Middle Border conference champions — It kind of has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The Osceola Chieftain baseball team earned the crown last Friday when they beat the only team that could catch them, the Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks.
Osceola entered the showdown game with the Blackhawks with an 11-1 conference record, with their only loss a 1-0 setback to Amery on May 11th. B-W entered the game at 9-2. Osceola had defeated Baldwin-Woodville 3-2 in a nine inning game on May 17th.
Besides facing a quality opponent, the two teams fighting it out for the top MBC spot had to fight another element; the heat. Game time temperatures were in the mid 90’s for the opening pitch and swelled to the upper 90’s during the game.
“It was hot, really hot, but how often do you play for a conference championship at home on a Friday night in front of a great crowd,” Osceola Coach Kyle Collins said. “Our guys had great energy all game, even through the heat. This game was really important to not only them but the whole community.”
After Baldwin-Woodville failed to score in the first Osceola put the pressure on the Blackhawks with a trio of runs in the bottom of the inning. Lucas Sedivy and Nick Carlson both walked and each came around to score on an error on a ball hit by Charlie Tronrud. Tronrud scored the third run of the inning on a two-out base hit by Brandon Newton.
Baldwin-Woodville evened the contest with a pair of runs in the third and one in the fourth. Osceola re-took the lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth making it 4-3. The Chieftains added three huge insurance runs in the fifth to run the final tally to 7-3. Carlson drew a walk to open the inning followed by a hit by pitch to Jacob Sedivy. With one out Newton delivered a two run double. Newton later scored on a double by Daric Swanson.
“Our hitters were patient, swung at strikes and found ways to get on base all game,” Collins said. “They followed our game plan to a T. We had so many big hits on Friday in clutch situations.”
Carlson pitched the first five innings to get the win, allowing five hits and three walks. He struck out six Blackhawks. Tronrud finished the game with a pair of shutout innings. With two outs in the final frame Tronrud got the Blackhawk batter to sky a can of corn to Lucas Sedivy in center field. When Sedivy squeezed the ball for the final out the MBC trophy was heading to Osceola.
“Nick Carlson has been so good all year and gives our guys an extra bit of confidence when he pitches,” Collins said. “Charlie Tronrud is a terrific shortstop, as good a shortstop as we have ever had, but when the game is tight or we need to stop a threat we turn to Charlie. He has been so tough all year for us.”
Osceola got outhit in the contest eight to four but came up huge where it counted most, total runs.
“Bringing home a conference championship for the first time since the 2005 and 2006 season was pretty special,” Collins said. “This group of players love baseball just as much as they love being around each other. There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the nicest kids in the conference but they are also darn good baseball players.”
Osceola had a pair of games earlier in the week to set up the big conference showdown with B-W. First they had a game with the Amery Warriors, the only team to beat them in MBC play. This time the Chieftains got on the board early against the Warrior ace Kale Hopke for a pair of runs in the first and one in the second to grab a 3-0 lead. OHS added a run in the fourth, two in the fifth and another add-on run in the seventh to pull away for a 7-3 win.
“I was so proud of the way our hitters changed their approaches from the last time they faced Kale Hopke,” Collins said. “He throws hard and has a good breaking ball, which is why he was undefeated in conference play until Tuesday night. Lucas Sedivy set the tone starting off the game with a line drive base hit right over Kale’s head. At that point you could see the looks on Amery’s faces had changed from confident to nervous.”
Carlson went the first 3 2/3 innings to get the win. Carlson was followed by Tronrud, Carter Lalim and Lucas Sedivy on the hill.
“It was nice to be able to pull Nick (from pitching) with few pitches thrown and get a bunch of other guys a needed inning on the mound,” Collins said.
After the win at Amery Osceola traveled to Ellsworth to take on the Panthers. On paper the game leaned in the Chieftain’s direction but Ellsworth was determined to pull off the upset. Both teams scored a pair of runs in the first and then Osceola put up four big runs in the second to take a 6-2 lead. Neither team scored again until the bottom of the seventh when the Panthers scored three times to make the final 6-5 for Osceola. The Panthers left the tying run on second and the potential winning run on first.
“Our goal to start every game is to put up a crooked number,” Collins said. “We were successful in both the first and second inning. Tyler Ulrich pitched very well for us against Ellsworth and throughout the year. He keeps the ball down and throws his breaking ball for a strike. In high school baseball that’s all you have to do. Our guys learned a valuable lesson, that no lead is safe. We got complacent. We were satisfied with a four run lead instead of pouring it on each inning. That type of thinking almost cost us the game.”