Landers, Big Foot win regional baseball title
WALWORTH--Alex Landers and the Big Foot Chiefs flexed their muscles Friday.
The left fielder scored during his team’s four-run first inning and crushed a two-run home run in the third to help lead the Big Foot baseball team to a WIAA Divison 2 regional championship. The Chiefs downed the Edgerton Crimson Tide 7-2 to earn their 20th victory of the year.
They’ll face Lodi—which beat McFarland 2-1—in a sectional semifinal at Evansville at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“It’s pretty great,” Landers said. “We’ve been working for this since last year after we lost to them. We put in a lot of time and work in the offseason. It means a lot to coach (Steve) Bochat, our whole team and the community.”
The Chiefs jumped on the Crimson Tide early.
With runners on second and third and one out, Landers hit a grounder to third base, and the Tide threw out courtesy runner Tim Long at the plate. Landers rounded first and headed for second, inducing a throw, but he reached second safely and Brian Wolski came home to put Big Foot on the scoreboard.
The snafu cost Edgerton even further when designated hitter Brett Morris and catcher Zac Greco followed with back-to-back doubles to the left-field wall. Greco later scored on an error to make it 4-0 after one inning.
“You take that away, and it was a 3-2 game, and we had opportunities, but we didn’t take advantage of them,” Tide coach Mike Gregory said. “You tip your hat to them. They came out and put that four-spot up, and that puts the pressure on and changes the makeup of the game.”
Junior Jake Zeimet came on in relief for Edgerton in the second to settle things down, but the Chiefs added to their lead in the third.
After Wolski led off with a single up the middle, Landers belted a 1-0 fastball out of the park to the deepest part of center field.
“I was just hoping for a good pitch to sit back and drive,” Landers said. “I’ve just been trying to work on my swing and stay compact. I’m getting stronger and trying to do the little things.”
It was Landers’ fifth homer of the year.
“That was deep; I’ve never seen one hit out there,” Bochat said. “We’ve got guys lifting, and they’re strong. And he listens. You can be the smallest kid, but it’s all about technique.”
Edgerton got on the board in the fifth when Jeremy Hart led off with an infield single, moved to third on a pair of walks and scored on Cullen Oren’s ground out.
But the Tide stranded a pair of runners that inning and 10 total in the game.
“Every game we lost this year, we left a lot of people on base,” Gregory said. “You can’t do that against a good pitcher like Austin.”
The top-seeded Chiefs weren’t forced to use Hoey, the Rock Valley South Player of the Year, during regional play earlier this week. He went the distance Friday, allowing two runs on three hits and seven walks. He struck out nine.
Second-seeded Edgerton turned to ace Lucas Gregory to get by Beloit Turner in a regional semifinal Wednesday, so he was unavailable against Big Foot.
Hoey will now get the nod Tuesday when the Chiefs face Lodi, the reigning Division 2 state champions.
“This has been six years in the planning; we had been here four years in a row and hadn’t been able to pull it off,” Bochat said. “If we bring our bats like we’ve been doing—we’re averaging eight runs a game—and Hoey’s on, I think we can beat anyone.”