Fielding miscues doom Craig baseball
The Cougars (1-3, 0-2 Big Eight) committed six errors—three during a deflating three-run fifth for the Lancers (2-2, 1-1)—and went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"Our fielding today was awful," Craig coach Victor Herbst said. "We can't kick the ball around like that and expect to win a Big Eight baseball game."
Sophomore right fielder Nate Ricci had three of La Follette's four RBIs, the first sparking a three-run second inning against Craig's junior starting pitcher, Cody Steed.
After La Follete starter Tyler Flood walked and moved up 180 feet on a passed ball and a productive groundout by Nick Anderson, the left-handed Ricci hit a high-hopper the other way. Shortstop Austin Geller ranged deep into the hole to his right, but had no play as Anderson scampered home.
An error allowed Ricci to score before Casey Seelow gave himself up in a double steal, allowing Taylor Carlson to swipe home.
In the top of the fourth, Ricci brought home Nick Anderson in more thunderous fashion, stroking a line drive that short-hopped the right-field fence.
"He gave me some pitches to hit," Ricci said. "The first pitch he threw was a fastball, and I just jumped all over it."
"That's a little bit of youth," Verhage said of Ricci, who played full-time varsity as a freshman. "It was a hit-and-run, and he smashed it off the fence. He has a great swing and the ball just sounds different coming off his bat. And he's got great work ethic, so there's nothing but great things in front of him."
Ricci came around to score again, giving his club a 5-1 lead. In the fifth, he followed an Anderson RBI single with one of his own and finished 3-for-4.
But those knocks were only of the run-producing variety because of back-to-back errors by the Cougars' corner infielders. Tyler Bloom relieved Steed after Ricci's hit gave the Lancers an 8-1 lead. The right-handed junior reliever retired the next two Lancers and five of the six batters he faced.
With one down in the bottom of the fifth, he singled deep into the hole wide of third and advanced on a throwing error by shortstop Jon Dybevik. But then Flood got the next two Cougars, first popping up Geller, Craig's leadoff hitter, before getting Perkins to roll out to short.
Christian DeCremer walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth and Charlie Miller popped off the bench to double into the left-center alley in the bottom of the ninth. But in both instances Lancer relievers squashed the rallies.
"We're putting the ball in play, but not doing it with a lot of authority on a consistent basis," Herbst said.
The only Cougars rally that came to any sort of fruition was in the third inning. Davis, in an 0-2 hole, hit a towering double over Anderson's head just right of dead center. After a Steed single through the right side put runners at the corners, Geller plated Davis to cut the deficit to 3-1 with a fielder's choice groundout to short.
The Cougars, who finished second to Middleton in the Big Eight at 13-5 last season en route to a WIAA Division 1 state tournament berth, opened play in their powerhouse conference with a loss on the road to Beloit Memorial last Thursday.
Herbst knows how important it is for his team to have off this Thursday before getting back after it in a doubleheader at Madison Memorial on Saturday.
"We've got three days to go back, work on some things and get mentally back to where we need to be," Herbst said.
MADISON LA FOLLETTE 8, JANESVILLE CRAIG 1
La Follette (ab-r-h-rbi)—Lefeber, 1b, 3-0-1-0; Grannis, 2b, 3-1-0-0; Dybevik, ss, 3-1-0-0; Flood, p/1b, 3-2-0-0; Anderson, cf, 3-1-1-1; Ricci, rf, 4-2-3-3; Carlson, 3b, 2-1-0-0; Seelow, 1b, 3-0-1-0; Thalacker, 3b, 3-0-0-0. Totals: 28-8-6-4.
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Geller, ss, 4-0-0-1; Perkins, 2b, 4-0-1-0; DeCremer, cf, 2-0-0-0; Phillips, 3b, 3-0-0-0; Spry, 1-0-0-0; Meyer, c, 1-0-0-0; Youcher, rf, 2-0-0-0; Splan, 1-0-0-0; Ausen, lf, 2-0-0-0; Miller, 1-0-1-0; Davis, 1b, 2-1-1-0; McCulloch, 1-0-0-0; Steed, p, 1-0-1-0; Bloom, p, 1-0-1-0; Iverson, 1-0-0-0. Totals: 27-1-5-1
La Follette 030 230 0—8
Craig 001 000 0—1
E— La Follette 3, Craig 6. LOB— La Follette 3, Craig 7. 2B—Miller, Davis. 3B—Ricci. SB—Carlson. CS—Seelow.