Picked to finish fourth in the six-team South Central Conference in a preseason poll of conference coaches, the Wisconsin Dells baseball team proved it was much better than that.
Behind an impressive pitching performance from junior Dylan Nevar, some timely hitting, and a stellar defensive play to record the final out, the Chiefs clinched at least a share of the SCC title with a 6-3 victory over Adams-Friendship at the Woodside Sports Complex on Tuesday.
The win, which gave the Chiefs a season-sweep over the Green Devils, means Wisconsin Dells can win the conference title outright with a victory in Mauston on Thursday.
Wisconsin Dells was leading 6-2 entering the seventh inning. Nevar’s day on the mound ended when he reached his pitch limit with two outs and a runner on first base in the seventh inning. On came senior Dylan Anchor to pitch in relief, and he struggled with his control, hitting three straight batters. The third hit batter brought home a run to make it 6-3 and put the tying run on first base.
With Adams-Friendship cleanup hitter Griffin West at the plate, Anchor got West to hit a fly to shallow right-center field. With the outfielders playing deep to avoid any extra-base hits, second baseman Brennen Tofson was the only one who had a play on the ball, and he made an outstanding diving catch for the final out, sealing the victory.
It was a game-saving play by Tofson. Had the ball dropped two runs would have scored and the tying-run would have likely been standing on third base. It was also an extra-sweet way to finish the game for Tofson, who had struck out three times at the plate.
Wisconsin Dells head coach Mike Michalsky praised Tofson for not hanging his head over the rough day swinging the bat.
“It’s an unbelievable catch, because it looked like the outfielders were already in position to let it drop. He just kept going and going,” Michalsky said. “He didn’t have the day he wanted at the plate, but it didn’t matter, he’s the hero at the end of the game.”
Nevar pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up just five hits, while walking two and striking out five. Early on, it didn’t look like Nevar would be able to pitch into the seventh inning, as Adams-Friendship sent a combined 10 batters to the plate in the opening two innings, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs to take a 2-0 lead. A pair of Wisconsin Dells errors in the first three innings also contributed to a high pitch count for Nevar early on, but the pitcher and the defense behind him eventually cleaned things up.
Nevar retired nine straight batters during a stretch that covered the third through sixth innings. That hitless stretch ended with a one-out single by Austin Schwabe in the sixth, but Nevar then picked Schwabe off of first base to squash that threat.
Michalsky said Nevar’s ability to turn things around on the mound was a turning point.
“Nevar had like 59 pitches through three innings, and all of sudden he buckles down and almost makes it all the way through,” Michalsky said.
Wisconsin Dells entered the game in a mini offensive slump, having collected just one hit in a loss to Sauk Prairie on Monday. It took some time for the Chiefs’ bats to wake up on Tuesday too, as Wisconsin Dells didn’t have a hit over the first two innings, but that changed when Ben Koenig roped a double down the left-field line to lead off the third.
Koenig would score two batters later when Jacob Rockwell singled to center field. Rockwell would advance to third on a stolen base and a wild pitch, and then came home on Nevar’s grounder, tying the game at 2. Michalsky said Koenig’s double was big.
“We went like seven or eight innings without hitting the ball. We didn’t hit the ball at all (Monday) at Sauk,” Michalsky said. “Ben Koenig’s double down the line kind of started us.”
Wisconsin Dells would take its first lead with a pair of runs in the fifth. Rockwell opened the inning by reaching on an Adams-Friendship throwing error, and would score on Dylan Musiedlak’s RBI single to right field. The Chiefs would add another run in the inning on a groundout by Anchor that scored Nevar to make it 4-2.
The Chiefs tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the sixth. Marty Koenig opened the inning with a double in the left-center gap, and then scored on Ben Koenig’s RBI single. Ben Koenig would end up on third on the play thanks to an Adams-Friendship throwing error, which allowed him to score on Jace Knetter’s sacrifice fly to right field to make it 6-2.
Michalsky said he will remember this conference title because many didn’t think this year’s team would be able to compete in the SCC.
“We’ve had a lot of years where it was kind of expected that we will be one or two,” Michalsky said. “But we were picked fourth, and are starting two freshmen and a sophomore most of the season, and everybody said ‘(Adams-Friendship) is senior loaded, and they’re talented,’ and they are. They are talented, so to beat them twice, that’s awesome.”
Sauk Prairie 12, Wisconsin Dells 0
The Chiefs had a rough outing on Monday in Sauk Prairie, getting just one hit in a five-inning, non-conference loss to the Eagles.
Dylan Nevar was responsible for his team’s only hit, getting a two-out single to center field in the top of the first inning.
WISCONSIN DELLS 6, ADAMS-FRIENDSHIP 3
Adams-Friendship 110 000 1 — 3 5 4
Wisconsin Dells 002 022 x — 6 7 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — AF: Koltowski (L, 4.1-4-2-2-3), Lamont (1.2-3-1-0-2). WD: Nevar (W, 6.2-5-3-2-5), Anchor (0.1-0-0-0-0).
Leading hitters — AF: Smith 2x3. 3B — Smith. WD: Rockwell 2x4, B. Koenig 2x2. 2B — B. Koenig, M. Koenig.
SAUK PRAIRIE 12, WISCONSIN DELLS 0
Wisconsin Dells 000 00 - 0 1 2
Sauk Prairie 108 3x - 12 11 0
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) – WD: Knetter (L, 3.2-11-8-2-0), B. Koenig (0.1-0-0-0-0). SP: Andrews (W, 5-1-0-0-6).
Leading hitters – WD: none. SP: Adair 2x4, German 2x3, Andrews 2x3. 2B – Adair.