The Papermakers have been to the Division 1 state baseball championship game three times in the last 10 years, but they haven't won it all since 2007. That wait is now over, as Kimberly defeated Sun Prairie Thursday 4-2 at Fox Cities Stadium to win the crown.
"It is special to seal the deal, however, I'd say this: Those teams that finished second, those kids are winners," Coach Ryan McGinnis said of the teams that finished state runners-up in 2008, 2014 and 2015.
This season, McGinnis has said the Papermakers' unselfish baseball combined with their bats coming alive at the right time to propel them to this state tournament.
"Really proud of our guys (and) the resolve they've shown throughout the year," McGinnis said. "It's really special. This is something they'll have to share amongst them forever."
Kimberly (23-8) came ahead in the sixth with three runs. Drew Lechnir notched 3 RBI, including the go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth with two outs. Zach Carney lifted Kimberly to 4-1 with an insurance run.
"We just kept pushing and fighting," said senior Drew Johnson. "In the dugout, we said, 'Hey, this is the inning, this is the inning we can get it.' And when we finally did, it was just like, let's go play some defense and let's win this thing."
The Papermakers capped the game with seven hits, and starter Cade Hunstiger got the win, giving up two runs on five hits through six innings.
"It feels amazing. I can't even put it into words at this point, but I'm sure that when I look back, it's going to mean even more than it does to me right now," Hunstiger, a sophomore, said. "Everyone has chipped in in this amazing year, and the sophomores as well have been stepping up, making plays for us. And as a whole, our team absolutely deserves everything that we've accomplished."
McGinnis said a big key to this year's success is the way his upperclassmen and underclassmen meshed so well together.
"Not only did Cade bring some guts, but our seniors backed him as he went out there and didn't treat him like a sophomore, you know, so that's good stuff," McGinnis said.
Johnson, the senior first baseman, said getting a taste of success in state tournaments past helped motivate Kimberly's upperclassmen.
"For those seniors, it's just a great feeling," he said. "We talked about it before. Silver just wasn't going to be good enough for us. We were able to come out and get the gold, and I couldn't be more proud of how we played."