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Baseball: Panthers advance to sectional finals

Ryan McGregor pitched all seven innings of the Ellsworth Panthers' 6-1 WIAA sectional semifinals win over the Hayward Hurricanes on Tuesday, June 5. McGregor held the Hurricanes to one earned run on seven hits. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Sophomore Charlie Stuhl hit a two-run single in the bottom of the fourth of Ellsworth's 6-1 win over Hayward on Tuesday, June 5. Stuhl and his teammates will now play the winner of Wisconsin Dells vs. G-E-T in the WIAA Sectional 1 finals. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Ellsworth seniors Ryan McGregor (pictured), Drake Flom (pictured0, Owen Matzek and Shane Elsen are headed to their first sectional finals game after defeating the Hayward Hurricanes 6-1 in the sectional semifinals on Tuesday, June 5. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

The Ellsworth Panthers baseball team is headed to the WIAA sectional finals for the first time since 2013 after defeating Hayward 6-1 on Tuesday, June 5, at Park Bowl in Viroqua.

Senior Ryan McGregor pitched all seven innings for the Panthers (15-6) and limited the Hurricanes (17-6) to one earned run, which came in the first inning when Terry Kilmer hit a one-run single to center fielder Shane Elsen and brought in Brady Christianson who hit a double in Hayward's prior at bat.

The Panthers did not record a single hit until the third inning when freshman Caleb Boelter singled on a pitch from Christianson, bringing in Owen Matzek who was walked by the Hayward senior pitcher.

Christianson failed to find the strike zone in the third and hit both Lucas Kemmerer and Jon Cain before being replaced by Dak Doyle who walked the first batter he saw, allowing Kemmerer to score Ellsworth's second run of the game. Drake Flom brought in Ellsworth's final third-inning run after hitting a ground ball to shortstop and outrunning the toss to first.

The Panthers were retired in the third with three runners left on base, but thanks to McGregor's stellar seven-inning performance on the rubber, Ellsworth's 12 total runners left on base didn't come back to haunt them when the game was decided in the seventh.

Ellsworth put up three more runs in the fourth with a two-run single from sophomore Charlie Stuhl and another free, walked-in run courtesy of Hayward's third pitcher of the game, Phil Zeigle. The Hurricanes walked 11 Panther batters in the Friday afternoon sectional game; McGregor didn't give up any free bases.

The Panthers retired the Hurricanes for good in the top of the seventh with a double play from Lucas Mallon to Flom and a recovered pop out by Stuhl.

McGregor finished the game in 90 pitches on Tuesday afternoon, and secured Flom, Matzek and Elsen's pitching eligibility for the WIAA Division Sectional 1 Finals, which will be played at 5 p.m. back at Park Bowl on Tuesday, June 5.

"I have confidence in them," McGregor said of his fellow senior teammates who'll take over on the mound for the upcoming sectional finals game. "We just need to stay relaxed. On the bus ride, we were all joking around and jamming music and staying loose. I think if we keep doing that, we should give either team a run for their money next game."

The No. 3 Panthers will see the winner of No. 1 Wisconsin Dells (17-3) vs. No. 2 Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau (16-6), who faced off in their semifinals game after Ellsworth's 11 a.m. win over Hayward.