BARABOO – The hardest outs to get in a baseball game are the final three. That lesson was learned by Wisconsin Dells on Tuesday.
After playing flawless in the field for nine straight innings, the Chiefs committed three errors in the bottom of the 10th, allowing Madison Edgewood to score three runs and rally for a 4-3 victory in a Division 2 sectional semifinal game at Mary Rountree Evans Field.
After both teams scored just one run through nine innings of play, Wisconsin Dells finally broke the deadlock with a pair of runs in the top of the 10th inning. The rally started when Ben Koenig led the inning off with a single to left field before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jace Knetter.
Jacob Rockwell followed by beating out an infield single to put runners on the corners. Rockwell would then steal second base without a throwing, putting runners on second and third with just one out and Will Michalsky at the plate.
Michalsky watched three straight balls go by from Edgewood relief pitcher Andrew Newton. Then after a called strike, Michalsky drilled a 3-1 offering into right-center field, scoring both runners to make it 3-1.
Wisconsin Dells coach Mike Michalsky said the Crusaders were likely expecting a bunt from Will Michalsky after the Chiefs tried to put down three suicide squeezes in their regional championship win over Adams-Friendship last week.
“I thought that couldn’t have gone any better than it did, because they must have had someone at our Adams game, because they were dead convinced we were going to suicide squeeze,” Mike Michalsky said. “They throw two pitches up and Will gets ahead 2-0 in the count, so now he can sit right on (Newton’s) fastball and he just yanked it right to right-center. It was a great at bat to get those two in under pressure.”
Unfortunately, things unraveled for the Chiefs in the bottom of the 10th.
Will Michalsky, who came on to pitch in relief of starting pitcher Dylan Nevar in the eighth inning, got the first out of the inning when Tom Hartlieb flew out to left field. Edgewood would then get a one-out infield single from Newton, which brought up Alex Esch. Esch hit a grounder to second baseman Rockwell for a potential game-ending double play, but Rockwell bobbled it, and both runners were safe.
Jackson Wendler followed with a double to left-center field, scoring one to make it 3-2 and putting the tying run on third base with just one out.
Next up for Edgewood was Nick Bergmann, who hit a roller to Brennen Tofson at shortstop, but Tofson was unable to pick it cleanly, allowing the tying run to come home, and the potential winning run to advance to third.
With runners on the corners and just one out, Wisconsin Dells decided to intentionally walk Mitchell Wendler to load the bases. The move almost worked as Will Michalsky struck out Ben Newton for the second out of the inning. That brought up Jack Hastreiter, who hit a grounder to third baseman Jace Knetter, who threw home for the force out, but his throw was in the dirt, and catcher Dylan Musiedlak wasn’t able to grab it, allowing the winning run to come home.
It was a tough way for Wisconsin Dells to have its season end after playing nearly perfect defense in the first nine innings. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Wisconsin Dells turned a 4-6-3 double play to get out of a mini jam. Then in the seventh, with runners on first and second and just one out, they turned a nearly identical 4-6-3 double play to send the game to extra innings.
Edgewood also had runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth, but Bergmann flew out to left field to end that threat.
“We turned two double plays. We were making plays all over the place, it was just the pressure got to us a little bit in the last inning once we got the lead,” Mike Michalsky said.
Wisconsin Dells nearly took the lead in the fifth. With runners on first and second with two outs, Nevar hit a drive to deep right field that was hauled in at the fence to keep the game tied.
Wisconsin Dells took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Rockwell got the first hit of the game for Wisconsin Dells with a double to right-center. Rockwell would score from second when Nevar beat out an infield single with two outs. Rockwell almost didn’t score on the play, as he slowed up before coming home, only to speed up in time beat the tag to the plate.
“He flies around the bases,” Mike Michalsky said of Rockwell. “He actually stopped coming home. I couldn’t believe it, but he rounded third and went into his jog and I was like ‘get going, get going’ and he barely made it.”
Edgewood answered in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Ben Newton. That would be the only run the Crusaders would get against Nevar, who threw 7 1/3 innings. Nevar gave up eight hits, walking one and striking out six.
“He was great today. I thought they did a great job against him to get some hits, because he’s been dominant against everyone he’s thrown against,” Mike Michalsky said of Nevar. “I thought he did a great job to keep them to just that one run. And even that one run was tough for them to get.”
Will Michalsky wasn’t bad in relief either. He gave up five hits over 2 1/3 innings of work, and certainly deserved to get the victory, not the loss.
“Will pitched awesome. We couldn’t ask him to do anything else,” Mike Michalsky said. “He finished things off like a champ in that last inning, we just needed to make the plays behind him.”
For the second straight year Wisconsin Dells sees its season end in walk-off fashion at sectionals. Last year the Chiefs lost to Ellsworth, also by a 4-3 score, when the winning run scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning. Mike Michalsky said his team will try to look at the positives of the season, which included conference and regional championships.
“It is a tough ending. It can’t be any tougher,” Mike Michalsky said. “As I get older, it’s not life or death anymore like it used to be when I started coaching. We told the kids that no matter what happens, this is the last time a lot of them are going to see each other, so we’re going to go out on a positive note.”
Wisconsin Dells 001 000 000 2 - 3 9 3
Madison Edgewood 000 100 000 3 - 4 13 1
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) – WD: Nevar (7.1-8-1-1-6), Michalsky (L, 2.1-5-1-1-1). ME: J. Wendler (8.2-6-1-1-8), A. Newton (W, 1.1-3-2-0-1).
Leading hitters – WD: Rockwell 2x5, Michalsky 2x5. 2B – Rockwell, Tofson. ME: Hebl 2x5, J. Wendler 3x5, M. Wendler 2x4, B. Newton 2x4. 2B – J. Wendler 2.