MONONA — Trying to produce scoring opportunities against Monona starting pitcher Dan Genrich proved to be difficult for the Montello Granite Jaxx in the Home Talent League playoffs Sunday.
Montello did collect seven hits against the Monona left-hander over eight innings, but all but one of those hits came when there was already two outs in the inning, and only once did Montello get its leadoff batter on base to begin an inning. The inability to get guys on base with less than two outs proved to be Montello’s downfall, as the host Braves picked up a 3-1 victory over the Granite Jaxx in an Eastern Section semifinal.
“The whole game, we were trying to get that leadoff guy on. We just could not get that leadoff guy on,” Montello manager Mark Hanson said. “Our hits were coming with two outs. At that point, it takes away a lot of things you can do offensively when you got two outs on you. Not getting that leadoff guy on in a lot of the innings kind of handcuffs you a little bit.”
Montello’s only hit with less than two outs in an inning came when Nate Andrews stroked a single to left with one out in the fourth, but Genrich made sure Andrews didn’t advance into scoring position by retiring DJ Raasch and Carter Daniels on a fly ball and a grounder to end the inning.
Montello finally got on the board in the sixth inning when Noah Polcyn drove a pitch over the left field fence for a solo homer that cut Monona’s lead to 3-1.
The only inning Montello did get its leadoff hitter on base was when Daniels walked to open the seventh. Following a strikeout of Nick Polcyn, Daniels was erased when Bennett Bartol reached on a fielder’s choice. Cody Ryan followed with an infield single, but Bartol was caught taking too wide of turn at second base, and ended up in a rundown. Bartol looked like he might have avoided the tag and got to third base safely, but the umpire called him out, and the inning ended despite the protests from the Granite Jaxx.
After mounting a threat in the seventh, Montello went 1-2-3 in the eighth. Then in the ninth, Monona reliever Andy Swanson came on to slam the door on the Granite Jaxx, setting them down in order to end the game.
Monona didn’t have a lot of luck against Montello starting pitcher Curtis Morgan. The righty gave up just four hits in eight innings of work, and didn’t walk anyone. But three of Monona’s four hits came in the fourth inning, when it scored all three of its runs.
Consecutive one-out singles from Beau Goff and Jordan Carlson brought up Vince Schmitz, who came close to being the second out of the inning when he took a two-strike pitch. Morgan thought the pitch was strike three, but it was called a ball. The call ended up burning Montello, as Schmitz drove the next pitch over the left field fence for a three-run homer to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.
“We had a close pitch where we thought maybe we got a strikeout, and it didn’t go our way. That’s the way it is, and then Vince capitalized on it,” Hanson said. “Sometimes you get the break, and sometimes they get the break. It’s whoever capitalizes when they get a break, and they got the break and they capitalized on it.”
The only other hit the Braves got off Morgan was a leadoff single in the fifth by Dan Stefansky. Morgan then retired 12 straight hitters to finish the game.
The three runs for the Braves were the fewest they’ve scored in a game this season. Monona averaged just under 10 runs per game during the regular season.
“Curtis threw an outstanding game against one of the best hitting teams in the division,” Hanson said. “They strung those couple of hits together and then they got the big hit out of Vince. He did a nice job. It was that close.”
While Montello’s season ends with the loss, the Granite Jaxx did qualify for the Eastern Section playoffs for a third year in a row. Hanson said that’s something they should be proud of, especially considering they were just 2-4 back in early June before they went on to win eight of their final 10 games to squeak into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
Montello 000 001 000 — 1 7 0
Monona 000 300 00x — 3 4 0
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Montello: Morgan (L, 8-4-3-0-3). Monona: Genrich (W, 8-7-1-1-5), Swanson (S, 1-0-0-0-0).
Leading hitters — Montello: Andrews 2x4. HR — Noah Polcyn. Monona: none. HR — Schmitz.