By Greg Bates
Times Press sports correspondent
After Jake Woldt secured a pop up, the celebration was on. The Seymour 16U Legion baseball team was state champions.
It was a heck of a moment for the 16- and 15-year-old players on the team.
“It’s really like a dream come true, because you dream about winning state your whole life as a kid,” Woldt said. “To actually get to state, I thought we played good at state but I didn’t know we’d actually come out on top.”
Woldt threw a complete game gem as Seymour beat Onalaska 5-3 in the state title game at Manitowoc Municipal Field on Tuesday, July 23.
Seymour head coach Eric Leisgang was overcome with joy after his team won state.
“It’s awesome,” Leisgang said. “I’ve known them since they were 7, 8 years old. I haven’t always coached this team, but I’ve coached them for the last couple years. Just a great feeling, especially to win it for Seymour. I think it’s the first baseball championship we’ve had that I know of.”
The squad was primarily comprised of 16-year-olds along with four 15-year-olds who played up a level the entire season: Woldt, Will DeBruin, Ben Cook and Mason Pautz.
The older players certainly led the way throughout the season.
“They were just great leaders to us,” Woldt said. “We got up there and they acted like we’d been playing with them their whole lives.”
One major key to winning state was Seymour’s solid starting pitching. Woldt and Javon Leisgang were the workhorses with each guy picking up two victories.
“We threw the ball well most games and we run the bases really well – they hustle hard,” coach Leisgang said. “I think that was one of the keys to success is pitching, running the bases and putting pressure on the other team.”
“We played really good defense throughout the whole tournament except the one game,” Woldt said. “But the defense really helped, they made every play and that really helps out pitchers because even when we miss our spots, they’re making the plays.”
Seymour went into state with a 12-4 record and played exceptionally well down the stretch. The players were confident they could make a run after the team’s pitching, defense and bats all heated up during regional play.
“I thought we had a shot at winning it,” Leisgang said. “I told the guys all year long, if we don’t worry about what they’re doing and we just worry about ourselves, hit the ball and play good defense that I didn’t think anybody could beat us. They came through on that.”
On July 19, Seymour downed Hudson 5-2, was rained out the next day and then beat D.C. Everest 4-3 on Sunday. Seymour kept up its strong play with a 9-5 victory over Beaver Dam on July 22. Seymour was the only one out of eight teams still undefeated, so it automatically qualified the team for the championship round.
Since Onalaska had one loss, Seymour essentially had a throw-away game against Onalaska and lost 12-1.
“We were trying to set ourselves up for the championship game,” Leisgang said.
Onalaska then defeated Hudson to set up the showdown with Seymour for the title.
The loss the previous day to Onalaska fueled the Seymour players in the true title game.
“The next day when we got there, I looked at them all and said, ‘We got who we want,’” Leisgang said. “They wanted to redeem themselves, and they came through in the clutch.”
In the championship, Seymour (16-5) scored two runs in the second and tacked on single runs in the third and fourth innings to go up 4-0. Onalaska scored twice in the fifth in one in the sixth to tighten it to 4-3. Seymour added an insurance run in the top of the seventh for some breathing room.
“It was huge for us to get that extra run because you could feel that momentum shifting a little bit,” Leisgang said.
Woldt, who threw just 80 pitches in the game, went back to the mound in the bottom of the seventh trying to close out the win.
“I was getting a little nervous, but I felt like we could pull it off still,” Woldt said. “I just knew we couldn’t make errors and we didn’t.”
Woldt’s pitches were working great in the biggest game of his young life.
“My curveball was really helpful and then the defense,” Woldt said. “The defense helped again. Logan Griesbach, he’s a great center fielder, made some nice plays. Then Will DeBruin at shortstop, he was great, too, and made a diving play to end one of the innings.”
When Woldt closed his glove to catch a pop up to end the game, he jumped into catcher Evan Vanden Langenberg’s arms and their teammates joined in on the celebration.
“The whole team was cheering like crazy,” Woldt said.
Coach Leisgang figures there were over 100 Seymour fans in the stands to see history for Seymour in the championship game.
Leisgang believes winning the 16U Legion title will be a great boost in general to the Seymour baseball program.
“I think it shows a lot,” Leisgang said. “There’s some 16-year-olds that are playing up on varsity right now, so I think that it shows them that if they keep their head down and keep driving that they can do some big things.”