After squandering a late lead en route to a one-run loss last week, the Portage Skeeters were in need of a pick-me-up.
They got just what the doctor ordered Sunday as the Skeeters cruised to an 11-4 victory over Monona in an Home Talent League Eastern Section game at Bidwell Field. Kalen Mace went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, and fanned nine in six innings of work to help put Portage back into the win column.
“It was huge. Everyone had a big part in our offense today,” Portage manager Bill Greene said. “We went on the hunch that we need to score a bunch of runs, so we didn’t play a lot of small ball.”
Portage (2-1) wasted little time getting on the board, taking a 6-0 lead through four innings before running into some trouble in the top of the fifth. Monona (1-1) responded to the Skeeters’ strong start with four runs in the visitor’s half, thanks to some big blows.
Dan Stefansky was hit by a pitch with one out and Louie Joseph reached on an error on a potential double play to put a pair on. Taylor Carlson laced an RBI double to plate Stefansky before Kody Parman grounded out to score Joseph and cut the Skeeters’ lead to 6-2. Beau Goff kept things going as he took Mace deep for a two-run homer to left field to make it 6-4.
Monona’s Vince Schmitz, who went 2-for-3, singled to keep the Braves going, but Mace got out of the inning without any more damage. Greene admitted it was his mistake to pitch to Goff when first base was open, but the Skeeters made up for it by stretching the lead back out in the sixth.
After Mace struck out the side in the top half, Portage tacked on two more runs in the home half of the inning behind an RBI double by Mace and a groundout by Travis Hamilton, who went 2-for-5, to go back in front 8-4.
“They got a crooked number in that inning and we were like ‘Here we go; we’re going to have to keep scoring,’ but we just kept tacking runs on and it made me feel a lot better,” Greene said.
With the lead back to four, Portage didn’t let off the gas as the Skeeters piled on three more runs in the eighth. Ethan Greene, who went 2-for-3, Mace and Hamilton ripped consecutive singles to load the bases to open the inning before Adam Bortz drew an RBI walk to make it 9-4. Matt Bortz followed by grounding into a double play that allowed Mace to score before Hamilton raced home on a passed ball to push the advantage to 11-4.
Helping keep the Skeeters in front was Jakob Kastenholz, who came on for Mace in the seventh. The right-hander picked right up where Mace left off, keeping the Braves without a hit the final three frames while tallying three strikeouts.
“We knew Mace wasn’t going to go the whole game, but he gave us six really tough innings, and then Jake came in and kind of slammed the door,” Bill Greene said. “Monona is one of the best-hitting teams we’ll face, and we did a good job keeping them off the bases.”
Portage wasted little time getting on the board behind a four-run third inning. Kastenholz opened things with a double before Adam Walz, who went 2-for-5, delivered an RBI single to make it 1-0. Grant Garrigan followed with a bunt single and Walz advanced to third on the play.
Ethan Greene was hit by a pitch with one out to keep the inning going before Mace and Hamilton delivered back-to-back RBI singles for a 3-0 lead before Greene scampered across on a passed ball to make it 4-0. Portage added two more runs in the fourth on an RBI walk by Brady Greene and an error to take a 6-0 lead before hammering things home.
While Portage stranded 11 runners on base, the Skeeters outhit a Braves team 11-5 that is coming off a 10-0 shutout win over Sun Prairie. Greene knows that any victory over a tough team like that, especially at home, is important.
“We’ve done really well at home throughout the years and if you can steal a game or two a year on the road, against a quality team, that puts you right in the mix for the playoffs,” he said.
Portage will look to keep rolling next week when it hosts Rio.
PORTAGE 11, MONONA 4
Monona 000 040 000 — 4 5 3
Portage 004 202 03x — 11 11 1
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Mon: Schmidt (L; 3-6-5-2-2), Swanson (4-5-5-6-3), Goff (1-0-0-1-0). Por: Mace (W; 6-5-3-3-9), Kastenholz (3-0-0-3-3).
Leading Hitters — Mon: Schmitz 2x3. 2B — T. Carlson. HR — Goff. Por: Mace 3x5, Hamilton 2x5, E. Greene 2x3, Walz 2x5. 2B — Mace, Kastenholz.