Will the third time be the charm for the Sun Prairie Red Birds?
This Sunday the local Home Talent League baseball team will take their No. 1 seed into the Eastern Section championship game against what has become their archrival and nemesis, the Monona Braves.
The winner advances to the 2019 HTL Final Four Round-Robin Championship Series beginning next Sunday, Aug. 25.
The second-seeded Braves won both regular-season meetings — 11-0 on May 5 and 10-4 on July 21 — but Sun Prairie earned the top seed by going 12-4 in Sunday League play, one game better than Monona.
Sun Prairie (18-10 overall) is looking to become the fourth different team to represent the Eastern Section in the Final Four in as many years. Cottage Grove was last year’s entry, Montello represented in 2017 and Monona, which has been in the Final Four three times since 2013, last qualified in 2016.
The last time the Red Birds reached the round-robin series was in 2008.
Sun Prairie will pitch either Nate Hoffman or Taylor Middaugh in the title game.
Hoffman, a veteran right-hander, pitched a complete-game five-hitter, striking 11 DeForest batters in last week’s semifinal game. Meanwhile, Middaugh won two big games late in the season, shutting out DeForest and beating Columbus.
Eastern Section batting champion Jack Maastricht (.500) leads the offense, while Walker Jenkins and Aaron Schmidt both had multiple hits in the semis and have been clutch in the last month of the season.
But the Red Birds lineup suffered a key blow when designated hitter Randy Molina suffered a season-ending knee injury during the fourth inning of Sunday’s game. He was batting .393 with a team-high four home runs.
Left-hander Dan Genrich likely will get the start for the Braves. Genrich pitched a complete game in the last meeting, striking out five while allowing just two earned runs.
Genrich earned the win in the Braves’ 3-1 semifinal win over Montello.
Beau Goff, Jordan Carlson and Vince Schmitz lead Monona at the plate. Goff hit .419 during the regular season to tie for fifth in the East, while Carlson batted .400 to tie for eighth.
Schmitz has hit a team-high five home runs.
BACK TO WATERLOO
The title game will be played at a neutral site, Waterloo Firemen’s Park, as the Red Birds’ outgoing home, Ashley Field, is being readied for football season.
Gametime is 1 p.m.
FINAL FOUR CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES PAIRINGS
Sunday, Aug. 25; Southeast at East; West at North
Sunday, Sept. 1: North at East; Southeast at West
Sunday, Sept. 8: East at West; Northeast at Southeast