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 Chiefs grinded out a 2-0 win over the defending South Central Conference champs in a SCC game at Woodside Sports Complex. Wisconsin Dells (3-1, 2-0 SCC) rode senior starter Jakob Millard to the win as the right-hander struck out 14 and allowed just four hits in the complete game shutout.
“It’s great, especially because last year was such a struggle out of the gate,” Wisconsin Dells coach Mike Michalsky said. “The kids did what they needed to do to win and Jake (Millard) was great.”
Millard was masterful throughout, especially early on. The Hamline (Minn.) University recruit retired the first nine Westfield batters in order, including seven striekouts, and was able to get out of some tight spots, starting in the top of the fourth inning.
Westfield sophomore Camden Stampfl, who struck out six and allowed two runs on three hits and two walks over five innings, cranked a leadoff double down the left field line to open the frame. Junior Kaden Roberts then worked a full count walk to put two on and the pair quickly advanced into scoring position with no outs on a wild pitch.
Millard and the Chiefs escaped the jam however, as he retired in the next three batters, including two strikeouts, to end the threat. After quelling the Pioneers’ scoring chance, the Chiefs, after stranding four runners in the first three innings, took the lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth.
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.
“That was huge at the time because we weren’t hitting really well early on,” Michalsky said. “He laid down a perfect bunt and executed it perfectly. With the game as fast as it was going, it was huge just for momentum.”
Anchor reached on an error to keep the inning going, but Stampfl 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 was turned away.
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 then added to their lead with another run in the bottom of the sixth.
After back-to-back singles by senior Travis Hudack and Millard to open the inning, Sveum again laid down a sacrifice bunt to put the pair into scoring position with one out. Anchor then provided the sacrifice fly to plate Hudack and give the Chiefs a 2-0 cushion.
Westfield had one final chance in the top of the seventh but again failed to score. Sophomore Josh Koloske beat out a throw for a leadoff infield single but was doubled on a line drive by senior Max Anderson. Millard then closed things out by striking out sophomore Derek Drew swinging.
“He’s throwing hard, harder than he’s ever thrown, and he was pretty masterful tonight,” Michalsky said of Millard, who utilized first pitch strikes to get ahead of the Pioneers. “Once they get behind on him you have to start to guess on pitches. His slider breaks hard and he’s throwing hard enough that if you’re not looking fastball, you’re not going to be able to catch up.”
The win gives the Chiefs an early leg up on the Pioneers in the SCC title race as they look to recapture the conference crown for the second time in three years. As big as that is, the bigger difference for Michalsky has been the team’s chemistry.
“This group has just bonded together really well to start,” he said. “The 3-1 record and 2-0 in the conference is just part of that. They’re a really good group of kids and are close with each other.”
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.