The West Salem Panthers used two four-run innings to get in front of and ultimately defeat Waupun 8-6 to win their first WIAA Division 2 State Baseball Championship.
It was the third straight trip to Fox Cities Stadium and the state tourney for the Panthers. The previous times ended short of the title.
Thursday's game, though, didn't start out easy for West Salem.
Waupun scored twice in the 1st and 2nd innings to take an early 2-0 lead.
It took until the bottom of the 2nd for the West Salem bats to take off. Zach Ihle started things off for the Panthers by singling. He scored two batters later when Austin Kennedy singled to right. The next batter, Braxton Ghelfi smacked a single to left that brought home Christian Riemer pinch who was pinch running for Alec Gorski. With Kennedy on third, Ghelfi stole second. Kennedy then safely stole home for the third run. Ryan Bierne's single brought Ghelfi home for another Panther run.
The 3rd inning also was bountiful for West Salem with another four runs posted on the scoreboard. Two of those runs came when Nick Schultz hit one down the right field line. That let Ghelfi and Kennedy score. In all, seven of West Salem's runs were unearned.
Waupun wasn't going down without a fight. In their half of the 5th inning, they got to pitcher Alec Gorski for three runs to cut the lead to 8-5. West Salem brought in Hunter Wakefield who got two ground outs and a outfield fly to end the inning.
Things got a little shaky for Wakefield and the Panthers in the top of the 7th. Jak Lenz singled for Waupun to start the inning. After getting an out to left field, Drew Behling hit a double to center field that allowed Lenz to score. The next batter, Caleb Sauer, flied out to right field. Reece Homan then singled to left field which allowed Behling to move to third. Wakefield then pitched to Baron Buchholz who flied out to right to secure the championship win.
West Salem finished their season with a 24-4 record.