Thunder loses in sectional opener

The Seymour baseball team’s first sectional playoff game in seven years was indicative of how the entire season went.
The Thunder got in an early deficit, but never got down and fought their way back. However, Mosinee punched back with its potent lineup and earned a 9-3 victory in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at Clintonville on Tuesday, June 6.
“Overall, I thought we played with energy and we were focused,” Seymour coach Curt Jefson said. “But there’s a couple plays we’d like to have back, but that’s how it goes.”
“I think we started off kind of slow,” said Seymour’s starting pitcher Justin Krull. “Our defense really wasn’t as sound as it has been all year and that’s kind of what we relied on to win those close games is to have a really stellar defense that wouldn’t make very many errors. Today, we just didn’t play to 100 percent of what we could. We still played a great game. Obviously, Mosinee was just a better team today.”
Seymour was making its first sectional appearance since 2010, and the first time under Jefson. Mosinee on the other hand brought experience on the big stage, making its fifth straight trip to sectionals.
“They finally busted through,” Jefson said. “Sometimes it takes that. Sometimes it takes being there and knowing how to handle situations, and just the emotions of the game when you have that many people there.”
Mosinee (13-9) scored twice in the first inning off Krull. It was the first runs the Thunder had surrendered in three postseason games. The Indians added a pair of runs with two outs in the third to take a commanding 4-0 lead.
Seymour (11-16) stranded two runners in scoring position in the third, but came back in the fourth to mount a rally. Trevor Cornell walked and Ryan Peterson and Sam Blank both were hit by pitches to load the bases. With two outs, David Michaelson stepped up and drove in two runs with a single to right field. Caleb Derus also came through with an RBI hit to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Back came Mosinee with a run on a passed ball and a two-run single to go up again by four runs. That was deflating for the Seymour players.
“To go from having the wind in our sails and we were rolling to that — that was a tough one,” Jefson said.
“Whenever you score runs and the other team can answer back and score just as much as you or even more than you do, it really just kills your momentum and it’s hard to get it back,” Krull said. “Especially in tight games like that when every run counts.”
Krull started the fourth inning on the mound before giving way to fellow senior Austin Marcks.
“It was the bottom half of that inning where we got an out and the nine stick came up and he got on first,” Jefson said. “Justin had been working pretty hard. Through three innings, he was near 80 pitches, so it was time to bring Austin in.”
Seymour didn’t threaten much late in the game, getting a double from Trent Blake in the fifth and a triple from Michaelson in the sixth.
Despite the loss, advancing to sectional play was a step in the right direction for the Seymour program.
“Being that it had been since 2010 when we made it and being so close last year I think that being able to break through this year is definitely a big step,” Krull said. “I know that even though I’m not going to be there next year, our program’s going to keep improving. We have a good underclass coming up and just a really good program in general.”
Advancing one game farther in the playoffs certainly raises the bar for future teams.
“I think you can up the ante now,” Jefson said. “I think that’s what we’ve been talking about for four years. Every day we go practice, we talk about how excellence is a habit. It doesn’t just happen, you have to work at it every single day.”
Jefson is happy with how the season went, especially after losing seven seniors last year who were everyday starters. A large group of young players gained valuable experience this season that will be beneficial for years to come.
“It was a successful season based on how much these guys grew throughout the season,” Jefson said. “I’m looking at this lineup, Peyton Dorn, Cornell, Blake, Clark, Peterson, Blank, Michaelson, Derus, you’ve got (Zach) Potter. Out of that lineup we had two guys that’s started consistently for three years in Justin and Austin. So it was a successful year based on how much the seniors led and how much fun we had.”
Seymour loses its top two pitchers to graduation in Marcks and Krull, along with Phil Grelecki. Replacing those big arms will be important for next year’s team.
“The young guys will have to step up, and certainly on the hill we’ll be looking at Trent Blake for sure,” Jefson said. “He’s got to keep improving and try to be one of our leaders coming back and Caleb Derus. Those two guys threw quite a bit of innings for us this year.”
Along with the three pitchers, Seymour will lose Potter, Peterson, Michaelson and Blank. The seven seniors have meant so much to the Thunder program over their careers.
“I think they bought in,” Jefson said. “Their buy-in, I can’t thank enough because over the span of those four years the expectations, you have to be barking at kids about this and about that. This year wasn’t like that, the seniors just took care of that.”
Said Krull: “Our senior class was really good this year. A lot of the guys I grew up with, so we had really good chemistry. We really just knew how each other played and we could count out each other’s weaknesses. Everyone just balanced each other out. We were just a really good, sound team, which you need to be able to make it far and be able to trust the guy next to you.”