The Baraboo prep baseball team found itself in another tight one Tuesday night.
For the second time in eight days, Quinn Mueller ended it, as his walk-off squeeze bunt in the bottom of the eighth inning gave Baraboo a 6-5 Badger North Conference win over DeForest at Mary Rountree Evans Field in Baraboo.
“It was really exciting,” Baraboo coach Steve Considine said after his Thunderbirds improved to 6-5 in one-run games this season. “They’re a really good team, so we had to earn everything.”
The T-Birds (9-12, 3-10 Badger North) earned it with patience. Brock Turkington walked to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning, then Ryan Gehin and Keegan Marking followed suit to load the bases with one out for Mueller. The sophomore shortstop bunted between the pitcher and third baseman to drive in the game-winning run.
Mueller also had a game-winning single in the seventh inning of a 5-4 home win over Sauk Prairie on May 6.
“I was joking with the coaches before the inning and said, ‘If we get a guy on third, we’re going to squeeze him in,” Considine said. “And it worked out.”
That confidence was built up throughout a game in which the T-Birds relied on small ball.
“We’ve felt that we weren’t a great bunting team, but we’ve been practicing it and the guys have been working really hard on it,” Considine said. “Today, we could bunt it all the different ways. It didn’t matter if our bats were rolling our not. We had hits when we needed to, but we were such a good bunting team that it put so much pressure on them.”
The T-Birds still played much of the night from behind. Starting pitcher Brady Quinn set the Norskies down in order in the first inning, but Baraboo looked shaky the next several innings.
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Quinn worked around a pair of walks, an error and an infield single in the second inning, stranding the bases loaded to keep the game scoreless.
DeForest (11-9, 5-6) broke through in the top of the third inning, despite Baraboo right fielder Ryan Gehin recording the first out by making a catch at the fence. Designated hitter Justin Hausser followed with a single, then an error and a walk loaded the bases for Trey Kirchberg. The second baseman doubled to right-center to bring home a pair of runs. Jake Purcell followed with an RBI groundout to the right side that gave the Norskies a 3-0 lead.
The T-Birds went down in order in the bottom of the third, but they erased the deficit in the fourth. Matt Gust led off with single, while Caden Blum followed with a single and Ethan Cummisford bunted into an error that loaded the bases for Turkington, who hit a sacrifice fly to right field to pull the T-Birds within 3-1. Gehin followed with a bunt that was thrown into right field, allowing Blum and Cummisford to score to tie the game at 3.
DeForest regained the lead in the top of the fifth, as Hausser doubled to score Bryce Jacobsen and give the Norskies a 4-3 advantage.
Baraboo answered again in the bottom of the fifth. Payton Steiner and Gust hit back-to-back singles, allowing Blum to drive in Steiner with a sacrifice fly. Josh Robitaille pinch-ran for Gust and stole second base, then came home to score when Turkington singled up the middle to give the T-Birds a 5-4 lead, their first of the night.
Steiner came on to pitch for Baraboo, facing the minimum in the sixth before the Norskies got to him in the seventh. Hausser led off with a single and Mason Kirchberg walked before Baraboo turned to Turkington. The senior got a strikeout before hitting Trey Kirchberg with a pitch to load the bases. Purcell, DeForest’s starting pitcher, hit a ground ball to shortstop, but Baraboo couldn’t turn the double play and the Norskies tied the game at 5.
Mason Kirchberg didn’t allow a baserunner in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extras.
Turkington worked out of trouble in the top of the eighth, as the Norskies loaded the bases before Turkington ended the threat with a strikeout to set up Mueller’s game-winning bunt.
The Norskies will look to even the season series when they host Baraboo on Thursday.