Sixers take tough loss in American Legion regional opener
By Jacob Heid
PLOVER – Runs were hard to come by in the AAA American Legion opening regional game in Plover between the Stevens Point Sixers and Wisconsin Rapids Rangers on Jul. 19.
The pitching staff’s dueled it out for most of the game until a bases-loaded walk became the difference in a 1-0 Ranger victory.
Stevens Point only found two hits in the loss.
“It’s a good game. My kids had to have a strike but the umpire had it a ball so it’s a tough way to lose,” Manager Bobby Opiola said.
Only a few players touched the base pads early on. Josh Opiola got the start for Stevens Point, giving three innings of clean work.
Offensively, the Sixers had an opportunity to break the 0-0 tie in the third.
Braylon Smola forced a walk to open the inning. Tyler Giese sacrificed Smola over to second, and he later advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Another walk issued by the Rangers put runners on the corners for Point.
Nothing came of the threat as Jake Garth got caught stealing at second to end the inning.
Benett Klish came in for relief and pitched the fourth and fifth innings.
Rapids got a hold of the lead to break the scoreless tie in the fifth. A two-out, bases-loaded walk gave the Rangers a 1-0 advantage.
The Sixers’ next best opportunity to answer came in the top of the sixth.
Garth got into scoring position with a double out of the gate. A fly-out and strikeout quickly made it two outs.
Asher Jordan forced another walk, putting runners on first and second.
A pop-out by Peyton Flees ended another prime opportunity for Sixer runs.
Opiola (Bobby) talked about what the Sixers can improve on offensively as they head into an elimination game.
“Too many pop-ups. When you pop the ball up and make them easy plays,” he stated. “You’ve got to put pressure on the defense. Hit more ground balls, more hard balls, not just put the bat on the ball.”
Steven’s Point’s defense kept it within striking distance after a clean bottom of the sixth by Kyle Madlena on the mound.
“The pitching staff did great. My plan was to keep all my pitching available because we have to win four or five games, so I have all my pitchers available still for the tournament,” Opiola explained.
Stevens Point plays in an elimination game this afternoon, and there is still a chance to win the regional.
“I told the kids if we’re going to lose one of the two games, it doesn’t matter,” Opiola said. “We still have to win four or five games, so keep your heads up and let’s go get the next game.”
The Sixers face Marshfield at 1 p.m. this afternoon, Jul. 20, at Memorial Park in Plover.