Big innings have plagued the Wisconsin Dells Rivermen since they joined the Home Talent League Sunday League.
While the HTL season was canceled over a month ago, the Rivermen have been hard at work and reversed their fortunes, including an 8-4 win over Evansville in an exhibition game on Sunday at a gloomy Veteran’s Memorial Park. Dylan Stein finished a triple shy of the cycle, while starter Jakob Millard fanned 13 in the complete game win for the Rivermen.
The teams traded runs in the fourth inning before Evansville scored three runs in the top of the fifth, thanks in part to a Millard error and Brandon Niedfeldt RBI double for a 4-1 lead. Millard settled back in however, and the Rivermen (4-4) stayed the course, ultimately taking the lead in the seventh.
After Justin Torres was cut down trying to swipe second after reaching on an error, Dylan Nevar and Dylan Stein worked back-to-back walks. Millard then reached on an error, allowing Nevar to score and cut the lead to 4-2.
Rivermen extra hitter Corey Rosol then dropped down an RBI bunt single to push across Stein and trim the deficit to 4-3. Right fielder Drew Sukup followed with a bunt of his own, and Evansville’s Tyr Severson’s throw to first went wide of Toby Schultz, allowing Millard and Rosol to score for a 5-4 lead.
“That’s great, especially dropping down those couple bunts because it’s something we haven’t really done in the past,” Wisconsin Dells manager/player Aaron VanSchoyck said. “Kind of when the rain started, that’s when our offense got going; it was the perfect time to put down those bunts, when the grass gets wet. They were both well executed and we were able to get some runs out of it.”
Looking to recapture the lead and the top of their order due up, the Jays were retired in order by Millard in the top of the eighth, including a pair of strikeouts. With the lead preserved, Wisconsin Dells went back to work in the home half.
The Rivermen tacked on three more insurance runs, including a two-out, two-run home run to right field by Stein for an 8-4 advantage.
“It was a moon shot for sure, and with the wind blowing out a bit to right, but he put good wood on it. He also put good wood on that double and he’s been hitting the ball well lately,” VanSchoyck said.
“That’s key to put crooked numbers up at any time. In the past we’ve had struggles getting runners on and we don’t get them in, or we can only get one runner.”
Trailing by four, the Jays didn’t back down with their final three outs. Catcher Mike Maves, who went 2-for-4 with a solo blast in the fourth inning, led off the ninth with a single before Drew Larson walked to put a pair on. After Max Kurth grounded out to Millard, Layton Hart walked to load the bases with one down.
With three ducks on the pond, Millard battened down the hatches however, striking out Schultz before getting Aiden Probst to fly out to right for the final out.
“He was a horse today; he gave up that loud home run in the fourth, but he settled down nicely after that,” VanSchoyck said of Millard, who scattered five hits and eight walks.
“That eighth inning was really key because he was facing the top of the lineup to start the inning. Obviously we saw what happened in the ninth inning, and if it would have rolled over back in the eighth, it might have been a different outcome.”
After three scoreless to open the game, Maves’ two-out laser over the wall in left center gave the Jays a 1-0 lead. Millard avoided any further damage however, as he got Hart to ground out with a pair on following a Larson double and a Kurth walk.
The Rivermen responded in the home half of the fourth with two outs as well. After a flyout and a ground out, Stein doubled to right center. Millard then reached on a throwing error by shortstop Caylor Burns, but was cut down trying to race all the way to third on the errant throw.
It ultimately worked out for the Rivermen, who improved to 4-4 on the summer. Despite there not being an official season, VanSchoyck has been pleased with the team’s performances as the Rivermen have eclipsed last season’s Sunday win total.
“I think it’s good for the younger kids to get their feet wet a little bit and see what other teams have, and them obviously helping us out too,” VanSchoyck said. “In four losses, there was one that was double-digits, but we were missing a bunch of guys. We’ve been closer and I think the guys are enjoying not getting shelled a lot more.”
VanSchoyck said the Rivermen have two more games set on their schedule, including a trip to Columbus on Aug. 9, but opponents are still reaching out about future contests. Whether or not more games materialize, keeping the team’s continuity is of most importance for VanSchoyck.
“We’ve kind of held the line-up where it’s been; we haven’t done a whole lot of changing to it,” he said. “It’s just going to be keeping that continuity rolling.”
WISCONSIN DELLS 8, EVANSVILLE 4
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Ev: Severson (L; 6.1-4-1-2-6), Larson (1.2-2-2-0-4). WD: Millard (W; 9-5-3-8-13).
Leading hitters — Ev: Maves 2x4. 2B — Niedfeldt, Larson. HR — Maves. WD: Stein 3x3. 2B — Stein. HR — Stein.
Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.
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