No. 5 Altamont and No. 6 Wayne walked into the championship game at Gates Field Saturday afternoon with confidence and momentum after both teams pulled off surprising upsets against the 1A state tournament’s top two teams the previous day.

During the regular season, the Badgers and Longhorns played each other three times, with Wayne holding two close victories in their head-to-head matchups.

Wayne coach Mike Bray, reflecting on his team’s previous matchups with the Longhorns, said, “We played them the second game of the season and it was close and then, maybe our biggest learning experience of the year, we drove to their place and they 10-runned us. We played them shortly after and that was a close game, too, and we knew it was going to be a fight.”

The fourth and final game turned out to be another close victory for the Badgers, with a final score of 6-4. This win not only secured Wayne its first state title since 2015, but also brought an end to the Longhorns’ 15-game winning streak.

Wayne started the game fired up and aggressive, with nine players reaching base in the first three innings, resulting in four runs. The third inning saw Ammon Peterson drive in two runs off a triple, which was followed by an RBI single from Carson Lee. The Badgers led 4-0 midway through three innings.

Altamont players calmed their nerves and fought back in the bottom of the third inning. Judd Taylor had an RBI double, and Dawson Lazenby added two more runs, closing the deficit. The Longhorns were down 3-4 as they headed into the fourth inning.

It was the Badgers’ aggressive style of play that kept them in the lead all game, created scoring opportunities and resulted in four steals, two of which came in the top of the fifth inning. Ryker Grundy capitalized on the two steals, bringing in both runs to extend the Badgers’ lead to 6-3.

Altamont, sensing the momentum shift, saw Keaton Huff deliver an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning, but that was all the runs they could score. The team trailed 6-4 entering the last two innings.

In the sixth and seventh innings, the Longhorns’ defense locked in, and the Badgers struggled to advance, leaving three players on base, with one in scoring position.

In the bottom of the seventh and final inning, the Longhorns had a player in scoring position with two outs. The Badgers made a pitching change as Ryker Peterson had already put in an impressive performance, pitching 6.2 innings with 10 strikeouts. Jake Peterson took his place on the mound and — after a few high pitches and a strike call — made a precision throw to second base, sparking a rundown that led to the final out. 

Coach Bray celebrated with his players and then reflected on the season.

“The last three weeks I have probably seen more growth than I have seen in any group ever and that is what enabled us to be here. So what an opportunity and what a result,” he said.