Against superior pitching, it’s imperative to take advantage of your opportunities.
A pair of squandered chances came back to bite the Portage baseball team Tuesday night as it suffered a 4-1 loss to visiting Mt. Horeb in a Badger North Conference game at Bidwell Field. Senior Connor Allsage struck out eight and gave up two runs on three hits and five walks over 5⅔ innings of work for the Warriors, who fell to the Vikings for the fifth time in the teams’ last seven meetings.
The best chance for Portage (2-3, 0-3 Badger North) came in the bottom of the sixth inning trailing 2-0. After getting just two baserunners on in the last four innings, the Warriors loaded the bases with one out against Mt. Horeb starter Jordan Schaefer.
Senior Kaden Lehman worked a one-out walk before junior Matthew Miles reached on an error to put a pair on base. With Schaefer’s nearing his 100-pitch limit, Portage senior Austen Stensrud finished off a six-pitch at-bat with a single to load the bases and force the Vikings (5-2, 2-1) to pull Schaefer after 5⅓ innings of work.
“Obviously their pitcher was very fast, but at the same time we took him into a lot of counts and were able to get him out of there,” Portage coach Mike Hemming said.
With the hard-throwing righty out, the Warriors took advantage as junior Ethan Bauer ripped an RBI single down the third base line. Lehman scored to pull Portage within 2-1, but the Warriors missed out on a second run as courtesy runner Andy Mittlestaedt was thrown out at the plate on the play. After Mittlestaedt was cut down, junior Dalton Johnson popped up to shortstop to end the inning.
“It was a tough play at home,” Hemming said of sending Mittlestaedt. “I looked at the percentages from the standpoint they were playing up, but it was down the line, so I thought we could do it.”
The momentum generated from the home half of the sixth was quickly wiped out as the Vikings responded with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh. After junior Rylan Wick singled down the third baseline, Mt. Horeb executed a picture-perfect hit-and-run in order to put a pair of runners in scoring position for Stuart Woller.
The senior made the most of the chance, ripping a two-run double to left center field to put the Vikings up 4-1. Portage junior Ryan Schultz shut the door with three straight outs, capped by back-to-back strikeouts looking, to keep the Warriors within arm’s reach.
“They got their runs the way they needed to, but the pitchers were still able to bear down and keep us there,” Hemming said.
Portage made some noise in the bottom of the seventh as junior Kendal Thomson advanced to second on an error with two outs, but the Warriors couldn’t take advantage as junior Colton Brandsma grounded out to end the game.
The blown chances late mirrored the Warriors’ start as Portage stranded the bases loaded in the first. Thomson and Brandsma drew four-pitch walks to open things up before Miles worked a full-count walk with one out to put three ducks on the pond. The opportunity was wasted, however, as senior Austen Stensrud struck out before a rundown involving Brandsma led to Thomson getting tagged out at home trying to score during the play.
“We were that close, and if you put pressure on them with one of their best pitchers, who knows?” Hemming said.
The Vikings took advantage of the Warriors’ miscue, scoring a pair in the top of the second on a two-out, two-run single by Woller. Schaefer finished with 11 strikeouts in 5⅓ innings of work while Woller went 3-for-4 with a double and drove in all four Vikings runs.
Even coming out on the short end, Hemming was pleased that the Warriors’ offense kept fighting and praised the defense for holding down a Mt. Horeb team that hadn’t scored less than seven runs in each of its first five games.
“We feel we don’t have guys that are going to strike out 12-15 guys; they’re going to put the ball in play,” he said. “We need the guys to play defense behind them and they’ve been doing a good job of that.”
MT. HOREB 4, PORTAGE 1
Mt. Horeb 020 000 2 — 4 6 2
Portage 000 001 0 — 1 3 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — MH: Schaefer (W; 5.1-2-1-5-11), Klais (1.2-1-0-0-1). P: Allsage (L; 5.2-3-2-5-8), Schultz (1.1-3-2-0-2).
Leading Hitters — MH: Woller (3x4). 2B — Woller. P: none.