Janesville Craig survives close call
Craig High ran a high-intensity gauntlet Thursday to defeat Verona, 5-4, in 10 innings in a WIAA Division 1 regional baseball final at Riverside Park.
“A couple of times, we got ourselves in trouble, but we battle back,” Craig coach Victor Herbst said. “We showed a lot of guts to win this game.’’
Craig (20-6) plays Oconomowoc (15-11) at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Beloit’s Pohlman Field in a sectional semifinal. The winner plays the winner of the Milton vs. Madison
La Follette semifinal for a berth in the WIAA state baseball tournament.
Nate Hoag, a junior, came through twice in the clutch for Craig, smacking the game-tying RBI with a two-out single in the sixth inning and ripping a single through the drawn up Verona infield with the bases loaded in the 10th to score freshman Nick Blomgren to end the two-hour thriller.
“I just wanted to get the ball in play,” said Hoag. “I knew I needed to get on base.’’
Blomgren reached on a leadoff infield single to deep short and stole second. Verona intentionally walked Riley Quinn and Dylan Hoskins to set up a force-out situation, but Hoag hit a sharp grounder between first and second.
The winning hit concluded the biggest day of Hoag’s high school career.
“Nate Hoag was huge today,” Herbst said. “He gave us the big clutch hit twice.’’
The Cougars had the winning run in scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but only Hoag could seal the deal.
“We said that we had to find someone to step up,” Herbst said. “We could not get the key hit.’’
Blomgren played a key role in the victory at the plate with a pair of hits and two runs scored, including the game-winner. He also pitched the final three innings in relief to earn the victory.
Taking the ball from reliever Troy Malmanger in the eighth inning, Blomgren survived a bases-loaded jam.
“I just got up in the zone,” said Blomgren, who issued two of his four walks in the eighth. Blomgren wiggled out of the mess with his lone strikeout.
At the plate, Blomgren opened the eighth and 10th innings with singles. In the eighth, Blomgren was left stranded at third, but Hoag drove him home in the 10th.
“It was awesome,” Blomgren said of scoring the winning run. “It’s the best feeling.’’
Blomgren and the Cougars might not have celebrated if not for Malmanger’s clutch 2 2/3 innings of relief pitching beginning in the fourth.
Verona touched Craig starter Colin Frey for a one-out RBI single in the fifth that gave the Wildcats a 4-3 lead. Malmanger came on with runners on second and third, but put the fire out with six pitches, coaxing two infield groundouts.
Malmanger was perfect in the sixth and seventh before turning the ball over to Blomgren.
“I just wanted to get the ball and do the job,” Malmanger said. “I wanted to help the team get out of a jam.’’
After Verona took a 1-0 lead on an RBI double in the first inning, Craig took a 3-1 lead, scoring three runs on three hits and an error in the second inning. Blomgren, Hoskins and Frey each singled. Verona tied it 3-3 in the third on two hits and an outfield error.
The Wildcats added an RBI single in the fifth, and a Verona error paved the way for Hoag’s RBI single to tie the game 4-4 in the sixth.
CRAIG 5, VERONA 4 (10)
Verona (ab-r-h-rbi)—Sharer, cf, 5-2-2-0; Lund, lf, 4-2-2-1; Ellis, dh, 3-0-1-1; Yapp, 3b, 5-0-1—1; Miller, 4-0-0-0; Witte, p, 3-0-0-0; Kopp, p, 0-0-0-0; Reichert, 1b, 4-0-0-0; Stone, 2b, 3-0-0-0; Moynihan, ph, 0-0-0-0; Drury, 5-0-1-0. Totals: 36-4-6-3.
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Wright, cf, 4-0-1-0; Luebke, 1b, 5-0-0-0; Hughes, dh, 5-0-0-0; Marro, c, 0-0-0-0; Blomgren, ss-p, 4-2-2-0; Quinn, 2b, 2-1-0-0; Hoskins, 3b-ss, 4-1-1-0; Hoag, lf, 5-1-2-2; Johns, cr-rf, 0-0-0-0; Campbell, rf, 2-0-0-0; Feggestad, lf, 1-0-0-0; Frey, p-3b, 2-0-1-1; Malmanger, p, 0-0-0-0; Olson, 1-0-0-0. Totals: 34-5-6-3.
Verona 102 010 000 0—4
Janesville Craig 030 001 000 1—5
E—Verona 3, Craig 1. LOB—Verona 10, Craig 8. 2B—Ellis. SAC—Verona 2, Craig 2. SB—Sharer, Wright, Blomgren 2.
IP H R ER BB SO
Witte 6 4 4 3 1 4
Kopp 4 2 1 1 3 2
IP H R ER BB SO
Frey 4 1-3 6 3 2 1 2
Malmanger 2 2-3 0 0 0 0 1
Blomgren 3 1 0 0 4 2