Sun Prairie baseball outlasts Craig after wild first inning

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Eric Schmoldt
Friday, April 18, 2014

JANESVILLE--The first inning at Riverside Park on Thursday featured seven runs, four pitchers, three hits, five walks, a hit batter, four stolen bases, a balk, a double play, an error and an ejected manager.

After that, an old-fashioned Big Eight baseball game broke out.

Sun Prairie reliever Mitch Keel threw 6 1/3 shutout innings, and the Cardinals bounced back to beat Janesville Craig, 7-4.

“We came out of the gates and spotted them three runs, and that wasn’t a good start,” Craig coach Vic Herbst said. “I’ll give us some credit, because we came back and dropped four on them to keep us in the game.

“But when you play teams like this, the team that gets beat is the team that beats themselves. Defensively, we had some lapses.”

Craig fell to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big Eight. Sun Prairie, the top ranked Division 1 team in the state, remained unbeaten, but it needed to escape the wild first inning to get there.

The Cardinals put up three unearned runs to start the game. Conner Funnell scored when Craig committed the first of its three errors with two outs in the top of the first. Sophomore JP Curran made the Cougars pay even further with a two-run single.

Craig stormed back when Sun Prairie couldn’t find a pitcher to throw strikes. It’s ace, Sam Lund, was dealing with a shoulder injury and lasted just two-plus batters before Rob Hamilton pulled him to avoid risking further damage.

Still, the Cougars continued to pile up walks. They had four of them after senior center fielder Wyatt Olson’s leadoff single, and they scored on a balk, a hit batter, a wild pitch and a walk.

Keel, a senior, came on to get the final out of the inning and then settled in from there.

“We always have him as a closer-type guy, because as a senior, he comes in and fills the strike zone up,” said Sun Prairie coach Rob Hamilton, who saw the early exit from the game. “Mitch came in and just threw beautifully.”

Keel allowed just four baserunners the rest of the way. He struck out five batters and walked just one—an intentional pass.

“He’s a change-of-pace guy, and he kept us off balance,” Herbst said. “But we have to make adjustments as hitters and get better swings. We were going to face their No. 1 guy, and he was hurt, and we had a chance to stick one to them.

“We let one get away from ourselves.”

Sun Prairie manufactured a run to tie the game in the second inning.

The Cardinals didn’t regain the lead until the sixth, when senior Justin Krebs hit a two-out, run-scoring double to right field. They got two more in the seventh on four singles and an error.

“To come down here and get a win is always good,” Hamilton said. “It’s always tough, whether it’s Craig or Parker. It’s a tough place to play, and these guys sure battled today.”

Craig will host Beloit Memorial at 11 a.m. Saturday at Riverside.

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