ROCK FALLS — Mendota hasn’t had a lot of success beyond the District 20 level in youth baseball.
So that made Monday’s victory even sweeter.
The Mendota Junior League baseball team had little trouble as it defeated Brown County 6-0 to win the Section 5 tournament and earn a trip to this weekend’s state tournament.
“What I’ve heard is there is only one Mendota team to advance to state and that was at the Senior League level 21 years ago, so it’s pretty cool,” Mendota manager Mike Bokus said. “We took a team to the sectional for Little League a couple years ago that won one game and bowed out. I know there has been a couple at the Little League level that have gone (to the section tournament) but usually haven’t had a whole lot of success.
Mendota jumped ahead early Monday with a run in the first, a run in the second and two in the third, and that was plenty for starting pitcher Bryson Prusator.
“We had an outstanding pitching performance from Bryson, we hit pretty darn well too and our defense had a couple hiccups early but pulled it together there at the end and made a lot of plays,” Bokus said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Mendota scored in the first when Ben Bokus reached on a two-out error and came around on a Paxton Kennedy RBI single.
In the second, Bryer Lindenmeyer had an RBI groundout to bring in Andrew Engel.
Bokus and Kennedy, the Nos. 3-4 hitters, had back-to-back RBI doubles in the third.
“We tend to do a little better when we get out there and score runs early,” Mike Bokus said. “The guys get a little confidence and build on that. It’s really good for us.”
Prusator had no trouble making the lead hold up.
He only allowed two hits 6 1/3 innings — one being a misplayed fly ball in the outfield — while striking out 13 and walking just one — the last batter he faced.
“He threw strikes,” Mike Bokus said. “He has a heck of a fastball. He’s hard to catch up to and he can also change it up. He has a nice breaking ball. He put the ball over the plate, struck some guys out and we made some plays for him.”
Mendota scored an insurance run in each of the final two innings.
In the sixth, Jake Nurnberg drove home Lindenmeyer with a single, while Kennedy singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Engel in the seventh.
Kennedy finished 4-for-4 with two RBIs and a run, while Bokus had a double, an RBI and a pair of runs.
“The first game here we were a little sluggish in the middle of the order,” Mike Bokus said. “We didn’t square up Moline real well, but against Rochelle and again tonight those guys really caught fire. They were hitting the ball hard and scoring runs for us, which was huge.”
Mendota opens the state tournament at 5:45 p.m. Thursday in Chicago against the winner of the Section 4 tournament.
“I don’t really know what to expect, but I know we’re going to have two of our lefty starters (Ben Bokus and Kennedy) ready to go, so I think we have a pretty good chance,” Mike Bokus said. “We’re fairly deep in pitching. We have two guys who can throw who didn’t even pitch in this (section) tournament. I think we’re ready to go.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.