Sun Prairie edges Craig
SUN PRAIRIE Janesville Craig’s hopes for a Big Eight Conference baseball title took a significant hit with Saturday’s 3-2 loss to top-ranked Sun Prairie.
Despite the defeat, another gritty performance gave Craig coach Victor Herbst added confidence as his team heads down the regular-season stretch.
“You look as the season goes along, they probably swing it better than we do,” Herbst said of the Cardinals. “But I don’t know of anybody in our conference that has played them like we have for two games. We hung right in there with them.
“My kids, we’re not going to wow you but we’ve played really good, solid baseball all season long. If we keep doing what we’re doing, hopefully we can make a run at it in the postseason at some point.”
Sun Prairie, which edged Craig, 6-5, in nine innings earlier this season, improved to 12-0 in the Big Eight and 16-1 overall.
The Cougars slipped to 10-2 and 12-3.
“It gives us a two-game lead,” said Sun Prairie coach Rob Hamilton. “One of our goals is to sweep everybody in the Big Eight. So now we’ve done that to three teams. We’ve got a few more to go, but it does give you a little bit of breathing room. It’s big.”
The Cardinals struck first, scoring a run in the opening inning when Craig’s No. 1 starter Brandon Hughes uncharacteristically walked four straight batters after two outs. Coyt Mayr’s bases-loaded walk forced in Tony Butler.
In the third, Sun Prairie scored two more runs to go ahead, 3-0.
Cardinals senior Nate Hoffmann pitched the entire way, striking out 10.
But it was his overthrow into left field trying to force out a runner at third on a bunt by Hughes that scored Brandon Luebke for Craig’s first run in the fourth. Nick Blomgren followed with a fielder’s choice to drive in Riley Quinn, bringing the Cougars within 3-2.
After that, Hoffmann settled down and faced the minimum six batters over the next two innings. He helped himself with a pickoff in the sixth after Luebke led off with a single. With Quinn up, Luebke was caught diving back to first.
Craig tried for a final rally in the seventh. Blomgren singled to lead off the inning. With two outs, Nate Hoag drew a walk before Hoffmann struck out Dalton Johns to end it.
Hughes worked 4 1/3 innings. Colin Frey came in to finish the fifth, and Blomgren pitched the final inning for Craig.
Frey struck out Hoffmann for the final out in the fifth with the bases loaded.
The Cougars allowed just two hits, but gave up seven walks and hit three batters.
“Obviously, we would like more hits,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got to credit Hughes and Frey and Blomgen. They all threw well. Just when you thought maybe we were going to break it open a little bit, they’d come back and get the big out they needed just like we were doing on our end.”
Herbst praised Hoffmann’s performance.
“Nate does a great job,” he said. “He was around the plate all day long. For a high school pitcher, he’s got an above-average curveball. When you can throw your off-speed stuff for a strike, that makes all the difference in the world. He’s a nice pitcher.”
Craig plays Wednesday at Beloit Memorial, then hosts Madison La Follete at 5 p.m. Thursday.
SUN PRAIRIE 3, CRAIG 2
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Wright, cf, 3-0-0-0; Luebke, p-1b, 2-1-1-0; Quinn, 2b, 3-1-0-0; Hughes, p-3b, 2-0-1-0; Blomgren, ss-p, 3-0-1-1; Hoskins, 3b-ss, 3-0-0-0; Campbell, dh, 2-0-0-0; Eichman, ph, 1-0-0-0; Hoag, lf, 2-0-0-0; Johns, rf, 3-0-0-0. Totals: 24-2-3-0.
Sun Prairie (ab-r-h-rbi)—Marchese, dh, 2-0-0-0; Krebs, ph, 1-0-0-0; Schmidt, 2b, 3-1-1-0; Butler, ss, 2-1-0-0; Fairchild, c, 3-0-0-0; Curran, rf, 1-0-0-1; Brink, pr, 0-0-0-0; Mayr, 1b, 1-0-1-1; Brekke, 3b, 3-0-0-0; Lund, 1-0-0-0; Hoffmann, p, 2-0-0-0. Totals: 19-3-2-2.
Craig 000 200 0—2
Sun Prairie 102 000 x—3
E—Craig 2, Sun Prairie 1. LOB—Craig 4, Sun Prairie 9. SAC—Curran, Hoffmann. SB—Blomgren. 2B—Hughes, Schmidt.
Craig IP H R ER BB SO
Hughes (L) 4 1/3 2 3 2 7 4
Frey 2/3 0 0 0 0 1
Blomgren 1 0 0 0 0 1
Hoffmann (W) 7 3 2 0 2 10