Plover shuts out Point in series opener
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The Plover Black Sox American Legion Baseball team took control early to beat the rival Stevens Point Sixers in their first meeting this season at Bukolt Park Tuesday, June 18.
Plover pitcher and NCAA Division 1 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit Logan Schulfer allowed three hits over six shutout innings and first baseman Jack Kelly went 3-for-3 to lead the offense, as the Black Sox (10-2) scored three runs in the top of the third inning to get out to a 4-0 lead on the way to a 6-0 win over Point (3-2).
“Our guys came out ready to go,” said Plover manager Wayne Sankey. “With our schedule, playing 11 games already this year, there’s no doubt they were ready to go, and getting that first run early was nice.”
“I was actually pleased with the way the boys played,” said first-year Point manger Pat Perner. “The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but this was our first game in five days, so we’re just kind of getting back in the groove of some things, where we faced a hot Plover team coming off a weekend tournament, and we knew that they’ve got 12 games, and this is only our fifth game.”
Point and Plover each won at home last year to split their regular-season series, before the Black Sox ended the Sixers’ season with a 7-1 win in the Regionals, on the way to a trip to the AAA State Tournament.
The two teams met for the first time this season Tuesday night, and Plover struck early, as catcher Derek Baumgartner singled with one out in the top of the first inning off Point starter JD Schultz, and then came around to score on a RBI single from Kelly to give the team a 1-0 lead.
“They’ve got a good pitcher on the mound, and to get up on him early, that’s huge,” said Baumgartner. “We’ve got to make sure we’re scoring runs, and to get a 1-0 lead in the first inning, that’s big, their morale is down right there.”
The Black Sox carried their 1-0 lead into the top of the third inning, where they used a single from second baseman Kaden Roberts, a walk from Baumgartner and a single from shortstop Brett Ehr to load the bases with one out.
Kelly followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to score Roberts and make it 2-0, while Baumgartner scored on an error when Ehr avoided a tag on a groundball to third base to go up 3-0, and Schulfer came through with a RBI single to increase the lead to 4-0.
“To be able to build on what we had early and get that lead, where if something happens when we make a mistake defensively, it’s nice to have that,” said Sankey. “But the biggest thing for us is, our defense hasn’t been the best this year, but today we really came and played well defensively.”
The Sixers looked to rally in the bottom of the third, as center fielder Brady Franz had an infield single with one out for the team’s first hit of the game, and first baseman Isaac Perner was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out.
However, Franz was thrown out by Baumgartner trying to advance to third on a pitch in the dirt, and Schulfer got a groundout to Ehr at shortstop to end the threat.
Point didn’t have a runner advance past first base again until the bottom of the sixth inning, where Isaac Perner led off with a single and catcher Jacob Danielsen had a one-out single to put runners on first and second, before Schulfer got back-to-back groundouts to Ehr at shortstop to send the Black Sox into the top of the seventh inning with a 4-0 lead.
“I wouldn’t say it was one of my best nights, but the defense and the offense really picked me up,” said Schulfer. “My fastball wasn’t really working tonight, but the defense really stepped up and helped me win this game.”
Plover loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh inning against Point reliever Austin Frafjord, when Kelly scored on a wild pitch and center fielder Cam Stampfl drew a bases-loaded walk to push the lead to 6-0.
Dylan Davis came on in the seventh for the Black Sox and struck out the first two batters he faced, before he got a groundout to Ehr to close out the 6-0 win for Plover, which remained unbeaten in the Wisconsin Valley Legion League at 3-0, while Point dropped to 1-2.
“Obviously we circle these games right away when the schedule comes out and we want to win these games,” said Sankey of the rivalry with Point. “But at the end of the day, these are just as important as any other of our conference games if we want to be on the top at the end of the year.”
“We’ve got some things to work on, clean up some things on the infield,” said Pat Perner. “But overall this is kind of a warm-up for us, and now we get going to the heart of our season.”
Kelly went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI, Roberts was 2-for-3 with a double, and Baumgartner scored two runs to lead the Plover offense, while Schulfer struck out six, walked two and allowed three hits over six shutout innings for the win.
“Logan was pumped up for this game, being a young kid, wanting to get the big game of the year at their park,” said Sankey. “He did a nice job of throwing hard and keeping them off-balance a little bit.
“But I think they couldn’t catch up to his hard stuff,” he said.
Schultz took the loss after he allowed two earned runs on seven hits, struck out seven and walked three over six innings, while Franz, Isaac Perner and Danielsen each had a single to account for Point’s three hits.
“JD pitched a good game,” said Isaac Perner. “We just need to give him a little more help in the field and get the bats going.”
The Sixers were scheduled to host Wisconsin Rapids Wednesday, June 19, and play at Antigo Thursday, June 20, before they play in the Wisconsin Rapids Tournament at Witter Field Saturday and Sunday, June 21 and 22.
“We haven’t had (many) games recently,” said Schultz. “So we’re still trying to figure out our kinks and mingle together as a team.”
“We’re really just looking to bounce back from this loss here and just get the season going,” said Isaac Perner. “Get on a good track here, and hopefully make some noise later on.”
Meanwhile, Plover was scheduled to host Marshfield Wednesday, June 19, and Wausau Thursday, June 20, before it takes on Rock County in a doubleheader at Janesville Saturday, June 22.
The Black Sox will then host defending AAA State Champion Sheboygan in a doubleheader at Memorial Park at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 23, before returning to WVLL play at home against Wisconsin Rapids at 7 p.m. Monday, June 24.
“Take it one day at a time, that’s what we’ve got to do right now,” said Baumgartner. “We’re looking good, but we’ve got to clean up some stuff on the defense though, that’s our biggest thing right now.”
“We’re in every game we’ve played, obviously being 10-2 right now, but I think we still have another level that we can get to,” said Sankey. “And I have confidence in the guys that they’ll get there.
“But obviously we play a lot of games, and it will take a little bit of time, too,” he said.