WISCONSIN DELLS — Over the last five years, the Westfield and Wisconsin Dells baseball teams have come accustomed to playing tight games, with seven of the last 10 being decided by two runs or less.
That was no different Thursday night as the Pioneers were unable to take advantage of their opportunities in a 2-0 loss to the Chiefs in a South Central Conference game at the Woodside Sports Complex. Westfield (2-1, 1-1 SCC) struggled against Chiefs starter Jakob Millard, who struck out 14 and allowed just four hits and two walks in the complete game shutout.
“We had a couple chances, but if he’s striking out that many guys, you’re not getting that many opportunities and it makes it tougher to score,” Westfield coach Nick Lewis said.
Millard was dominant early on, sitting down the first nine Pioneers batters, including seven strikeouts. The Westfield bats eventually heated up however, as sophomore Camden Stampfl cranked a leadoff double down the left field line to open the fourth inning.
Junior Kaden Roberts worked a full count walk on the next at bat to put two on and the pair quickly advanced into scoring position with no outs on a wild pitch. The Pioneers let the chance escape their grasp however, as Millard retired the next three batters in order, including two on strikeouts, to end the threat.
“You have to come away with two runs there; that should be a 2-0 ball game and it changes the complexity of everything,” Lewis said. “That’s a big moment and those kids are in that position because I trust them to come through, they just didn’t tonight. If we get that situation again, I’d love to have those same kids up because I think they’ll come through.”
After stranding four runners on base in the first three innings, Wisconsin Dells (3-1, 2-0) took the lead in the bottom of the fourth thanks to some Westfield errors. Millard reached on a throwing error to open the inning and advanced to second after the ball went out of play.
He then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Jackson Sveum before scoring on a suicide squeeze bunt by junior Dylan Anchor for a 1-0 lead.
“You have a lot of pressure on you every play when you’re in a 0-0 or 1-1 game, and all it takes is one little crack,” Lewis said. “We had a couple young kids put in tough spots defensively; a couple little mistakes that make a big difference there.”
Anchor reached on an error to keep the inning going but Stampfl, who struck out six and gave up two runs on three hits in five innings, was able to get out of the jam and keep the lead at 1-0 through five.
Westfield had another chance in the sixth, but again came up empty. After a leadoff walk by freshman Trevor Gray, Stampfl struck out swinging and Roberts lined out for two quick outs. The Pioneers kept pushing however as Bignell singled to put runners on first and second for senior Doug Thompson.
The left fielder followed Bignell’s single with one of his own, but the Pioneers were unable to score as Gray was cut down at home trying to score from second. The Chiefs added another run on an Anchor sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth for a 2-0 cushion before Westfield had one final chance in the top of the seventh.
Sophomore Josh Koloske beat out a throw for a leadoff infield single in the seventh, but was retired when senior Max Anderson hit a line drive to the shortstop, who threw to first base to get Koloske for a double play. Millard then closed things out by striking out sophomore Derek Drew swinging.
“We figured we would struggle putting the ball in play, we had some younger kids in there seeing a pitcher like this, and I thought there would be some struggles,” Lewis said. “I thought the second and third time we saw him, we looked a lot better and I hope the kids will take some confidence in that. We had some good at bats against him; we battled, he was just better on strike three.”
WISCONSIN DELLS 2, WESTFIELD 0
Westfield 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
Wisconsin Dells 000 101 x — 2 3 0
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Wfd — Stampfl (L; 5-3-1-2-6), Gray (1-0-0-0-0). WD — Millard (W; 7-4-0-2-14).
Leading Hitters — Wfd — 2B — Stampfl.