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Waupaca Lakemen win Grand Championship
By Greg Seubert
It’s time for the Waupaca Lakemen to rearrange their trophy case again.
The Lakemen wrapped up their second season in the Dairyland League Aug. 29 with a 7-3 win over Hofa Park in the league’s Grand Championship game.
It’s Waupaca’s second straight championship since joining the Dairyland last year after several years of competing in the Badger Amateur Baseball Association.
The Lakemen used 11 hits and a complete game from winning pitcher Cam Seidl to defeat the Panthers, a team that had handed Waupaca a 5-4 loss during the regular season.
Neither team scored until the Lakemen came up with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning on one hit and three of Hofa Park’s five errors in the game.
Each team added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings before the Lakemen scored in the sixth to take a 5-2 lead.
Hofa Park answered with James Bornick’s solo home run in the eighth, but Waupaca added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Seidl wrapped up the game in the top of the ninth by striking out the final two batters he faced.
Ryan Makuski, Luke Behm and Walker Smith led Waupaca with two hits. Makuski, Behm, Wes Austin, Jason Ellie and Brenden Canterbury drove in a run each, while Behm and Johnny Popham scored twice and Canterbury led the team with three stolen bases.
Bornick was named the game’s most valuable player after leading the Panthers with three hits and a pair of RBIs.
Besides the Dairyland championships in 2020 and 2021, the Lakemen also won BABA Grand Championships in 1959, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1994, 2010, 2011, 2017 and 2019.
The latest title is the program’s third in a row.
Andy Wanty has been a part of several of those championships as a player and now as the team’s manager.
“It never gets old,” he said. “This is a great league, just like the BABA. Winning a Grand Championship in either one of these leagues is tough. We have a great group of guys, they play good ball and we’ve been fortunate enough in the last five years to be in the Grand Championship. I couldn’t be any more elated for these guys that play the ball and do the things that need to get done to win games.”
The Lakemen now have a permanent home in the Dairyland League, which this year also included teams from Hortonville, Bonduel, Navarino, Nichols, Pulaski, Cecil, Marinette and Shawano.
“We’re officially part of the Dairyland and our plan is to stay in the Dairyland,” Wanty said. ”I know there were talks early on that we may be in both leagues, but we have a few things to figure out in the off-season to make that happen. We would have a split team. It would be something to juggle, but it’s not off the table just yet.”
Shawano is currently the only community with a team in each league. The Lakers compete in the BABA East Division, while the Lobos are in the Dairyland.
“Baseball is baseball,” Wanty said. “When you get to the semifinals and finals of either league, you’re going to face some good teams and good pitching. You’re going to have to do the right things that it takes to win baseball games. There were a couple of innings today where we scored a run or two with no hits just by outplaying them and outthinking them. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Right now, we believe the right place for us is the Dairyland.”
Waupaca ended the season with a 31-10 overall record.
“A lot of it comes down to team chemistry and good leaders and being able to take new guys and fit them in,” Wanty said. “We play a lot of games every year, so it’s easy for us to get cohesive as a group. We have guys in their 30s and guys that just graduated from high school.
“We take the talent we’re given, they become part of the Lakemen legacy and we win baseball games,” he added. “It’s a great thing the way this team plays together.”