Janesville Craig’s baseball team simply needed a few innings to get going Thursday night.
The first nine Cougars batters were retired in order, and starting pitcher Mitchell Woelfle needed 41 pitches to get through his first two innings.
Everyone settled in, though, for the final four innings. Woelfle went six strong, and his teammates used a slew of singles and sacrifices to pile up runs in a 10-1 victory over Middleton at Riverside Park.
Craig, ranked second in the state in Division 1, improved to 15-1 overall and 13-0 in the Big Eight Conference. Middleton fell to 10-6 and 8-6.
“It’s really good to see how this team can play when a game is on the line,” Cougars catcher Clark Schmaling said. “Those big pressure moments are good for our team, and I think that’s what is going to carry us.”
The Cougars were coming off a 5-4 victory at Middleton in eight innings Tuesday night.
It appeared another close game was in order after a few innings.
Middleton got on the scoreboard thanks to two singles, a walk and an error in the second inning. And the Cougars finally got their first hit and tied the game in the fourth, when Dan Blomgren singled, moved to third on Tressin Kussmaul’s double down the right-field line and scored on Micah Overley’s sacrifice fly.
“Our hitters took a while to get going,” Craig coach Victor Herbst said. “But (Matt) Ballweg, he’s a three- or four-pitch pitcher who throws his off-speed stuff for strikes. Early, we let a few too many fastballs go by ... but once we got going, we did a good job of putting pressure on their defense.”
That was evident in a three-run fifth inning. Schmaling and Ryan Herbst led off with back-to-back singles. Freshman Gavin Kilen then laid down a sacrifice bunt, and he reached and Schmaling scored on a throwing error down the right-field line.
Jacob Hesseling followed with an RBI groundout to make it 3-1. And Kilen scored on a safety squeeze bunt by Tegan Christiansen.
“We made them move, and when we had guys in motion and our bunting and running game got going, it started clicking,” Victor Herbst said.
Craig blew the game wide open in the bottom of the sixth. Kussmaul and Overley opened the inning with back-to-back singles and were sacrificed to second and third base, setting up Schmaling’s sharp, two-run single up the middle to make it 6-1.
Schmaling moved two second base on the throw home, stole third and then scored on Ryan Herbst’s sacrifice fly.
The Cougars tacked on three more insurance runs, which was plenty for Woelfle. He needed just 50 pitches in his final four innings and struck out seven while scattering six hits and two walks in the victory.
“Mitchell, in the first two innings, was just having one of those (tough) days,” Schmaling said. “But he really tuned in and focused.”
Eric Hughes threw a clean seventh to finish out the game.
Schmaling went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two drive in. Kussmaul also had two hits, while Christiansen drove in two runs and Kilen scored twice.
Craig hosts Madison East in a makeup game Friday evening at Riverside.
CRAIG 10, MIDDLETON 1
Middleton (ab-r-h-rbi)—Holewinski, cf, 3-0-0-0; Carrington, 2b, 4-0-1-0; Meinholz, 3b, 2-0-0-0; Collier, rf, 3-0-1-0; Hodgman, 1b, 2-0-0-0; Hellenbrand, ph, 1-0-0-0; Williams dh, 3-0-2-0; Ballweg, p, 0-0-0-0; Schultz, p, 0-0-0-0; Stumpf, lf, 3-1-0-0; Frusciante, pr, 0-0-0-0; Kalscheur, ss, 2-0-0-0; Lockwood, c, 3-0-2-0; Esser, cr, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 26-1-6-0.
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Blomgren, ss, 4-1-1-0; Kussmaul, lf, 3-1-2-0; Overley, 1b, 2-1-1-1; Hughes, cf-p, 2-0-0-0; Schmaling, c, 3-2-2-2; Herbst, dh, 2-0-1-1; Woelfle, p, 0-0-0-0; Hageman, pr, 0-1-0-0; Clark, rf, 0-0-0-0; Kilen, 3b, 2-2-1-0; Hesseling, 2b, 3-1-1-1; Christiansen, rf-cf, 3-1-1-2. Totals: 24-10-10-7.
Middleton 010 000 0—1
Janesville Craig 000 136 x—10
E—Middleton 2, Craig 1. LOB—Middleton 8, Craig 0. DP—Middleton. 2B—Kussmaul. SAC—Hughes, Kilen, Christiansen. SF—Overley, Herbst. SB—Schmaling, Kilen, Hesseling, Christiansen.
Middleton IP H R ER BB SO
Ballweg 5 2/3 9 8 6 0 3
Schultz 1/3 1 1 0 0 1
Craig IP H R ER BB SO
Woelfle (W) 6 6 1 0 2 7
Hughes 1 0 0 0 0 0