Janesville Craig puts together winning recipe
The Cougars lost three of their last four league games and needed a boost in the win column with the sectional seeding meeting Sunday.
Craig hit the sweet spot with a five-run rally in the third inning to post a 5-0 victory over visiting Middleton. The Cougars swept the season series and relieved a lot of pressure.
The Cougars are 14-4 overall and 11-4 in the Big Eight and tied with Middleton for second place.
“We have not been playing our best baseball,” said Craig coach Victor Herbst. “We’ve been wishy-washy at the plate, our pitchers have been walking too many guys, and our defense has been average.’’
The Cougars remedied their shortcomings with timely defense, solid pitching and big inning.
“I told the guys our pitchers did an outstanding job, our defense was solid and put some balls in play and strung some hits together, and it’s 5-0,” Herbst said. “That was a solid win for our team and a great confidence builder. Going into the seeding meeting, it’s going to help solidify where we belong.’’
Craig had seven hits, including Nick Blomgren’s two-run double, and Nate Hoag’s two-run triple in the Cougars’ big third inning
Cougars’ starter Brandon Luebke held the Cardinals hitless through the first three innings, but threw eight straight balls to open the fourth. Herbst brought Troy Malmanger on in relief.
“We have decent pitching depth, that there was no need to have (Luebke) get into a bases- loaded situation and bring another guy in,” Herbst said of calling out Malmanger early.
Malmanger put three Cardinals down in order to pull the Cougars out of the two-on, no-out jam. Malmanger allowed four hits the rest of the way to complete the shutout.
“What a great job he did,” Herbst said. “He was around the plate and threw strikes.’’
Malmanger said he was happy to give Craig a chance to win.
“We definitely needed to get this one,” Malmanger said. “We lost (3-out-4). We needed a big confidence booster.’’
Malmanger said he fine-tuned his pitching Wednesday at practice.
“I made a couple adjustments in practice, and came out and did it,” Malmanger said. “It was successful for me.’’
In the field, Cameron Wright made a running catch of deep shot to center to end the first inning with a runner at second base, and Wyatt Olson thwarted another Middleton threat with a running catch to end the sixth inning with Cardinals runners on first and base.
“Wyatt Olson and Cameron (Wright) ran down two balls that were just missiles,” Herbst said. “They don’t catch those balls, and they are doubles for sure.’’
Malmanger started a double play in the fifth to end the inning after a one-out single and a nifty behind-the-back stab with his glove of comebacker to make the toss to first for the game’s final out with runners at first and second.
At the plate, Craig scored five runs on four hits, a walk, and a balk.
Brett Pickarts started Craig’s rally with a single to right that fell between Middleton’s second baseman, centerfielder and right fielder. Wright added an infield single that tightroped down the third baseline.
Blomgren delivered a two-run double after a run was balked home to give Craig a 3-0 lead. Hoag cracked a two-out, two-run triple to finish the rally and give Craig a 5-0 lead.
The Cougars play a nonconference doubleheader at Fort Atkinson at 10 a.m. Saturday.
CRAIG 5, MIDDLETON 0
Middleton (ab-r-h-rbi)—Schafer, 2b, 3-0-1-0; Kvistad, rf, 3-0-0-0; Haack, p, 3-0-0-0; T. Meinholz, dh, 2-0-0-0; D. Meinholz, lf, 2-0-1-0; Lochner, ss, 3-0-1-0; Adler, 1b, 3-0-0-0; Miller, 3b, 1-0-0-0; Marcos, ph, 1-0-0-0; Passini, cf, 2-0-0-0; Wadzinski, ph, 1-0-1-0. Totals: 27-0-4-0.
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Wright, cf, 2-1-1-0; Luebke, p, 2-0-1-0; Johns, cr. 0-1-0-0; Quinn, 2b, 3-0-0-0; Blomgren, ss, 3-1-2-2; Hoskins, 3b, 2-1-0-0; Hoag, dh, 3-0-1-2; Eichman, c, 0-0-0-0; Campbell, rf, 3-0-1-0; Pickarts, 1b, 1-0-1-0; Malmanger, p, 2-0-0-0; Olson, lf, 2-1-0-0. Totals: 23-5-7-4.
Middleton 000 000 0—0
Craig 005 000 x—5
DP—Craig. LOB—Middleton 6, Craig 3. 2B—Blomgren. 3B—Hoag.
Middleton IP H R ER BB SO
Haack 6 7 5 5 2 7
Luebke 3 0 0 0 4 1
Malmagner 4 4 0 0 2 1