but Hungerford tied the game with a blast to left with one out in the top of the seventh to keep the Foxes’ season alive.
Van Groll and Hungerford kept the game tied at 2-2 until the bottom of the ninth.
With one out, Gonnering singled to right field and went to second on a walk to Brandon Desotell. Scoville then lifted a fastball into left field and Gonnering beat the throw home to end the game.
“(Hungerford) was throwing me a lot of change-ups at the beginning of the game,” Scoville said. “I was just trying to stay on his fastball because he got behind me 2-1. I was just trying to put the ball in play.”
Scoville, a junior right fielder, has only played about half the season after recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which he suffered during the football season. He tried to start the baseball season, but had to stop playing when it was apparent he wasn’t ready. He said he’s now fully recovered.
“It was a crappy feeling, but they were winning baseball games,” Scoville said of his teammates. “I couldn’t be too down when they were winning. I feel great now.”
Van Groll struck out 12 and allowed four hits and three walks. He convinced coach Adam Fox he was ready to take the ball in the 10th — WIAA rules limit pitchers to 10 innings in a game — if the game had continued.
“He was at 134 (pitches) and he said, ‘Coach, this is my game, I’m going the 10th,’ ” Fox said. “I can’t argue with a senior that wants it that bad.”
Hungerford, who entered the game with a 0.89 ERA, was just as brilliant. He retired the first 13 Irish batters and allowed five hits and four walks and struck out four, earning a respectful embrace from Fox after the game.
“Those guys were phenomenal,” Fox said of the two pitchers. “Both guys were going back and forth. They played awesome.”
It was a rematch of last year’s regional final, which FVL won 3-1.
WP: Mike Van Groll. LP: Aaron Hungerford. Leading hitters: Wyatt Wert FVL 2B; Aaron Hungerford FVL HR, 2 RBI; Tyler Behle F HR, 2 RBI; Jacob Gonnering F 3×4.