Miscues cost Janesville Cougars
Oops, oops, oops.
Oops, oops, oops, oops, oops.
That about describes Janesville Craig’s experience in the WIAA Division 1 state baseball tournament here Tuesday afternoon.
Craig High committed nine errors that led to six unearned runs in a 9-3 quarterfinal loss to Big Eight Conference rival Middleton.
The consensus afterward was the Cougars played their worst game of the season defensively on the biggest stage.
“I don’t care who you’re playing,” said Craig coach Victor Herbst. “When you make that many errors, you aren’t giving yourself a chance to win.”
The Cougars didn’t have a lot of margin for error to begin with. Middleton ace Shane Adler (8-0, 1.06 ERA) was the starter, and he had a 2-0 lead before he threw a pitch.
Craig starter Brett Fredricks immediately was in trouble when he walked the first batter of the game, Brooks Braga. The Middleton third baseman took off for second on the first pitch to Garrett Novinski.
Catcher Charlie Meyer’s throw to second bounced past shortstop Zach Bayreuther into short left-center, and Braga went to third.
Novinski then hit a foul pop up the chute, which fell harmlessly into the left-handed batter’s box with three Cougars looking on.
Fredricks then struck out Novinski and Derek Layton swinging, giving the Cougars a chance to escape the inning unharmed. Adler was walked, and he stole second.
Romie Ripp then came through with a solid single to right-center field, putting Middleton up 2-0.
The Cougars came back after two were out in their half of the inning. Christian DeCremer walked, then took off for second on a pitch to Zach Whalen. The senior third baseman rapped the pitch into left center. Ripp, the left fielder, threw late to third in an attempt to get DeCremer, and the throw bounced off third baseman Braga and into foul territory.
Braga scrambled after the ball, and DeCremer took off for home. Braga’s high throw to catcher Kevin Drunansky was on the third-base side of home plate, and DeCremer appeared to get his hand down on the plate as Drunansky swiped at him.
However, the plate umpire called DeCremer out, much to the junior center fielder’s dismay.
“I was safe,” DeCremer said. “He never tagged me.”
The inning-ending call turned out to be just a minor factor, but the Cougars still can wonder “What if?”
“It was close,” Herbst said. “If he’s called safe, then it’s 2-1, and we dented Shane in the first inning. Instead, they got out of that.”
From there, it went downhill quickly for Craig.
A dropped foul ball allowed Braga another chance, and he walked to start the third. Novinski was hit by a pitch, and Adler drove in Braga with the first of his two sacrifice flies.
Three hits, three errors and a walk produced Middleton’s killer four-run fourth inning, which was the end of Fredricks’ day on the mound. He gave up seven runs, but only one was earned, on four hits and four walks while striking out five.
Mike Davis allowed two earned runs on three hits in the fifth inning. Cody Steed held the Cardinals scoreless in the final two innings on two hits, a walk and a strikeout.
Middleton coach Tom Schmitt took Adler out after the fifth. Adler allowed the Cougars just three hits and walked one, while striking out six.
“Shane Adler is a great pitcher,” said Whalen.
The Cougars got to Middleton reliever Alec Tiedt for three runs on four hits and a walk over the final two innings.
Whalen drove in Fredricks with a single in the sixth. In the seventh, pinch-hitter Keith Wright walked and Derek Mussey singled. With pinch-hitter Tom McCulloch up, Tiedt threw a wild pitch, allowing Wright to score. McCulloch singled Mussey to third, where he scored on another wild pitch.
But Middleton’s generosity in that inning did not make up for Craig’s gifts to the Cardinals throughout the game.
“We were awful,” said Fredricks.
DeCremer, who will be one of the key Cougars coming back next season, handled five fly balls flawlessly. But he was about the only Craig player who escaped the errors list.
“You’re talking two pop-ups,” Herbst said. “A throwing error from a position to a close base. The thing is, we made those plays all year long, and that is why we did as well as we did.
“This is the first (state tournament) sniff these guys have had in a while, but to blame it on jitters and that, I don’t know.”
The Cougars finished 21-6-1 after taking second in the Big Eight and beating champion Middleton in the first of their three meetings this season.
“There was nobody that thought we would be here,” Herbst said. “I think we achieved beyond and above expectations. We’re not satisfied with this, but it is a big accomplishment to get to the state tournament.”
And even though he had a smile on his face, Whalen summed up the feelings of his teammates.
“It sucks to go like this because we killed ourselves,” said Whalen, who went 2-for-3. “You take the nine errors off the board, and it’s 5-3 or something that you can handle.”
Whalen was reminded of his two hits and his RBI.
“But I also made two of our nine errors,” said Whalen, who is headed to play at UW-Whitewater. “So I helped, but I also did some bad.”
And that sums up the Cougars’ first experience here since 2001—some good, more bad.
MIDDLETON 9, CRAIG 3
Middleton (ab-r-h-rbi)—Braga, 3b, 2-3-1-2; Novinski, 2b, 3-0-1-2; Layton, cf, 5-0-0-0; Adler, p, 1-1-0-2; Tiedt, p, 1-0-0-0; Ripp, lf, 3-0-2-3; Lochner, ph, 0-0-0-0; K. Drunasky, c, 4-0-1-0; Meeteer, pr, 0-0-0-0; Chardon, pr-c, 0-0-0-0; Mathias, 1b, 3-1-2-0; Zimmerman, pr, 0-1-0-0; N. Drunasky, ph-1b, 1-0-0-0; Martin, rf, 4-2-1-0; Gowan, ss, 3-1-1-0; Haack, ph, 1-0-0-0. Totals: 31-9-9-9.
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Bayreuther, ss, 2-0-0-0; McCulloch, ph, 1-0-1-0; B. Fredricks, p-2b, 3-1-0-0; Phillips, ph, 1-0-0-0; DeCremer, cf, 3-0-1-0; Whalen, 3b, 3-0-2-1; Grall, 1b, 3-0-1-0; Geller, 2b, 1-0-0-0; Davis, p, 0-0-0-0; Weber, ph-rf, 1-0-0-0; Steed, p, 1-0-0-0; Henning, dh, 2-0-0-0; Meyer, c, 1-0-0-0; Mussey, ph-c, 2-1-2-0; Graves, pr, 0-0-0-0; Olin, lf, 2-0-0-0; A. Fredricks, ph, 1-0-0-0; Wright, rf-ph, 0-1-0-0. Totals: 27-3-7-1.
Middleton 201 420 0—9
Janesville Craig 000 001 2—3
E—Middleton 0, Craig 9. LOB—Middleton 10, Craig 6. 2—Martin. SF—Braga, Adler 2. SB—Braga, Novinski, Adler.
IP H R ER BB SO
Adler (W) 5 3 0 0 1 6
Tiedt 2 4 3 3 1 1
B. Fredricks (L) 4 4 7 1 4 5
Davis 1 3 2 2 0 1
Steed 2 2 0 0 1 1