Stevens Point Sixers hold on to beat Plover
The Stevens Point Sixers American Legion baseball team held
off a late rally to snap their losing streak against the crosstown rival Plover
Black Sox at Memorial Park in Plover Tuesday, June 21.
The Sixers scored three runs in the top of the first inning
to take a 3-0 lead and carried a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning,
where the Black Sox had runners on second and third with one out.
However, Point relief pitcher Matt Helms was able to get a
pair of groundouts to close out a 5-4 win and end the Sixers’ 12-game losing
streak against Plover.
“It’s a lot of fun to be a part of these games, especially
when the outcome’s like this,” said Point manager Jason Rieck. “Point always
wants to beat Plover, and Plover always wants to beat Point.
“They’re good buddies with, and they know everybody on the
other team,” he said. “And you’re going to get everybody’s best every time you
“It’s kind of a common feeling this year, and it’s been
frustrating throughout the year, five losses by (a total of) five runs,” said
Plover manager Wayne Sankey. “It’s one hit, one play, maybe one pitch.
“But it’s obviously even more frustrating for us against Stevens Point,” he said.
Plover, which brought back four starters from last year’s
team that won its eighth consecutive Wisconsin Valley Legion League (WVLL)
Title, entered Tuesday night with a 4-4 record, while Point was 1-4 and looking
to beat the Black Sox for the first time since June 22, 2011.
The Sixers struck early against Plover starting pitcher Nick
Schroeder, as center fielder Gus Turner-Zick and right fielder Jake Dufresne
led off with back-to-back singles and second baseman Andy Tepp drew a walk,
while Turner-Zick scored on a wild pitch to give the Sixers a 1-0 lead.
After a sacrifice bunt from left fielder Nathan Olds, Point
followed with a RBI single from shortstop Ted Kearney and a sacrifice fly from
pitcher Joe Strigel to extend its lead to 3-0.
“That was huge,” said Rieck. “It puts pressure on them right
away, it lets us be in the driver’s seat, and I’m glad that we didn’t go quiet.
“But they came back,” he said. “They battled hard, and it
was a great game.”
Plover answered in the bottom of the second, as first
baseman D.J. Drohner had a one-out double, and Schroeder reached on a fielder’s
choice, and third baseman Evan Mallek and shortstop Derek Baumgartner came
through with back-to-back, two-out RBI singles to pull the team within 3-2.
It stayed that way until the top of the seventh inning, when
Turner-Zick had a one-out single and scored on a RBI double from Dufresne when
his fly ball to center field was lost in the lights to make it 4-2.
One out later, Olds delivered a RBI single to score Dufresne
and increase the lead to 5-2.
The Black Sox rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning, as
second baseman Johl Turzinski drew a one-out walk, and catcher Keegan Johnston
reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two outs.
Left fielder Brandon Patoka and Drohner came through with
back-to-back RBI singles to make it 5-4 with runners on first and second, when
Strigel recorded his eighth strikeout of the night to end the threat.
It remained 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth, where
Mallek led off with a single to bring Helms out of the bullpen and end the
night for Strigel, while Baumgartner reached on an error to give Plover runners
on first and second with nobody out.
“I felt like I was going to throw up,” said Strigel of
watching from the dugout. “I was told if I let one runner on, I was out, and
then I let Mallek get a hit, so I knew it was coming.
“But it was really nervous for me,” he said.
A sacrifice bunt from center fielder Jamison Kryshak put
runners on second and third with one out, but Helms fielded a comebacker from
Turzinski and looked the runners back and threw to first for the second out.
Helms then coaxed a groundout from Plover right fielder Matt
McHugh to Olds at first base, as he stepped on the bag at first to seal the
Sixers’ 5-4 win.
“It’s been a while, so it feels really good,” said Strigel.
“Last year we didn’t really compete that great with them, so it feels good to
really beat them.”
“It’s not a different story for us this year,” said Sankey.
“We’ve always put a guy on base, a tying run on second base, in scoring
position, or the winning run in scoring position, in the last inning.
“We just have not come through with the big hit,” he said.
Dufresne was 3-for-4 with a double, Kearney was 2-for-3, and
Turner-Zick went 2-for-5 for the Sixers. Helms picked up the save, and Strigel
struck out eight, walked five and allowed seven hits in eight innings of work
to record the win for the Sixers.
“That’s everything that you want it to be,” said Rieck.
“Plover versus Point, it comes down to the last inning like that.
“Schroeder and Joe pitched their hearts out, and it shows
them why they were SPASH’s best this year,” he said. “And for both of them to
go almost the distance, it’s pretty impressive.”
Drohner went 2-for-4 with a double, Patoka was 2-for-3, and
Mallek went 2-for-4 for the Black Sox, while Schroeder took the loss after he
struck out three, walked four and allowed nine hits over 8 and 2/3 innings.
“We didn’t make plays,” said Sankey. “The guys know it, and it’s
not from a lack of effort.
“They’re coming out, wanting to do the extra effort to win,”
he said. “But it’s just not happening for us right now.”
Plover was set to play at Merrill Wednesday, June 22, and
then will compete in the Steve Seymour Memorial Tournament in Sheboygan
Thursday through Sunday, June 23-26.
“We’ve got to come out and try to take care of business
against Merrill,” said Sankey. “We’ve got to find a way to score that extra
run, make that extra play, make that extra pitch.
“And I think it’s going to happen,” he said. “I don’t think
we can go this long with not making that extra play.”
The Sixers are set to play at D.C. Everest at 7 p.m.
Thursday, June 23, and then host a doubleheader against Wittenberg at Bukolt
Park at 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 27, and a WVLL matchup
against Marshfield at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, before they host the Ed
Kardach Firecracker Classic Friday through Monday, July 1-4.
“We’ve got to take this into the rest of the season,” said
Strigel. “We’re going to play them a few more times, so we’ll have to carry it
“This is the first time we’ve had our entire team here
together, we’ve been missing four or five guys each game, and finally having a
full team is really nice in a league game like this,” said Rieck. “We hit the
ball well, we didn’t have many strikeouts, and we put the ball in play.
“And if we keep playing like this, good things will happen,”