Plover holds off Point to remain unbeaten in WVLL
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The Plover Black Sox American Legion Baseball team got out to an early lead and held off a late rally to beat the rival Stevens Point Sixers at Memorial Park in Plover Tuesday, June 19.
The Black Sox built a 5-0 lead behind five shutout innings from starting pitcher Logan Schulfer, while Point (1-3, 1-2) rallied late to put the tying run on base, before Plover (10-4) closed out a 6-3 win to improve to 5-0 in the Wisconsin Valley Legion League (WVLL).
“The guys played well, and as a team,” said Plover manager Wayne Sankey. “We played 13 games in nine days, and our guys had a day off, and they just came out ready to play.
“This was a big game for them, they want to prove that we’re the team to beat in the Valley,” he said.
“(Our offense) just needs to start earlier,” said Point assistant coach Nathan Olds, who guided the Sixers Tuesday night with manager Caleb Bembenek out of town on vacation. “We haven’t played a lot recently, we had a couple of rainouts, so we’ve had a week off, and in that time, you can kind of lose your groove.
“So I’m not worried about this at all,” he said. “We’re going to come back, and later in the season we face them a couple of more times.”
Plover had won 14 of the last 16 meetings between the two teams, before Point won the last two games against the Black Sox last year, when Nate Helms got the start on the mound for the Sixers in a 5-1 win at Plover and in an 8-7 win at Plover in the AAA Regional Tournament.
Helms started on the hill for Point again Tuesday night, as Plover third baseman Cam Stampfl led of the bottom of the first inning with a single and advanced to third when shortstop Brett Ehr reached on an error, then scored on a balk to give the Black Sox a 1-0 lead.
Ehr was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch later in the inning, but first baseman Jack Kelly and center fielder Mason King added RBI singles to increase Plover’s lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the first.
“It really killed their morale a little bit,” said Plover catcher Derek Baumgartner. “This game, especially with the rivalry, is just an intense game.
“And for us to get out 3-0 is huge, just to kind of settle us in a little bit,” he said.
The Black Sox struck again in the bottom of the second, as Stampfl and Ehr had back-to-back two-out singles, and Baumgartner followed with a RBI double to score Stampfl and push the lead to 4-0.
Meanwhile, the 15-year old Schulfer made his first start on the mound in the rivalry and allowed only one hit through the first four innings, as he worked around a leadoff single from Point left fielder Legend Kieliszewski and a one-out hit batter to leave runners stranded on the corners in the top of the third inning.
Point threatened again in the top of the fifth inning, as Kieliszewski walked with one out, shortstop Zach Zimmerman drew a two-out walk and first baseman Isaac Perner had an infield single to load the bases, before Schulfer recorded his fourth strikeout of the night to escape the jam and preserve the 4-0 lead.
“I can’t say enough about him,” said Sankey of Schulfer. “He did walk a couple of guys and hit a couple of guys, but man he came back with big strikeouts and made some big pitches.
“He was fun to watch today,” he said.
Plover struck again in the bottom of the fifth, as Baumgartner had a one-out double and advanced to third when Kelly reached on a dropped third strike, then scored on a one-out balk from Helms to give the team a 5-0 lead.
Point rallied in the top of the sixth inning, as second baseman Justin Morton walked with one out and right fielder JD Schultz and catcher Jacob Danielson followed with back-to-back infield singles to load the bases, when Kaden Roberts came on to pitch for the Black Sox.
Kieliszewski drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-1 with one out, and center fielder Brady Franz followed with a drive over the head of Plover right fielder Tristan Aldrich that went to the fence.
Schultz and Danielson came around to score on the play to make it 5-3, but Ehr took the relay throw from Aldrich and fired home to Baumgartner, who tagged a diving Kieliszewski on a bang-bang play at the plate, and Kieliszewski was called out on the two-run double from Franz.
“I tagged him pretty far away from the plate, so I don’t think he was even close,” said Baumgartner. “But it’s just one of those plays that makes a game intense.
“And you can see where it goes either way, but I’m glad we got it,” he said.
“A close play at the plate, that just kind of killed a little bit of that momentum there at the end,” said Olds. “A tough play, the throw from right field, the second baseman didn’t quite get it, and so I sent the runner late.
“Nothing you can do on that one, it’s up to the ump at that point on the slide,” he said. “But we came out well after that and we got the next hitter that was up on base, and again, we just couldn’t get that extra clutch hit after that.”
Following a two-out walk to Zimmerman that put the tying runner on first base, Dylan Davis came on to pitch for Plover and got a pop-up behind the plate to end the top of the sixth inning with runners stranded on first and second base.
Second baseman Michael Glodosky and left fielder Mitch Bignell led off the bottom of the sixth inning for Plover with back-to-back singles off reliever Brennan Mueller, and Glodosky came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Stampfl to increase the lead to 6-3.
Morton had a two-out double in the top of the seventh inning for Point, but Davis got a fly out to King in center field for the final out to close Plover’s 6-3 victory.
Baumgartner went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two runs scored, and Stampfl was 2-for-3 with two runs scored to lead an 11-hit attack for the Black Sox. Schulfer earned the win after he allowed two earned runs on three hits, walked five and struck out five in five and 1/3 innings, while Davis recorded the save after he allowed one hit, struck out none and walked none in the final one and 1/3 innings.
Helms took the loss after he allowed four earned runs on nine hits, struck out three and walked none in five innings, while Franz was 1-for-2 with a double and two RBI, and Morton had a double to lead a six-hit effort for Point.
“I felt they just hit the ball,” said Olds of Plover. “They had the balls roll their way, where we didn’t quite.
“But that’s baseball,” he said.
The Sixers were scheduled for road games at reigning Regional Champion Wausau Wednesday, June 20, Wisconsin Rapids Thursday, June 21, and Merrill Monday, June 25, before they’re home against D.C. Everest at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 26.
Point will then host the Ed Kardach Firecracker Classic at Bukolt Park Thursday, June 28, through Sunday, July 1.
“We see and we talked about, ‘we’ve got to start sooner,’” said Olds. “Sometimes our reputation here for the last couple of years is, ‘we can’t finish,” and I think tonight it was, ‘we can’t start right away.’
“So opposite problem, and something that we’re going to have to iron out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Plover was set to play at reigning AA State Runner-up Antigo Wednesday, June 20, and host Wausau at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 21, before a pair of games at Memorial Park Saturday, June 23, as the Black Sox are set to face the Green Bay Shockers at 11 a.m. and defending AAA State Champion Eau Claire at 4 p.m.
“Going to Antigo is not easy, and we’ve got Wausau on Thursday, and those are games that will test us,” said Sankey. “And I do like the schedule like that, playing all of the games that we play, because in the Regional, you play back-to-back days too.”
“We’re playing really well,” said Baumgartner. “We’ve got some big tests this week, but we’re playing hard, we’re playing together and it’s been fun.
“This is a big win, and we’re going to try and keep it going,” he said.