STOUGHTON — With a 5-2 win over Stoughton on Sunday, the Fort Atkinson Generals will return to the Home Talent League Final Four for the first time since 2009.
The Generals (24-8 overall, 13-5 HTL) punched their ticket fighting back from a 2-0 deficit and breaking things open with a four-run seventh inning, before adding one more insurance run in the ninth to help ensure the Southeast Section crown.
The action got going for Stoughton in the bottom of the fourth.
Jake Wenzel hit a lead-off single and then Fort starting pitcher Frank Raff walked Dave Hanson to put runners on first and second with no outs. After a double play attempt that only got one out and put runners on the corners, a Ryan Nyhagen grounder to first brought in Wenzel for the first run of the game.
The Merchants doubled their lead after Brad Knickmeier hit a two-out single to bring in T.J. DiPrizio, and Stoughton would end the inning with a 2-0 advantage.
Both Stoughton and Fort had their chances but the Generals found a way to convert in the top of the seventh.
Merchants starting pitcher Erick Sperloen started off the inning walking Tyler Sexton and hitting Sam Hartwick to put runners on first and second with no outs. Nick Raether then put down a bunt to advance the runners, but an error at first allowed Sexton to score and to put runners on the corners. Josh Crandall then hit an RBI single to score Hartwick tying the game at 2-2 with no outs.
Dan Dean then converted his chance with an RBI single of his own to bring in Raether, forcing Sperloen out of the game with the Generals up 3-2 with no outs and runners on second and third.
Against new reliever Rory Menzer, Travis Hartmann hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Crandall. Menzer got out of the inning but Fort had done all the damage it needed leading, 4-2.
Dean then took over for Raff who would go 7 1⁄3 innings giving up seven hits with four strikeouts and six walks. Looking shaky at times, Dean did well to battle especially getting out of a bases-loaded situation in the eighth.
A Sexton RBI single to score Lucas Smithyman in the top of the ninth added an insurance run in the ninth and Dean struck out DiPrizio in the final at bat of the game. Though giving up three walks, Dean had four strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit in his save stint.
It was truly a team win with Sexton, Crandall, Dean and Hartmann each putting up an RBI. Crandall, Hartmann and Chris Koepke led the team with two hits each.
The Final Four appearance is the sixth in Fort Generals history.
The Generals head to Stampfl Field in Verona on Sunday to start off the Final Four round-robin tournament.
The Cavaliers won the Western Section championship with an 18-0 shutout of Hollandale Sunday.
Gametime is at 1 p.m.