Friday May 19, 2017 was the date, and on the slate was the number 8 ranked team in the state. Right out of the gate, you knew it was fate. Make no debate, good things we’d create, details await……
Here’s how it went down:
Manning the bump for the Regents was Gabe Hill. Hill is having a wonderful year on the hill. As you will recall, he is a fierce and tenacious competitor, focused and dialed in each time he steps onto the rubber. Doing the pitching duties for the Oconomowoc Raccoons was Jonah Landowski.
Hill was on fire once again. He started strongly, getting leadoff man 3B Alec Esenther to ground out to his counterpart Otto Treichel at 3B. Landowski lined out to Tommy Hill in RF, and SS Zachary Clayton singled to right. Raccoons Catcher Sean Meyer grounded out to Charlie Met at 1B. He does not actually catch raccoons, he catches for the Raccoons. This can be confusing, I know. Stay with me.
The bottom of the first was the start the Regents needed. SS Austin Cotharn led off with a base on balls. Lead-off walks will haunt. The runner seems to almost always score when the game starts with a walk. Tommy Hill was next up, lacing a double to the left center gap, to get Austin to third. Catcher Drake Baldwin flew to center, but too short to allow Austin to score. Never fear, Otto came up and grounded to second to score Austin. Donovan O’Flahrity, left fielder, grounded to short to end the inning. 1-0 Regents!
The top of the second inning featured two errors by West, and a balk. This sounds as if these would lead to problems, but as it turns out they did not. Raccoons 1B Miller Wallace popped to first and a wind-aided drifting ball bounced off Met’s glove allowing him to reach first. Gabe Hill had a balk that allowed Wallace to head south 90 feet to second base. Gabe then struck out second baseman Steven Diderich. Gabe then struck out DH Hunter Olson. Right fielder Alexander Pierce reached on an error to third. Runners on first and third. A stealing situation. Pierce took off on the first pitch, and was caught stealing on a strong throw by Baldwin, to end the threat.
The Regent half of the second saw CF Eli Sorensen fly out to left, DH Donavan Parker ground out to Wallace at first who pitched to Landowski covering the bag for out #2. Second baseman John Frehner then hit a can of corn* to center for the third out.
What is a can of corn you ask? In baseball, an easy fly ball is referred to as “a can of corn”. The reference comes from the old grocery store days when the corn was stored on the high shelves. The stock clerk would have to knock the can off the shelf with a long pole to the awaiting hands of the customer. It was done gently so as to be easy to catch. And now you know, the can of corn……Of course this has been gone for a long time, as some numbskull probably sued the poor clerk after he dropped the can and hurt his toe.
Back to the game. The Oconomowoc third was 1-2-3, with CF Nathan Platter serving up the first out with a fly to Tommy in right. Esenther grounded to third and Owen Christenson, now at first base, applied a tag on the throw up the line for out #2. Landowski grounded out 4-3.
West’s third saw Christenson lead off with a single to left center, but he was cut down at second 4-6 on a fielder’s choice by Austin. Austin advanced to second on a stolen base. Hill struck out, and Drake singled. Drake was then caught stealing for the final out of the frame.
In the top of the 4th, Zachary Clayton led off with a smash to left that was played beautifully by O’Flahrity who turned and burned (that is what you call it when the ball is hit well and you have to get back quickly as an outfielder) and caught the ball one step from the fence. He bounced off the fence one step after corralling the liner. Meyer grounded out to short, and Wallace hit a double to the right centerfield gap. Diderich grounded to short for the third out.
Bottom of 4, still 1-0 Regents. Otto was a strikeout victim, going down looking. Donovan O’Flahrity singled off Landowski’s glove on the mound, the ball carried into centerfield. Eli grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to retire the side.
Top of 5. Gabe still cruising. Olson grounded out to Otto at third, and Pierce flew out to Eli in center. Platter hit an Unchained (Melody) grounder to Frehner at second, but the Smoke Got In His Eyes and the ball scooted through. “Only You can keep the inning going for us Raccoons”, thought Esenther to himself, and so he did, with a single. But Lendowski turned out to be The Great Pretender as he flew out to right for the third out.
Bottom of 5. Donavan Parker took a third strike for a backwards K. John grounded out to short, and O.C. flew out to right. Still 1-0 Regents.
Top of 6. Clayton grounds out to Austin who made a great play on a tough short hop, gathered himself and threw him out. Meyer walked, for one of only two walks by Gabe Hill in his excellent outing. Wallace flew to center. Diderich grounded out to short 6-3.
Bottom of 6. Austin flew to left. Tommy grounded out to second 4-3. Drake singled for his second hit of the game, but was retired on a fielders choice by Otto. That would be all the at bats we needed…..as long as we could keep the Raccoons from scoring.
In the top of the 7th, Gabe went back out to the mound and commanded the plate. Olson went down looking for Gabe’s third strikeout of the game. Pierce reached on an error. Jackson Brown came in to hit for Platter, in a change that was music to our ears. He flew out to Tommy Hill in right for the second out. This allowed Tommy to get a little warmed up, given the cold and windy day, and this would prove helpful. Esenther walked, advancing Pierce to second with two outs. This brought Landowski to the plate. He singled to mid right, where Tommy was loose and ready from his previous action. He charged hard, fielded cleanly, crow-hopped and let go a laser as Pierce headed home. Drake fielded the on-target throw, stepped back and tagged the head-first-sliding Pierce to NAIL him at the plate! A walk-off 9-2 out to send the Raccoons back to their bus for what would be a long ride home. Game time 1 hour and 30 minutes.
West has beaten the current #8 and #3 teams in the state according to the ranking at Wisconsin Baseball Central. This establishes that they can do great things. After two games in Janesville next week, and an inner city battle vs Edgewood, it becomes playoff time.
Stay strong, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of rest. The (not exactly end of the year) Home Plate Banquet is Sunday from 6-8 at Union South. See you there!