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Hortonville rallies late to beat Franklin, advance to state championship

The Polar Bears scored all four of their runs in the fifth inning to win Wednesday's state semifinal game against Franklin.
Hortonville rallies late to beat Franklin, advance to state championship
Posted at 10:40 PM, Jun 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-15 00:32:07-04

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (NBC 26) — A fixture at the state tournament in the 1980s and '90s, it's been a quarter century since Hortonville has won a state baseball championship.

That could change Thursday.

Behind an outstanding pitching performance from Nate Vela, the Polar Bears rallied late to beat Franklin 4-1 in the WIAA state semifinals Wednesday night.

Vela surrendered a home run in the second inning as Franklin grabbed the early lead, but didn't allow another hit until the 7th inning. He pitched a complete game, striking out 10 batters and walking just two.

"It feels amazing but the job is not done," said Vela. " My teammates help me out, with that home run (given up) we didn't get down but all my teammates picked me up."

Trailing 1-0, the Polar Bears snatched some momentum back in the fourth inning when they loaded the bases. However, a they failed to score after an Ethan Peters grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Not to be deterred, Hortonville rallied an inning later. Brett Sommer kick-started a four-run fifth inning with a one-out triple. He later came home to score on an infield single from Camden Kuhnke to tie the game at 1-1.

Four batters later, Thomas Burns gave the Polar Bears the lead with a two-run single back up the middle. They added another to go up 4-1 and went on to win by that same score.

Hortonville will play Whitefish Bay in the state championship game Thursday. First pitch is tentatively scheduled for 6:00 p.m., depending on the length of the preceding games.

The Blue Dukes wowed fans at Fox Cities Stadium Wednesday night, beating Stevens Point 17-0 in their state semifinal. Shortstop Jack Counsell, the son of Brewers manager Craig Counsell, went 4-5 with two RBI and three runs scored in Whitefish Bay's win.

Denmark also plays for its third consecutive state championship Thursday. The Vikings are scheduled to play St. Thomas More at 3:00 p.m.