Title march includes hit parade
Big inning, key hits carry Sabers to first championship
Franklin — Through their first two games of the WIAA Summer Baseball State Tournament, the Franklin Sabers relied heavily on their pitching and defense.
Even though the offense combined for 20 hits in wins over New Berlin West in the quarterfinals and Waukesha West in the semifinal, it took a back seat to back-to-back complete-game efforts from Brandon Wiedenfeld and Ian Malmstadt.
But come the championship showdown with West Bend West at Bukolt Park in Stevens Point on July 29, the Sabers' sluggers would not stand in the shadows any longer.
Franklin rapped out 11 hits, including seven in a six-run second inning that propelled the Sabers to an 11-4 win and their first state championship.
"They really hit the ball, didn't they? Holy man," said Franklin coach Jim Hughes, as his players raced to the adjacent Wisconsin River for the traditional state championship postgame plunge. "That one inning, I don't think I've seen hitting like that in all my years coaching. They just pounded the ball against some pretty good pitchers. I was impressed with that."
Most who left Bukolt Park that evening were.
Sabers start strong
After battering West Bend West's Harry Steldt for two runs on two hits in the first inning, the Sabers chased the senior pitcher from the game with Joel Kornhoff's leadoff single in the second.
From there, it got ugly.
Adam Kaniewski greeted reliever Dylan Hinkley with a sharp single and after Trevor Thiessen dropped down a sacrifice bunt that moved both runners up a base, the hit parade began.
Leadoff hitter Evan Walton and Lance Baretz had consecutive RBI singles, and Jay Dirienzo drove in both runners with a double to the gap. The junior took third on a throw to the plate and scored on a throwing error by catcher Joe Stubbe, who was trying to gun down Dirienzo at third. That play gave Franklin a 7-0 lead.
"That was pretty big," Dirienzo said. "We scored (three) runs off that. That was huge to get off to that big lead. It gave us a big boost and a lot more intensity to go out there and keep hitting the ball."
Franklin senior Matt Sklander followed with a home run to put his squad up, 8-0.
West Bend West chipped away at the lead with two runs in the third and two more in the fifth, but the Sabers pulled away with three runs over the final two frames, including a two-run double by Sklander in the sixth.
Every one of the Sabers' nine starting hitters recorded at least one hit in the tournament, and eight of nine either scored a run, drove in a run or both. The team batted .341 (31-for-91) and only two of the nine starters batted below .250.
Sklander hits hard
No one was more impressive than Sklander. Despite going 0-for-4 against Waukesha West in the semifinal, Sklander finished 6-for-11 (.545) with four doubles (despite having just six during the regular season) and a team-best seven RBIs.
"We were just trying to stay relaxed, just another game, and try to have fun," Sklander said. "We tried to get our pitch to hit and put the ball in play. … Everyone can hit, everyone can drive in runs. It just worked out."
On the mound, reliever Marcus Schlemm dominated with six strikeouts and three hits allowed over the final three innings for the save. Starting pitcher Ryan Geil battled nerves to throw four serviceable innings (four runs, two hits, five walks) for the win.
"I was trying to stay relaxed, but it's really hard, it was so exciting," Geil said. "In the beginning of the year, no one expected us to make it this far. We just kept winning and winning. This is the greatest. Jumping into the river is the best feeling ever."
Time to celebrate
WHO: open to the public
WHAT: pep rally to honor the Franklin baseball state championship team
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Franklin High School gymnasium, 8222 S. 51st St.
The following are the Sabers' top offensive performers at the state tournament:
AVERAGE: Matt Sklander, .545; Joel Kornhoff, .500; Adam Kaniewski, .375
HITS: Sklander, six; Kornhoff, five; Jay Dirienzo and Ryan Geil, four
RUNS: Dirienzo, five; Evan Walton, four
RBIS: Sklander, seven; Geil, four; Dirienzo and Kornhoff, three
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