With both teams low on experienced arms, it was a question as to who was going to pitch.
“Mark (Pizza Hut manager Faanes) asked me who I was going to pitch,” said Chippewa Falls Post 77 manager Drew Steinmetz. “I looked around and said it’s either Dane (catcher Weiland) or Hutz (shortstop Nolan Hutzler).”
He selected Hutzler.
It turned out to be a brilliant choice.
The stocky righthander handcuffed Eau Claire for six innings while he and his mates were rolling up a 7-run lead.
That was more than enough as Chippewa Falls scored a 7-2 win in the championship game of the Eau Claire Region 1 AAA American Legion baseball tournament Tuesday afternoon at sunny Carson Park.
Both teams advance but it will be Post 77 that will take momentum into the state tournament that begins Friday at Casper Park in Chippewa Falls.
Hutzler was making only his second mound appearance of the season.
“I had a lot of support from my teammates and Dane was a big help behind the plate,” said Hutzler, quarterback on the Chippewa Falls High School football team last fall. “I felt safer when we got the lead but felt like I was in control all the way with my fastball, curve and change.”
And his pinpoint control, it might be added. He finished with just 80 pitches, 62 in the first six innings.
In those six innings, Hutzler allowed just three baserunners and one was erased in a double play. He wound up allowing eight hits and two earned runs without walking a batter as Pizza Hut rallied with five of its eight hits for two consolation runs in the seventh.
“He’s just a competitor,” Steinmetz said. “Wherever you put him, he’ll give you a great effort. And he’s always tough with the bat.”
As the cleanup batter, he belted two doubles and scored twice.
Post 77 played a great all-around game in rebounding from a 13-3 five inning loss to Pizza Hut on Monday. Chippewa won the first tournament meeting of the teams 5-4 on Sunday.
“It’s a good feeling to beat a team you play a lot and one that has won most of the regionals,” Steinmetz said.
In particular, he praised the work of third baseman Luke Schemenauer, who gobbled up ground balls at third and was credited with five assists and starting a double play.
“They played a great game, Hutzler pitched a great game,” Faanes said.”Chippewa is worthy of the regional championship, it was not our day.”
Pizza Hut also got a strong mound effort from Jaxon Vance, who pitched into the fifth. But it was his throwing error, hit batter and wild pitch that gave Chippewa its first two runs in the second. The runs were unearned although Hutzler led off the inning with his first double.
“Vance pitched a great game, he went farther than we expected,” Faanes said. “Their batters found the holes and ours didn’t.”
Post 77 broke the game open with four runs in the fifth, getting a leadoff base on balls from the No. 9 batter and added singles by Matt Pomietlo, Weiland, Kendren Gullo and Hutzler’s second double.
Weiland drove in the final run in the sixth with a double.
Pizza Hut ripped five singles to score its two runs in the seventh. Carter Hesselman and Joe Feck drove in the runs and the game ended on a fly ball that left the bases loaded.
Besides Hutzler and Weiland, Luke Franz had two hits in the 9-hit Chippewa attack. Marcus Cline had two hits for Pizza Hut.
“We just have to reboot the computer and come back this weekend,” Faanes said. “I’m sure the kids will bounce back.”
Friday in the state meet, Pizza Hut (19-13) opens with Appleton in a 2:30 p.m. game. Chippewa (17-8) is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. game against Wisconsin Rapids.
CHIPPEWA FALLS POST 77 7, PIZZA HUT/POST 53 2
PIZZA HUT (2)
AB-R-H-RBI: Gabe O’Brien, cf, 3-0-0-0, Connor Stoik, 3b, 3-0-1-0, Marcus Cline, 2b, 3-0-2-0, Ethan Kjellberg, dh/p, 3-1-1-0, Cooper Kapanke, 1b, 3-0-0-0, Carter Hesselman, ss, 2-0-1-1, Jack Fentress, rf, 3-0-1-0, Logan Rasmussen, lf, 3-0-1-0, Joe Feck, c, 3-0-1-1. Totals 26-2-8-2.
Matt Pomietlo, cf, 3-2-1-1, Luke Franz, 2b, 3-0-2-0, Dane Weiland, c, 4-1-2-2, Nolan Hutzler, p, 4-2-2-0, Luke Schemenauer, 3b, 3-1-0-0, Nate Hayes, 1b, 1-0-1-0, Kendren Gullo, ss, 3-0-1-1, Austin Sykora, lf, 3-0-0-0, Ben Steinmetz, rf, 2-1-0-0. Totals 26-7-9-4.
Pizza Hut 000 000 2 — 2 8 1
Chippewa 020 041 x — 7 9 0
E — Vance. LOB — Chippewa 7, Pizza Hut 5. 2B – Hutzler 2, Weiland. Sac – Hayes, Franz. SF – Hesselman.
IP H R ER BB SO
Jaxon Vance, L 4 2 3 1 2 5
Joel Zachow 1/3 3 3 3 0 0
Kjellberg 1 2/3 4 1 1 0 2
Hutzler, W 7 8 2 2 0 4
WP – Vance 2, Zachow. PB – Feck. HBP – Pomielto (by Kjellberg), Schemenauer (by Vance). U – Teddy Joas, Paul Ausman. T – 1:49.