ONALASKA — Most coaches around the Coulee Conference are well aware of what Viroqua High School junior Mitch Stalsberg brings to the mound.
But he showed Monday what else he brings to the table. Or in this case, the plate.
Stalsberg used a third-inning grand slam to lift the Blackhawks to a 5-2 win over Onalaska Luther.
The victory gives Viroqua a share of the title after Arcadia defeated West Salem 4-2 in Arcadia Monday. It’s the second consecutive title for Viroqua after not winning one since 2007.
“We had a lot of first-year varsity players this season, but they’re starting to play baseball,” Viroqua coach Pete Swanson said. “It took us a while, but we’ve finally got the team thing going now.”
The Blackhawks (13-6, 5-1) combined for 13 hits, and Stalsberg struck out 14 in his complete-game victory.
“At the beginning of the season, we didn’t really have anything in place,” Stalsberg said. “We were just playing.
“We’ve really come around. This last weekend we played really well (at the Viroqua Tournament). That was the first time all of us hit.”
Stalsberg (5-0) surrendered two unearned runs in the sixth inning, but he bounced back with two strikeouts and a groundout in the seventh.
“We knew we had a tough task tonight because he is one of the area’s best,” Knights coach Jon Bilitz said. “He’s got so many pitches, and he mixes them so well.”
Stalsberg, who didn’t pitch over the weekend at the Viroqua Tournament, took some time to settle in. He threw 22 pitches in the first inning — seven straight missed the strike zone at one point — but he was able to escape the inning unscathed with a pop fly and a strikeout.
Viroqua did most of its damage in the third inning, when Stalsberg took the first pitch he saw over the right-field fence to put the Blackhawks on top. Stalsberg, who is batting .394, went 2-for-4.
“I didn’t realize he was as good of a hitter as he was,” Bilitz said. “Not bad when you strike out 14 guys and hit the grand slam that wins the game.”
Luther (8-9, 3-3 Coulee) starting pitcher Mitch Beckendorf took the loss after going four innings and allowing four runs on nine hits.
Viroqua’s Joe Huber went 3-for-4 with a double, while Dustin Stalsberg and Tyler Gabrielson had two hits apiece for the Blackhawks.
Marshall Walters went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI to lead the Knights.
“As a team, they’re all hitting the ball better,” Swanson said of his Blackhawks. “They’re getting to a place where they’re having a real good team attitude, and it’s been fun to coach.”