Sparta Juniors roll to title at wood bat tournament
The Sparta American Legion Juniors picked up a pair of one-run wins in pool play and held their momentum into the championship round to put together five straight victories en route to the team title in the La Crosse A’s Wood Bat Tournament over the weekend.
The Spartans opened with a 5-4 victory over Hudson, edged the host A’s 6-5 in the second game and completed pool play with a 3-0 record with an 8-0 thumping of Onalaska 2 to advance to the tourney semifinals.
Sparta advanced to the finals with a 2-1 victory over the La Crosse North Stars, before defeating Onalaska 1 10-6 to win the championship.
Sparta Juniors head coach Jim Church said the tourney title will help build his team’s confidence as it attempts to earn its second straight state berth in the American Legion State Tournament.
“This will help build on what we did last year when we won the regional championship in Viroqua,” he offered.
“It will show the kids its possible and it becomes contagious,” Church continued. “That’s the goal for this year – to get back to state.”
Church was pleased his team was able to pick up three one-run victories in the tournament.
“It’s a confidence-builder and it builds character,” he said. “We know we can do the things we need to do to win.”
Sparta 5, Hudson 4
Sparta scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to erase a one-run deficit and edge Hudson in the pool-play opener Friday afternoon.
Sparta scored three runs in the top of the third off a Jess Sullivan double and RBI singles by Brett Stuessel and Adam McKee, but Hudson answered with three runs on its own in the bottom of the frame to knot the score at 3-3.
A solo run in the bottom of the fifth put Hudson on top 4-3 with just two innings remaining.
Ethan Krueger led off with a single to fuel Sparta’s late rally and Carter Horstman drew a walk to put Spartans on first and second with no outs.
Krueger scored on Dalton Mayer’s fielder’s choice to knot the score at 4-4 and Stuessel drove in the game-winner with his second single of the game to put Sparta on top 5-4.
Hudson loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Hunter Steinhoff got the final out on a fly ball to right to seal the win for Sparta.
Steinhoff scattered seven hits and struck out two against just one walk to earn the complete-game victory on the mound for Sparta.
Stuessel had two singles and two RBI to lead Sparta at the plate and Sullivan finished with a double and McKee and Horstman added a single apiece.
Sparta 6, La Crosse A’s 5
Sparta built an early lead and held off a late rally to edge the host A’s in the second round of pool play Saturday morning.
The A’s opened up a 1-0 lead with a solo run in the top of the third, but Phillip Richards came through with a RBI single in the bottom of the frame to knot the score at 1-1
McKee and Stuessel drove in a run each in the bottom of the fourth to give Sparta a 3-1 lead, but La Crosse answered with a run in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Krueger, Mason Hampel and Stuessel had RBI singles to fuel a three-run rally in the bottom of the fifth, putting Sparta on top 6-2.
The A’s answered with three runs in the top of the sixth to pull within a run of the lead at 6-5, but Hampel recorded three straight outs in the seventh to secure the win.
Stuessel scattered three hits in five innings of work to record the win for Sparta, and finished with two singles and two RBI to lead the Spartans at the plate.
Hampel and Krueger added two hits apiece for Sparta, while Church, Richards and Ben McPherson finished with one hit apiece.
Sparta 8, Onalaska #2 0
Hampel and Dalton Mayer combined to toss a three-hitter and lead Sparta to an easy shutout win over Onalaska 2 in the final game of pool play Saturday afternoon.
A McKee double led to a solo run in the bottom of the first for Sparta and he belted a two-run double in the second to extend Sparta’s lead to 3-0.
After a scoreless third, Sparta scored four more runs in the fourth with the help of RBI singles by Horstman and McKee and a two-run double off the bat of Stuessel.
Church belted a double and Richards drove in a run in the bottom of the sixth to give Sparta an 8-0 advantage with one inning to play.
Hampel earned the win for Sparta, allowing two hits in four innings of work.
McKee went 3-for-3 with two doubles and three RBI to lead Sparta, while Church, Brett Stuessel and Austin Stuessel finished with two hits apiece.
The won gave Sparta a 3-0 record in pool play and a berth in Sunday’s semifinals.
Sparta 2, North Stars 1
Steinhoff scattered six hits in five innings of work on the mound to pick up his second win of the tournament.
Sparta opened up a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth, when Noah Freit came through with a one-out double and Sullivan followed with a single to put Sparta runners on first and third.
One out later, Brett Stuessel belted a two-run double to give Sparta a two-run lead.
The North Stars scored a solo run in the top of the seventh, but Brett Stuessel, who came on in relief in the sixth inning, was able to shut the door and earn the save on the mound.
Richards led Sparta with a pair of singles in three trips to the plate and Brett Stuessel added a double and two RBI, while Sullivan, Freit and Church each finished with a single.
Sparta 10, Onalaska #1 6
With its pitching staff possibly worn out from a long weekend and lots of innings on the mound, Sparta turned to its big bats in the title game.
The young Spartans belted out 13 hits – including three for extra bases – to outlast Onalaska and capture the tourney title.
McKee, Brett Stuessel and Church drove in runs to help Sparta take a 3-0 lead in the top of the second, but Onalaska answered with a four-run rally in the third to pull in front 4-3.
Base hits by Brett Stuessel and Richards and a two-run double off the bat of Krueger led to three Sparta runs in the top of the fourth, putting the young Spartans on top 6-4.
Back-to-back doubles by Austin Stuessel and Krueger and RBIs by Sullivan, Mayer and McKee produced four more runs in the top of the sixth, extending Sparta’s lead to 10-4.
Onalaska scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to 10-6, but Sparta was able to hold on for the win and the tourney title.
Mayer pitched four-plus innings in relief of Hampel to record the win on the mound for the Spartans.
Krueger went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI to lead Sparta’s offensive onslaught and Brett Stuessel finished with three singles and one RBI, while McKee, Richards and Austin Stuessel added two hits apiece.
The Sparta Juniors improved to 11-1 overall with the five wins.
Sparta is back in action Tuesday, when they travel to West Salem for a 5:30 p.m. doubleheader.