It was a microcosm of a season-long trend for the Burlington High School baseball team — quality pitching and inconsistent hitting.
The former wasn’t able to overcome the latter Tuesday afternoon and the Demons were edged 2-1 by Hartland Arrowhead in a WIAA Division 1 quarterfinal. The tournament, which runs through Thursday, is being held at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
Junior left-hander Trey Krause, the Southern Lakes Conference Player of the Year, allowed seven hits, struck out five and did not allow a walk. It was a dramatic improvement from last season, when Krause was reached for six earned runs in 2⅓ innings in an 11-1 quarterfinal loss to Arrowhead.
Krause entered the game with a 6-1 record and a 1.15 earned run average.
“He’s just on a roll,” Burlington coach Scott Staude said. “That’s the kind of year he’s having. He pitched outstanding today. He scattered seven hits, but they didn’t square up any balls on him. He had a couple squeakers go through the hole and they had some big two-out hits. But they didn’t hit him hard. He pitched a great game.”
Krause said he mostly relied on his fastball, but was also effective with his curveball and change-up.
“I felt great today,” he said. “We were at state in a quarterfinal game and nothing is better than that. Everything was going pretty good until Arrowhead strung a few hits together. Before I knew it, it was 1-0 and then 2-1. And we couldn’t get the bats alive.”
But Burlington (20-8), which graduated the first four hitters in its lineup from last season, has often not been able to support its exceptional pitching. That was again the case Tuesday after the Demons were held to seven singles by Arrowhead’s Jacob Johnson and Derek Polczynski.
What was frustrating for Staude is that Johnson was not at his best. He struck out three, but walked four before being relieved by Polczynski, who pitched two innings of one-hit relief.
“I was a little disappointed because we had such good at-bats and approaches in the sectional last Tuesday,” Staude said. “We were pretty over-anxious at the plate today. We weren’t as disciplined as we normally are and that was pretty disappointing.
“The frustrating part is you get a guy on the ropes and he’s pitching behind in the count. He’s walking guys and you really have to take advantage of that. And we didn’t.”
Burlington created one big chance for itself in the top of the fifth inning after Arrowhead (24-3) had taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth. With two outs, Tully singled in Derek Koenen, then stole second base. Krause was intentionally walked and Trent Turzenski also walked.
Christian Brenner used patience and worked Johnson to a full count with a chance to break open the game. But the threat ended when Brenner grounded out to first base.
Arrowhead scored what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning when Joey Bartolone singled home Johnson with two outs.
Tully, who started on Burlington’s 2016 state championship team, ended his high school career by going 2 for 3 with an RBI and a walk.
“It definitely mattered to him,” Staude said. “With him being a three-year starter, it was important for him to put on a good show and he played great. He battled.”
But while Burlington was eliminated in the first round of the tournament for the second straight season, its future is promising. Seven players who started Tuesday return next season. Among them are the Demons’ top two starting pitchers – Krause and Turzenski.
There’s also talent coming up from the lower levels of the program. The Demons’ top junior varsity team finished 21-0-1 while the second JV team went 15-2.
“It looks great for Burlington,” Krause said. “The people before us set the tone by getting to state and I think everyone knows how to get to state now.
“The future looks good for Burlington.”
- Arrowhead will play Janesville Craig (23-5) Tuesday night in the semifinals. Craig defeated Milwaukee King 8-0 in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
In two other quarterfinal matchups Tuesday, Waunakee defeated Eau Claire North 12-8 and Green Bay Preble defeated Kimberly 3-2.
The Division 1 championship is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.