Janesville Craig baseball coach Victor Herbst knew the dangers of opening up WIAA Division 1 tournament play against Beloit Memorial on Tuesday.
The Cougars—the No. 2 seed—had defeated the Purple Knights 10-3 and 11-2 during the regular season. Craig was 13-8 while the Purple Knights came into the regional semifinal with a 0-19 record.
The Cougars had to sweat much more than they wanted.
Jack Ryan came on to get the final out with the go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the seventh, and the Cougars left Riverside Park grateful for the 5-3 victory.
The Cougars, now 14-8, play No. 3 seed Mukwonago on Thursday at Riverside in the regional title game.
“It was a classic high school playoff game when during the regular season you handle a team pretty easily,” Herbst said. “But when it comes to the playoffs, you can’t think like that.”
Herbst stressed that to the team, but the Purple Knights took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with an unearned run.
The Cougars tied it in the bottom of the inning when Jake Schaffner singled, went to third on two wild pitches and came home on Jack Adams’ flair double to left.
The Purple Knights came back in the top of the second to take a 2-1 lead. Once again the run was unearned.
The Purple Knights’ lead stood until the bottom of the fourth.
Isaac Stried singled up the middle. Devin Gudenschwager pinch ran for him. Gudenschwager stole second and third and trotted home when the catcher’s throw sailed into left field on his steal of third.
With two outs, Ryan walked and stole second. Pinch hitter Jack Nickols had an infield single. Pinch runner Denver Hughes and Ryan then pulled off a double steal with Ryan scoring from third.
“At the end of the day in the playoffs, you just want to get the ‘W’” Herbst said. “We continue to play.”
CRAIG 5, BELOIT 3
Beloit 110 000 1—3 7 3
Craig 100 220 x—5 7 3
Mechanic, Stuessy (6) and Raisbeck; Schmitz, Schork (5), Ryan (7) and Udelhofen.
Leading hitters—Raisbeck (BM) 3x3, Carroll (BM) 2x4, Schaffner (JC) 2x2, I. Stried (JC) 2x3. 2B—Schaffner (JC), Adams (JC).
SO—Mechanic (BM) 6, Schmitz (JC) 3, Schork (JC) 5, Ryan (JC) 1. BB—Mechanic 2, Schmitz 2, Schork 2.