Senior Carson Wienke stood with almost a look of shock on his face as his teammates on the McFarland High School baseball team ran out of the dugout, and tossed mitts, caps and batting helmets in an impromptu celebration June 4 at Mary Rountree Evans field in Baraboo.
For Wienke, scoring the winning run in the sectional final game was an unbelievable moment that will remain with him for the rest of his life.
The Spartans qualified for the WIAA Division 2 state tournament for the first time in school history after beating a tough Madison Edgewood team, 3-2.
“Unbelievable. Great. I couldn’t ask for a better team,” said head coach John Feldner, who’s led the Spartan baseball team for 45 years. “They are great guys, and they deserve this.”
It marked perhaps Feldner’s biggest accomplishment as a high school baseball coach. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.
McFarland played Union Grove in the state semifinal game Wednesday night at the Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute near Appleton.
With the Spartans and Crusaders tied 2-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Wienke cracked a one-out single and moved to second on Cam Schaff’s walk. After Reece Samuel fanned for the second out, McFarland’s tall, strong left-handed hitter Xavier Schreiber stepped to the plate.
After taking the first two pitches for balls, Schreiber nailed a hot smash toward Edgewood’s second baseman Benjamin Newton, who couldn’t make a play. The ball deflected off him and into right field as Wienke raced home with Feldner frantically waving him in.
Newton sat on the grass in sadness while McFarland players a few feet away showed happiness by mobbing each other and exchanging hugs with teammates, parents and coaches.
“It was just pure excitement,” said Wienke, describing his emotions after scoring the winning run.
Schreiber thought Newton would make a play on the ground ball and the inning would be over.
“At first, I was thinking, ‘Dang.’” he said. “When it went off his glove, I was excited. We’ve been working so hard for this.”
Edgewood, which needed 10 innings to beat Wisconsin Dells in the semifinal game earlier that day, took a 2-0 lead in the fourth after scoring on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly.
McFarland came back in the bottom of the inning as Schreiber led off with a walk and went to second on Austin Miller’s single.
Adam Hoveland rifled a single to drive home Schreiber, and send Miller to third base.
Gabe Roderick bunted into an unassisted groundout to the first baseman while Miller sprinted home with the tying run.
Miller took over the mound in the sixth inning in relief of starter JT Pimental who allowed two hits with one strikeout and three walks. Miller limited Edgewood to two hits in four innings while his teammates created some opportunities for the lead run.
The Spartans best chance came in the eighth inning as Samuel led off with a single and one out later, Miller walked to put runners at first and second. Hoveland grounded back to the pitcher, who threw to second base on the force play, but the fielder couldn’t come up with the ball while Miller slid in safely to load the bases. But the inning ended after Roderick popped out to the third baseman and Carson Werwinski fouled out to first. Wienke said the team was still optimistic after losing that opportunity to score.
“We knew we had another shot,” Wienke said. “We just had to play strong defense. The runs will come, and don’t play with your head down.”
McFarland outhit Edgewood 6-4 with Wienke getting two hits. Game one of the state semifinals began Wednesday night with Antigo playing West De Pere. After that, the Spartans played Union Grove. The winners of those games would play for the championship today (June 13) at 3 p.m.
Feldner planned to seek advice from other coaches before heading to the state tournament.
“I will talk to coaches in the Rock (Valley Conference) and find out what you are supposed to do,” Feldner said. “They’ll help me out. We are all good friends.”