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Catholic Central clips No. 1 Pecatonica
JOHNSON CREEK - Trailing by four runs in the seventh inning, the Pecatonica baseball team almost pulled off an improbable comeback before Catholic Central hung on for a 7-5 win in a WIAA Division 4 Johnson Creek sectional semifinal on Tuesday.

Pecatonica senior Brooks Chandler led off the seventh with a walk off Catholic Central pitcher Brandon Vandehei. Senior teammate Presly Hauser singled to left. Senior Kyle Kleppe, who went 3-for-3, coaxed a walk off of Vandehei to load the bases. Pecatonica senior Gavin Burdick grounded into a double play to score Chandler to cut the Hilltoppers' lead to 7-4. Junior teammate A.J. Hendrickson followed with an RBI single to center. Vandehei got Pecatonica's Cory Linder to ground out to the shortstop to end the comeback bid.

With the loss, Pecatonica's 22-game winning streak came to an end, and they finished the season 25-2. The only other loss for the Vikings came to Darlington.

"We battled back and had the tying run at the plate," Pecatonica coach Jim Strommen said. "Give a lot of credit to our kids. We played good today and they just played better. That's baseball. What breaks there were in the game, it seemed like they got them. Their outfielders took three extra-base hits away from us."

Catholic Central's Charles Robinson was a thorn in the side of the Vikings going 3-for-4 with five RBI including two two-out hits. Robinson had a two-out, two-run double in the first inning off Chandler to help the Hilltoppers take a 3-0 lead.

The Vikings battled back with Jake Dearth coming through with an RBI single in the second, but the Vikings left the bases loaded and trailed 3-1.

In the third, Kleppe beat out an infield single. Burdick then delivered an RBI double to right center to cut the Hilltoppers' lead to 3-2. Freshman teammate Carter Ruegsegger had a clutch two-out, game-tying RBI single to right to tie the game at 3.

Then came the biggest break for the Hilltoppers in the fifth. With two outs and runners on second and third, Robinson hit a ground ball to Pecatonica shortstop Colton Schraepfer. However, the ball took a bad hop and bounced over Schraepfer's head for a go-ahead two-run single to give the Hilltoppers a 5-3 lead.

"It looked like it was going to be a routine ground ball," Strommen said.

Chandler pitched 6 1⁄3 innings and gave up seven runs on 10 hits. He struck out five and walked three. Hendrickson pitched 2⁄3 of an inning in relief and struck out one.

"We had a great season," Strommen said. "I can't fault our kids' performance today. In the game of baseball, that happens."