Schmoldt: Janesville 15Us refuse to quit
Janesville’s 15U tournament baseball team never says die.
Not when it’s down to it’s last out. Not when it’s down to its last strike. Not even with an entire season on the line.
The local team proved that Sunday.
Six times Janesville had an at-bat where an out would have meant its season was over in the Ohio Valley Regional championship game. Twice, the team was down to its final strike.
But a seventh-inning rally forced extra innings, and a three-run surge with two down in the bottom of the eighth lifted Janesville to a 5-4 victory over Guernsey Valley, Illinois, in Crown Point, Indiana. The victory gave the group its third straight regional title and berth into the Babe Ruth League World Series.
“This is my 33rd year of coaching, and I’ve never coached a game that had the twists and turns this one had,” Janesville coach Tom Davey said.
Technological issues prevented full details from Sunday’s game from making it into Monday’s edition of The Gazette. A day later, and likely even a year from now, the Janesville team’s resiliency remains mind-boggling.
The local team trailed 1-0 after the top of the second inning but tied the game briefly when Dalton Madsen doubled and later scored on Clark Schmaling’s groundout in the fourth. Guernsey regained the lead, 2-1, in the top of the sixth.
That score held up until there were two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Micah Overley had led off the inning with a single but remained at first after a flyout and strikeout. Janesville took a risk, and Overley stole second. Dawson Draves then fell behind in the count, 1-2, so Janesville was down to its last strike. But Draves ripped a single down the left-field line to score Overley and force extra innings.
The tie game didn’t last long. Guernsey’s first batter in the eighth drilled a home run to make it 3-2. With one out, Guernsey homered again, making it 4-2.
Things could have been worse, but Eric Hughes, who started on the mound and pitched 7 1/3 effective innings, ran down a fly ball in center field to end the inning, stranding a runner on second.
Still, the scenario was bleak. Janesville trailed 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, and then its first two batters were retired. Once again, they were down to the last out.
And then Kaleb Kinna fell behind in the count, 1-2. Once again, down to the last strike.
But Kinna lined the next pitch to left field. Hughes followed with a walk to put the tying run on base. And Madsen followed with a dribbler between first and second base. Guernsey’s first baseman tracked it down, but the pitcher, covering first, could not handle the toss, and Kinna scored all the way from second.
“Even with two outs, we knew if we could get one runner on, the way we’ve been hitting with two outs this whole season, we had a chance,” Davey said. “They had a chance to put us away on that infield groundout and failed to do it, and we made them pay for it.”
Janesville had runners on second and third with two outs, so Guernsey intentionally walked Overley. Schmaling stepped into the batter’s box and poked the first pitch he saw to right field for a two-run, walk-off single.
“It was crazy,” Davey said. “The gamut of emotions was so up and down. To go from being a strike away from elimination, season over, me never coaching them again, to winning the game—we’re talking a span of about seven minutes.
“It’s mind-boggling. But it goes to show you that’s why every out has to be recorded before a game is officially over.”
Preparations have already begun for the Aug. 10-17 World Series in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.
The team that never says die lives to play a few more weeks.
JANESVILLE 5, GUERNSEY VALLEY (ILL.) 4 (8)
Guernsey Valley 010 001 02—4 11 1
Janesville 000 100 13—5 5 1
Janesville pitching—Eric Hughes, 7.1 IP, 2 SO, 0 BB; Dalton Madsen 0.2 IP, 1 SO, 0 BB.
Last updated: 11:32 pm Monday, July 31, 2017