WATERLOO — The Sun Prairie Red Birds experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in their Home Talent League Eastern Section semifinal game Sunday at Waterloo Firemen’s Park.
In the end, it was pure euphoria.
The top-seeded Red Birds (13-4) received a complete-game pitching performance from Nate Hoffman and earned a 4-1 win over fourth-seeded DeForest, advancing to next Sunday’s championship game against Monona that will determine the Eastern Section’s representative in the HTL Round-Robin Championship Series.
Hoffman pitched a gem. The veteran right-hander scattered five hits, struck out 11, walked just one and the one run he yielded was unearned.
“Nate dominated the first seven innings,” said Red Birds general manager Scott Knorr.
The Red Birds were dealt a big blow when one of their key players, designated hitter Randy Molina, suffered a season-ending injury.
After leading off the fourth with a single, Molina, who hit .393 during the regular season, slid awkwardly into second after tagging up on Ty Hamilton’s pop-up in foul territory. Molina immediately started rolling around in obvious pain, and had to be taken off the field in an ambulance after what was determined as a dislocated kneecap.
From that point on Molina’s teammates played for him. After taking the initial lead in the fifth, when Walker Jenkins scored on a Demons (10-7) error, the lead grew to 2-0 in the seventh when J.P. Suchomel drew a bases-loaded walk.
The Red Birds doubled their lead in the eighth. Jaen Wilke singled and Justin Krebs was hit by a pitch, setting the table for Jenkins who delivered a two-run single for a 4-0 advantage.
DeForest’s Julian Edwards reached on an error to start the ninth, then scored Dryden Van Schoyck’s doubled in pinch runner Kyle Trace. But Hoffman worked out of the jam, striking out Jack George, Brock Allen and Wes Knuteson to end the game and send Sun Prairie to the championship game.
“We opened the door with an error in the eighth and ninth, but he pitched out of it. He might have been tired in the ninth, but bulldogged up and struck out three after an error and double. (Manager) Mike (Calkins) went out to talk to him and he said he was not done,” said Knorr.
Jenkins finished the day 3-for-4 with two RBIs while Aaron Schmidt added a 2-for-3 afternoon.
The Red Birds lost their HTL Night League playoff opener falling to Mazomanie, 6-1, on Thursday.
Sun Prairie finished 5-6 in Night League play.
Sun Prairie will play No. 2 seed Monona (12-5), a 3-1 winner No. 3 Montello, in the Eastern Section championship game this Sunday, Aug. 18.
Monona won both meetings in the regular season.
The game again will be played at Waterloo Firemen’s Park at 1 p.m.
RED BIRDS 4, DEMONS 1
DeForest 000 000 001 — 1 5 1
Sun Prairie 000 010 12x — 4 8 2
DeForest (ab-r-h-rbi) — Held 4-0-1-0, Johnson 3-0-0-0, Frank 4-0-2-0, Edwards 3-0-0-0, Trace 0-1-0-0, Van Schoyck 4-0-2-1, George 4-0-0-0, Kurt 3-0-0-0, Allen 4-0-0-0, Knutson 4-0-0-0, Mack 0-0-0-0. Totals — 33-1-5-1.
Sun Prairie (ab-r-h-rbi) — Holin 4-0-0-0, Maastricht 4-0-1-0, Molina 2-0-1-0, Schuster 0-0-0-0, Wilke 2-0-1-0, Hamilton 4-0-0-0, Krebs 3-1-0-0, Schmidt 3-1-2-0, Jenkins 4-1-3-2, Calkins 3-0-0-0, Lange 0-0-0-0, Suchomel 2-0-0-1, Knorr 0-1-0-0. Totals — 31-4-8-3.
2B — Van Schoyck; Maastricht, Schmidt.
Pitching HO — Gertz 7 in 7 1/3, Mack 1 in 2/3; Hoffman 5 in 9. ER — Gertz 4, Mack 0; Hoffman 0. SO — Gertz 6, Mack 0; Hoffman 11. BB — Gertz 2, Mack 1; Hoffman 1.
W — Hoffman. L — Gertz.