Rockets end season with 20-5 record
By Paul Lecker
MARATHON — Spencer coach Justin Rayburn said Marathon junior Ryan Gassner was the best pitcher the Rockets faced this season.
Gassner proved to be a clutch hitter too as he struck out 12 and had three hits, including a key two-RBI single, to lead Marathon to a 4-3 victory over Spencer in a WIAA Division 3 baseball regional final on Friday at Marathon High School.
Gassner gave up seven hits and just one walk to earn the complete-game win to send the Red Raiders (24-2) to the sectionals.
Marathon will host Stevens Point Pacelli at 11 a.m. in the first of two Division 3 sectional semifinals Tuesday. Coleman and Bonduel will play at 2 p.m., with the winners facing off for a state tournament berth at 5 p.m. All four teams in the sectional were No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals.
“He’s the best pitcher we’ve seen all year,” Rayburn said. “I’m proud of the way we played, to keep it to one run against a team like this.”
Marathon scored all four of its runs with two outs, the first three following key mistakes by the Rockets (20-5).
Gassner singled and scored on a two-out error in the first inning to put Marathon up 1-0.
Hunter Luepke had the Rockets’ first hit to lead off the third, blasting a home run to right field to tie the game.
“What really helped us was the top of the order went down, and it wasn’t good right away,” Rayburn said. “Our guys were taking some bad swings. When Hunter Luepke hit the home run, it kind of registered with our dugout that, ‘OK, we can hit him.’”
With two outs and runners on first and second, Alex Blume struck out but reached first as the ball got past Spencer catcher Calvin Lenz to load the bases. Gassner followed with a single to score two and make it 3-1.
The Raiders tacked on another run in the fifth when Noah Dirks delivered a two-out double to score Isaac Barber.
Spencer rallied in the sixth to make it interesting. Ryan Busse singled, Lenz followed with a double, and Bobby Pilz grounded out to score Busse. Mitch Susa followed with an RBI single, but Gassner was able to wiggle out of the jam with no further damage.
Luepke led off the seventh his third hit of the game, but after a strikeout Gassner induced a double play to end the game.
Susa took the loss for Spencer, striking out five and walking three in six innings.
“I told the guys after the game that anytime you can win 20 games in a season, it’s quite an accomplishment,” Rayburn said. “Those guys will always have a number up on the banner for a (Cloverbelt East) conference championship. It would have been nice to get past Marathon, but they’re a good team.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Red Raiders 4, Rockets 3
Spencer 001 002 0 – 3 7 2
Marathon 100 210 x – 4 8 0
WP: Ryan Gassner. LP: Mitch Susa.
SO: Susa 5; Gassner 12. BB: Susa 3; Gassner 1.
Top hitters: S, Calvin Lenz 2×3, 2B, run; Hunter Luepke 3×3, HR, RBI, run. M, Gassner 3×4, 2 RBIs; Isaac Barber 2×3; Matt Braun 2×3; Noah Dirks 2B, RBI.
Records: Spencer 20-5; Marathon 24-2.