APPLETON, Wis. (NBC 26) — The Pirates baseball team is heading back to Madison for the first time since 2015 after beating the Papermakers 8-7 in the Division 1 Baseball Sectional Championship at Appleton East High School on Monday.
The two no. 1 seeds were tied at three runs each in the third inning, but Bay Port pulled out of that turn up 7-3 and never looked back.
Starting pitcher Gavin Rusch earned the win and Eli Frank tallied the save after taking the mound in relief in the top of the fourth inning.
"I mean, I had a lot of confidence in my teammates and myself," Frank said. "When we're in situations like that, we've been able to be clutch and focus on our fundamentals and play Pirate baseball."
"I think I would have needed a couple other coaches to try to pull Eli off the mound there," head coach Harvey Knutson said of the senior. "Just to calm the whole defense down a little bit. You know, I think we had a first and third situation. The runner on first was the tying run, so that's what we wanted to worry about the most."
After losing the 2020 season to the pandemic, Pirates from top to bottom are thankful that they've been able to extend this season together. Last season was Knutson's first at the helm.
"They deserve it," Knutson said. "All these players in our program do. They've worked so hard, this group together. To have fifteen seniors is crazy, to stick around that long and play together as much as they did. I don't think it could have ended any other way, because we're not ready to say goodbye and we're not done yet."
"It's really rewarding just to be able to play baseball again," Frank said. "I didn't know how much I'm going to miss it until – I mean, we're playing now. I just missed it so much. I think all of our team missed it and we just love being able to play baseball again."
Frank said that teammates were hoping Chik-fil-A would be a part of the team's immediate celebrations after playing two sectional games in one day.