Slowly but surely, the Beaver Dam American Legion varsity baseball team sighted its scope.
It finally got a bullseye in the fifth inning.
Speed on the basepaths allowed Neil Braker to score from third on a throwing error and then Wesley Biel’s double to deep center field drove in Broden Boschert from first base on a hit-and-run, plating the game’s only runs to back Braker’s pitching gem in Post 146’s season-opening 2-0 win over Fort Atkinson Post 166 on Tuesday night.
The two-run frame came after Post 146 had two-out rallies to load the bases in both the second and third innings — on a hit, a hit batter and four walks — but came up empty both times.
“Early on, we swung at some high pitches and I think we were a little more selective at the plate (in the fifth),” Beaver Dam coach Mark Klawitter said. “And we want to be super aggressive this year — so if we get some baserunners, we have really nice team speed and we can start making some things happen.”
That is, in fact, exactly how Post 146 plated both runs.
After drawing a one-out walk, Braker stole second before moving up 90 feet on Brandon LeBeau’s single to right. Then when LeBeau stole second, catcher Nolan Jensen’s throw trying to catch him went into center field and allowed Braker — who wasn’t running on the play — to trot home to make it 1-0.
Broden Broschert then grounded into a fielder’s choice to clear LeBeau from scoring position, but he promptly made it all the way home on Biel’s double.
And in case there was any doubt that Post 146 is serious about getting in gear on the bases this summer, it even tried stealing home in the third only to have Boschert get tagged out on a bang-bang play.
“We timed it,” Klawitter said of Post 166 starting pitcher Cody Zahn’s slow delivery. “In my opinion, I don’t think there was any way that (Zahn) was going to get him without balking, which I thought he did. But we didn’t get the call. Broden got an incredible jump on that; it just didn’t work out.
“That’s going to the kind of havoc that we want to wreak this summer, though.”
Two runs were plenty for Beaver Dam to win thanks to how effective Braker was on the hill, as he scattered three hits and four walks while striking out five in the shutout.
The only reason he didn’t get the complete game is because he had to come out before the last batter due to the league-mandated 105-pitch limit.
“I just wanted to keep them guessing whether or not I was throwing a fastball or offspeed,” said Braker, who only allowed runners to get as far as second twice — once in the first inning on back-to-back two-out walks and once in the fourth on back-to-back one-out singles.
Good as he was, though, it wasn’t until late in the game when he said he really felt in a groove.
“I struck out the side one inning, and that’s when I knew I was feeling it,” he said of mowing Post 166 down in order in the sixth.
Beaver Dam certainly didn’t beat Fort into submission to back Braker. But thanks to the running game — Post 146 finished with five stolen bases — it didn’t have to.
“We just want to put a lot of pressure on teams,” Klawitter said. “Putting the ball in play well and starting the runners I think is going to be part of our game plan this summer.”
BEAVER DAM 2, FORT ATKINSON 0</&hspag3>
Fort 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
BD 000 020 x — 2 4 0
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-k): Fort — Cody Zahn (3-1-0-4-5), Ben Koenig (L, 3-3-2-1-5). BD — Neil Braker (W, 6.2-3-0-4-5), Wesley Biel (0.1-0-0-0-0).
Leading hitters (two or more hits): Fort — None. BD — Max Klawitter 2x3. 2B: Klawitter, Biel.