Janesville Craig’s batters do not like to waste any time.
In 63 percent of the Cougars’ baseball games this season, they have scored at least one run in the first inning.
Their latest pounce came Tuesday. Dan Blomgren led off the bottom of the first with a triple, sparking a five-run rally that led No. 1-ranked Craig to a 9-0 victory over second-place Madison West in a Big Eight Conference game.
The Cougars put the bow on a conference title by improving to 15-0 in league play and 18-1 overall.
“I’m just trying to get on,” said Blomgren, a senior shortstop who went 3-for-3 with three runs scored. “I just want to get on for my team, because I know the next guys will step up and get big hits.”
It was the 12th time this season Craig has scored in the first inning.
Blomgren was immediately driven in on Tressin Kussmaul’s groundout, and the next three hitters all reached base, including senior catcher Clark Schmaling on an RBI double down the left-field line.
Senior Ryan Herbst delivered an RBI sacrifice bunt, and freshman Gavin Kilen followed with an RBI single.
He moved to third on Jacob Hesseling’s single and scored the final run of the inning when he stole home as Hesseling got caught in a rundown between second and third.
“They’re right in the hunt here, basically tied for second place, so to come out in the first and score five is really setting the tone,” Craig coach Victor Herbst said.
“We really executed well, from our running game to our bunting game to moving guys and getting clutch hits. A little bit of everything.”
That first-inning barrage was plenty of support for senior righty Mitchell Woelfle. He allowed four walks but surrendered just three hits in a complete-game victory. He struck out six and allowed just two runners to get to second base.
And as the Cougars’ hitters heated up quickly, so to did their defense. They turned a pair of double plays to get Woelfle out of the first two innings, and junior Eric Hughes made a highlight-reel catch in center field to open the fourth, ranging to his right and making a diving grab out of a full sprint.
“Eric’s catch took away a sure double,” Herbst said. “Diving to his hand side, laying out, that’s just outstanding. That’ll be fun to watch that play on video.”
Kilen drove in another run with a two-out single in the third and finished 2-for-4. Blomgren, who finished a homer from the cycle, singled and scored on Hughes’ single in the fourth. And the Cougars got an RBI double from Kussmaul and RBI groundout from Hughes in the sixth.
Craig, which moved up one spot to return to the No. 1 ranking in Division 1 this week, travels to West for a rematch Thursday.
“We’re rolling right now,” Blomgren said. “Everyone just needs to do their jobs every game and come out and play like we usually have been and we’ll be fine.”
At this point, the norm is scoring right away in the first inning. And it’s no surprise that’s led to a title-winning season.
CRAIG 9, WEST 0
West (ab-r-h-rbi)—Baldwin, c, 3-0-1-0; Frehner, ss, 2-0-0-0; Justin Grosse, 2b-1b, 3-0-0-0; Treichel, 3b, 3-0-0-0; Pitsch, rf, 2-0-0-0; Jacome, dh, 2-0-0-0; Burgess, p, 0-0-0-0; MacKay, p, 0-0-0-0; Callahan, cf, 3-0-1-0; Rosenberg, 1b, 1-0-1-0; Robbins, 2b, 0-0-0-0; Hanson, lf, 2-0-0-0. Totals: 21-0-3-0.
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Blomgren, ss, 3-3-3-0; Kussmaul, lf, 3-0-1-2; Overley, 1b, 3-1-0-0; Hughes, cf, 3-2-2-2; Schmaling, c, 2-1-2-1; Herbst, dh, 2-0-0-1; Woelfle, p, 0-0-0-0; Kilen, 3b, 4-1-2-2; Hesseling, 2b, 3-0-1-0; Hageman, 2b, 0-0-0-0; Christiansen, rf, 2-1-0-0. Totals: 25-9-11-8.
Madison West 000 000 0—0
Janesville Craig 501 102 x—9
E—West 1, Craig 0. LOB—West 4, Craig 7. DP—Craig 2. 2B—Blomgren, Kussmaul, Schmaling 2. 3B—Blomgren. SAC—Schmaling, Herbst. SB—Overley, Hughes, Kilen.
West IP H R ER BB SO
Burgess 4 10 7 6 2 0
MacKay 2 1 2 2 2 3
Craig IP H R ER BB SO
Woelfle (W) 7 3 0 0 4 6