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Fort goes from Badger doormat to earning a state tournament bid

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Tim Wester
June 10, 2010
— With his team agonizing through a 1-20 start to its season, Fort Atkinson High School baseball coach Mark Rowley had no idea the Blackhawks were just a couple adjustments away from making a historic playoff run.

But it was actually that simple.


Rowley’s decision to move position players Eric Burow and Mike Knutson to pitcher for the stretch run turned an 0-12 team from the Badger South into a tournament juggernaut.


After Knutson helped the Blackhawks upset top-seeded Badger South champion Oregon, 8-6, in the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinals here Wednesday, Burow carried Fort Atkinson (8-21) to an improbable state tournament berth with a 6-3 victory over Oconomowoc (16-11) for the Janesville Craig sectional title.


“We found two pitchers,” said Rowley, whose team went 44 days between victories this season. “Knutson came up and said, ‘If you need me to pitch an inning or two, I’d be willing to do that.’


“And then Burow’s teammates came up to me and said Eric pitched last fall in the Madison fall league, so I asked him if was willing to pitch. And then we worked him into the bullpens and getting him innings here and there. That’s the turning point.”


Now, Fort Atkinson is making making its first trip to the state tournament since 1994. The Blackhawks play Madison La Follette at 3 p.m. next Tuesday at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.


“I guarantee you, we did not look past them,” Oconomowoc coach Pat Neary said of the Blackhawks. “They played seven innings, and that’s why they’re going to state. They outplayed us, and they deserve to go.”


The Raccoons (17-11) didn’t look like they deserved a better fate in the first inning against Fort Atkinson.


With Black Hawk runners on second and third, Josh Boos hit a routine pop-up to right. Fighting the bright sun, Oconomowoc right fielder Will Schlosser whiffed on the fly ball, giving Boos a two-run double and 12th-seeded Fort Atkinson a 2-0 lead.


Schlosser’s day worsened in the third when he missed another fly ball that enabled Knutson and Boos to score from second and third and build a 4-0 lead.


“If you look at our losses this year, we have these innings where there are some errors and teams get up and you have to battle and battle,” Neary said.


The four-run cushion was more than enough for Burow, who went the distance, allowing just three runs on six hits, while striking out four.


“I was a little nervous with it just being only my second start in the playoffs,” Burow said. “Everything went the way I wanted, and I put all my fears behind me.”


And the Blackhawks have put that last-place finish in the Badger South far behind them.


FORT ATKINSON 6, OCONOMOWOC 3

Fort Atkinson (ab-r-h-rbi)— Hartwick, 3-1-1-0; Bleecker, 3-0-2-2; Knutson, 3-1-1-0; Boos, 4-1-1-2; Rowley, 4-0-2-2; Falk, 4-0-0-0; Cashin, 4-2-2-0; Burow, 3-0-0-0; Sanders, 2-0-0-0; Preston, 1-0-0-0. Totals: 31-6-8-6.


Oconomowoc (ab-r-h-rbi) —Herr, 4-1-0-0; Schlosser, 4-0-0-1; Benz, 2-0-1-1; Wensman, 3-0-0-1; Winkelman, 3-0-0-0; Bell, 3-0-1-0; Loppnow, 3-0-0-0; Ziemann, 2-0-0-0; Persick, 1-1-1-0; Liesener, 0-1-0-0. Totals: 25-3-3-3.


Fort Atkinson 202 101 0—6


Oconomowoc 001 020 0—3


E – Fort Atkinson 2, Oconomowoc 1. DP – Fort Atkinson 1, Oconomowoc 1. LOB – Fort Atkinson 6, Oconomowoc 5. 2B – Boos (FA).


Fort Atkinson IP H R ER BB SO


Burow 7 3 3 2 4 4


Oconomowoc


Wilson 5 6 6 6 1 4


Prom 2 2 0 0 0 1


-- Fort Atkinson 9, Oregon 7—Josh Boos hit a two-homer in the first inning to ignite Fort Atkinson in its sectional semifinal win over Badger South champion and second-seeded Oregon (18-8).


FORT ATKINSON 9, OREGON 7

Fort Atkinson (ab-r-h-rbi)—Hartwick, ss, 4-1-2-1; Bleecker, c, 4-1-1-0; Knutson, p, 4-1-2-3; Boos, 1b, 4-1-3-2; Rowley, rf, 4-0-1-0; Falk, cf, 4-1-0-0; Cashin, 2b, 4-1-1-0; Koch, 3b, 2-1-0-0; Burow, lf, 3-2-3-2. Totals: 33-9-11-8.


Oregon (ab-r-h-rbi)— Nagel, lf, 4-1-2-0; Marszalek, p, 3-2-1-0; Schmitz, 3b, 3-1-1-0; Stetzer, c, 4-1-2-3; McMahon, ss, 4-0-2-0; Matthews, 1b, 2-0-0-0; Urben, rf, 3-0-0-0; Behrend, dh, 3-0-0-0; Turk, 2b, 1-0-0-1; Graber, cf, 4-1-2-0. Totals: 28-1-10-1.


Fort Atkinson 203 220 0—9


Oregon 300 030 1—7


E— Fort Atkinson 1, Oregon 0. LOB— Fort Atkinson 5, Oregon 5. 2B—Stetzer 2, McMahon; Hartwick, Boos. HR—Boos.


Fort Atkinson IP H R ER BB SO


Knutson (W) 7 10 7 5 3 6


Oregon


Marszaoek (L) 4 2/3 10 9 9 1 5


Vanko 2 1/3 1 0 0 0 2



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