No-hitter ends Hawks’ season in regional semis

Shawano limited to 2 walks
Dustin Riese

There is an old saying in baseball that good pitching will always top good hitting. For the Shawano Hawks, the saying remained true as they took on the Little Chute Mustangs on May 30 with a spot in the regional final on the line and saw their season end with an 8-0 defeat.

Coming off their 12-2 win against Sturgeon Bay to reach this game, the Hawks were going to have their work cut out for them as the Mustangs went through the regular season with a 15-7 record to take second place in their conference and earned a No. 3 seed for regionals. To make matters worse, Little Chute was going with their senior Drew Joten who has started to look like the ace they expected him to be over his last few starts.

Not only was Joten on top of his game, but from Shawano’s perspective he picked the worst time to have his best performance of the season and arguably the best performance of his career. Joten went the distance and did so on just 91 pitches, surrendering two walks and five punchouts. To go with that, he didn’t allow a single hit.

“These kids have battled for us all season, and today was no different,” Shawano head coach Dustin Beyer said on the loss. “They are the most competitive group that I have ever coached, and when you have a group that is so competitive it makes things easier as a coach. There is no quit in these kids, and they never quit today.”

Although Joten was on from start to finish, Bryce Popp was also up to the task as he went pitch for pitch with Joten in the early stages. Despite allowing leadoff singles in the first two innings, Popp kept the Mustangs off the board as this game remained scoreless until the fourth inning.

Once the bottom of the fourth got underway, Joten provided all the offense the Mustangs would need as he helped himself with a leadoff homer to begin the inning, which proved to be the game-winning hit.

Popp followed that up with a strikeout before allowing two straight hits, and he was removed from the game in favor of Ashton Henning as his final line was 3⅓ innings with two runs on five hits. He walked none and struck out five.

Despite trailing when he left, Beyer was proud of the effort Popp gave on the mound as the team wouldn’t have been as close as they were without him.

“Bryce pitched well for us tonight,” he said. “He has pitched well for us all season so this type of an outing shouldn’t shock anyone. You could see him starting to tire a little bit in that fourth inning so we had to make a change. That still doesn’t take away from the job he did for us today.”

After adding a second run in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead, the Mustangs continued to build on that lead in the bottom of the fifth and broke the game wide open. Sure, walking three of the first batters in that fifth inning doesn’t help, but the Mustangs did what they had to do in order to capitalize with a Josh Verhagen two-run single pushing the lead to 5-0 before adding three more runs to take an 8-0 lead into the final inning.

Looking for their first hit in the seventh, the Shawano offense continued to be held down by Joten as he capped off his no-hitter by retiring the Hawks in order and finished things off for the 8-0 win.

When it comes to the offense, two walks will not get it done as Henning was the final batter to reach base after he took a walk in the sixth. Henning gave Joten a ton of credit for how dominant he was on the mound and just how difficult he made things for the Hawks offensively.

“We knew going in that Joten was a tough pitcher, but he was on tonight,” he said. “He did a great job working the ball across the strike zone and does a really great job of keeping hitters off balance by changing speeds. Hats off to him over there. He pitched a great game for Little Chute today.”

With the loss, the Hawks season will came to an end as they finished the year with a 13-9 overall mark, including a third-place finish in conference play. This also marks the end of the road for a very talented senior class that will be missed.

“This senior class was a very talented group of kids that were great leaders for this program,” Beyer said. “They always competed and never gave up which is what we are most proud of these guys for. We trailed a lot in games and this group always found a way to keep us focussed and helped lead us to a lot of wins. They are winners and it has been a pleasure to coach each of them the past few years.”

Along with Popp on the mound, Henning took over and finished the final 2⅔ innings. He was charged with six earned runs on three hits while also striking out six. He did walk four batters also. Henning was also one of two hitters to draw a walk against Joten, with Tom Keszo grabbing the other.