A week after pounding out 24 hits in a 16-3 playoff-clinching victory over Poynette, the DeForest Deacons baseball team had their bats go quiet in the opening round of the playoffs this past Sunday.
The fourth-seeded Deacons were shut down by top-seeded Sun Prairie pitcher Nate Hoffman, who tossed a complete game five-hitter in a 4-1 victory for the Redbirds. The Eastern Section playoff semifinal was played in Waterloo.
“You have to tip your hat to Nate because he pitched a great game and kept us off-balanced,” DeForest player-manager Taylor Mack said. “With the hitters in our lineup, if you can do that, it is pretty impressive.”
The Deacons, who were making their first playoff appearance since 2014, finished the season 10-7.
“It is the first time making the playoffs in five years and that is huge,” Mack said. “I’m proud of all of our guys.”
In the other Eastern Section semifinal, second-seeded Monona defeated third-seeded Montello 3-1.
Monona and Sun Prairie will play in the Eastern Section championship game this Sunday in Waterloo at 1 p.m.
DeForest pitcher Garret Kertz matched Hoffman pitch-for-pitch for most of the game. He held Sun Prairie scoreless through four innings of play.
Neither team was able to get anything going offensively early on, as pitching dominated play.
The game was halted in the bottom of the third after a horrific injury to Sun Prairie designated hitter Randy Molina, who finished in the top 10 in batting in the Eastern Section during the regular season. He had to be transported by ambulance after a horrific knee injury on a play at second base.
“He is a well-respected guy around the league,” Mack said. “That sucked to watch something like that happen to him.”
Sun Prairie finally broke a scoreless tie with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Walker Jenkins led off the frame with a single and then stole both second and third base. When he stole third base, DeForest threw the ball away and he was able to score.
The Redbirds picked up their second run in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to a bases-loaded walk by JP Suchomel.
Sun Prairie added two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Jenkins belted a single to right field, allowing Robbie Knorr and Justin Krebs to score.
DeForest had just four hits in the first eight innings of the game. In that time, the Deacons had just two runners reach second base.
The Deacons were finally able to break through in the top of the ninth inning. Julian Edwards reached on an error to open the frame. Dryden VanSchoyck followed with a double to center field and pinch-runner Kyle Trace scored.
“We got it going in the late innings, but it would have been nice to get it going in the early innings,” Mack said. “I’m proud of the guys for battling to the end.”
With one out, Tyler Kurt drew a walk to put runners on first and second base. However, Hoffman struck out the final two batters to end the game.
Kendall Frank and VanSchoyck both had two hits for DeForest. Shawn Held had the only other hit for the Deacons.
Kertz pitched into the eighth inning and had six strikeouts and two walks.
“It was nice to have him show up and pitch a great game,” Mack said. “We just couldn’t help him out with the bats.”
Mack closed out the game on the mound for DeForest.
After getting a taste of the playoffs this season, the Deacons are hopeful for the future.
“I feel good about the future with the young players and hopefully the veterans will want to stay on and be a part of it,” Mack said.