Janesville Craig baseball coach Victor Herbst got exactly what he wanted Saturday.
A quality win against a quality opponent.
Second-ranked Craig rallied from an early 2-0 deficit and pulled away for a 6-2 nonconference win over third-ranked Waunakee at Riverside Park.
Tressin Kussmaul drove in two runs and Eric Hughes had two doubles and an RBI to lead as the Cougars improved to 17-1.
“This was a playoff-type game against a very good opponent,” Herbst said. “These are the types of games you need to play at this point of the season, and getting a win makes it even better.
“The defense today was exceptional for both teams, and that’s what you’d expect. That’s a very good ball club we beat.”
Defending state champion Waunakee (14-5) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second before Craig answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame.
Clark Schmaling walked to start the inning and advanced to second on Ryan Herbst’s sacrifice bunt.
Jacob Hesseling’s RBI single scored Schmaling to make it 2-1 and a bases-loaded walk to Dan Blomgren tied the game at 2-2. Kussmaul’s sacrifice fly scored Hesseling to give the Cougars the lead for good at 3-2.
Craig made it 4-2 in the third on Kilen’s RBI single to right.
Kilen started the game, allowing two runs in two innings. Tegan Christiansen and Micah Overley followed in relief and did not allow a run in five innings of work.
Christiansen said his job on the mound is different than the rest of the pitching staff.
“I don’t throw as hard as everybody else, so I have to get my best pitch over for a strike, and that’s my curveball,” Christiansen said.
“Against a really good team like Waunakee, you have to throw strikes and get good defense behind you, and our defense was great today.”
Craig added two more runs in the sixth. Kussmaul’s second sacrifice fly of the game pushed the lead to 5-2 and Hughes’ RBI double capped off the scoring.
Craig, which is 14-0 in the Big Eight Conference, can clinch at least a share of the title Tuesday when it hosts second-place Madison West (11-3).
CRAIG 6, WAUNAKEE 2
Waunakee 020 000 0—2 7 0
Janesville Craig 031 002 x—6 7 0
Jordan, Hough (3) and Stevens; Kilen, Christiansen (3), Overley (6) and Schmaling
Leading hitters—Hauser (W) 2x3, Hughes (C) 2x4, Kilen (C) 2x2. 2B—Hauser, Feeger (W), Hughes 2.
SO—Hough 1, Kilen 1, Christiansen 1, Overley 3. BB—Jordan 5, Hough 2, Christiansen 1, Overley 1