Grand Chute, Wis. — The St. Croix Falls baseball team’s hopes for championship history evaporated over a two-inning period.
Seeing the Saints make their first state tournament appearance in 74 years, Cuba City erased a one-run deficit with three runs in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth for an 8-4 victory in the Division 3 championship game on Thursday .
“I really believe we put St. Croix Falls baseball on the map in a good way,” said Saints coach Matt Wold. “Just really proud of them. They brought the community of St. Croix Falls together. I’m really happy and proud of how they competed.”
St. Croix Falls (26-3), which had not allowed a run in five postseason games until Thursday’s title game, took their first lead 4-3 with two runs in the third. Brayden Olsson landed on an error, and Brady Baylisle tied it in a triple to left center. Tyler Olsson flies to the center with a sacrifice.
But fourth-placed Saints were unable to add up against Cuba City right-hander Blake Busan, who allowed seven hits and three walks before reaching the limits of his pitch after 6 2/3 innings.
“When we lead, usually with this crew, they just keep going,” Wold said. “They talk about ‘all pedals, no brakes,’ and that’s usually what they do. So, I was a little surprised by that. I think some of that was happening on the big stage. There was a little tightness. “
Cuba City (23–4) beat Amherst 2–1 in the semi-finals with St Croix Falls starter Dylan Smith scoring three runs in the fifth to lead 6–4. The Cubans added two more in the sixth on a base-loaded pass ball and a base-loaded walk.
Smith scored seven runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, earned six, scored three runs and scored one.
“Our approach was to stay back, make contact with it and pretend them,” said Cuba City coach Steve Graber. “They’re a good defensive team, but let’s play it and see what happens, and we did it.”
Cuba City centerfielder Will Busch stunned the Saints with several sensational plays, including a sliding grab of Bellisley’s liner in fifth with the leadoff runner riding.
“That centerfielder took a lot of crazy catches,” said junior Breyden Olsson, who threw a five-hit shutout in Wednesday’s 8-0 semifinal win over defending champion Kenosha St Joseph. “Many diving catches that would have been down if there was another centerfielder out there.”
After five straight shutout wins, the Saints went 2-0 down in the first.
The Saints got a back in the bottom half on a one-off double by Adrian Scott down the left field line and a two-out single by Baylisle.
The Cubans drew 3-1 in the second walk and two singles. St Croix central again answered on an RBI single by Oliver Schmidt.
The title was a first for an unranked Cuba City, whose only other appearance was runners-up in 1955.
St. Croix Falls, which lost in the sectional final the previous season, had only three seniors on the roster – Schmidt, Sam Glenna and Cole Rutledge – to visit the state since 1948.
“I’ll tell you what, that team is full,” Graber said of the Saints. “That team will be back here.”