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Shorthanded Twins notch big win

Sauk Prairie’s HTL team tops Mazomanie, moves to 7-1


June 28, 2018

It had been years since Chucky Schara had hit a home run.

But the Sauk Prairie Twins’ center fielder ended that streak on Sunday afternoon.

No one could also remember the last time there wasn’t at least one of the Koenig brothers in the starting lineup for the Twins. That’s because manager/starting catcher Lucas Koenig, ace pitcher Taylor Koenig and starting third baseman and closer Sam Koenig were all out of town on a fishing trip to Canada.

Sauk Prairie, though, grabbed an early lead and hung on to record a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Mazomanie Mustangs in a battle for first place in a Home Talent League Northern Section Western Division game at Chuck Hall Memorial Field.

“It shows that everybody else who comes to the ball park is ready to play and to fill shoes or positions for other people,” said Trent Sorg, who filled in as a co-manager along with first baseman Jeremy Meier. “It was a great day for baseball.”

Schara went 2-for-4 with a double and a solo home run, and first-year player Connor Leister tossed 6 1/3 innings in his HTL starting debut to pick up the victory for Sauk Prairie (7-1).

Adam Ballweg retired the final eight batters to earn a save for the Twins, who opened up a two-game lead in the loss column over Mazomanie and Reedsburg (both 6-3). The Mustangs also dropped a 6-4 decision at Ashton on Saturday.

“Opportunities present themselves and these guys stepped up and pitched well today,” Sorg said. “We got some runs early and played some good defense. They were focused, and they were on their toes today.”

The Twins didn’t commit an error, while the Mustangs were charged with three miscues that produced two unearned runs for Sauk Prairie.

Schara didn’t wait long to make an impact, coming up with a diving catch off the bat of leadoff hitter Carter Howard on a 3-2 pitch in the top of the first inning.

“That got the adrenaline going,” said Schara, who finished with four putouts.

With one out in the Twins’ half of the opening inning, Schara then laced a double to left-center field and scored on a close play at the plate one out later after Alex Mayer lined a single to center field.

Schara barely beat center fielder Bama Doyle’s laser throw home to catcher Andrew Page to stake Sauk Prairie to a 1-0 lead it wouldn’t lose.

“That was huge,” said Sorg, who also served as the Twins’ third-base coach. “It was a gamble at home. I’m always going to gamble at home. We got that run.

“That’s what it came down to today. That was key getting that run across. That gave Connor (Leister) confidence going out there with a lead.”

Leister, a 2016 Sauk Prairie graduate and former All-Badger North Conference pitcher, retired six of the first seven batters he faced and didn’t allow a hit until Bama Doyle lined a single to center field to open the third inning.

Although he has pitched in relief in several Thursday Night League games this season, it was just Leister’s second appearance in a Sunday League game and his longest outing since undergoing shoulder surgery two years ago.

“I tore my labrum in two spots and had a chip in it,” said Leister, who threw 82 pitches and allowed three runs on 10 hits with one walk and two strikeouts against the Mustangs.

“I threw a little bit last year but just wanted to take it easy. I thought about playing over the winter and am glad I did. I’m feeling good.”

Sauk Prairie padded its lead with a pair of unearned runs in the third inning after Schara led off the frame with a solo home run to left field off Mustangs’ lefty starter Carter Howard.

“It was my first one in like eight years,” Schara said with a chuckle. “It felt good off the bat. My first couple of at bats, I was seeing the ball well. It just felt good.”

Dylan Slotty then reached base on an error on shortstop Hudson Barsness, and Mayer followed with his second consecutive hit of the game with a single to center field.

Jeremy Meier reached base on a sacrifice bunt attempt on a throwing error by Carter Howard, which scored Slotty and moved Mayer to third base.

After Howard retired the next two batters, he walked Benjamin Lenerz to load the bases. Howard then hit Leister with a pitch on an 0-2 count to score Mayer for a 4-0 lead.

“It was real important to get on the board first and then build on that lead,” Meier said. “Connor threw well. Chucky made a lot of great plays and hit the ball well. A lot of guys stepped up today, which was good to see.

“I’m so happy some of these younger guys came out this year. They’re good athletes. It’s going to benefit us down the road a lot.”

However, that was all the offense the Twins could muster against Howard, who retired nine batters in a row and 16 of the final 18 batters he faced.

“He mixed his pitches up well,” Sorg said of Howard, who allowed just two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts in pitching a complete game. “Later in the game, he went to more off-speed and curve balls. He was keeping us off-balance with his pitches.”

Mazomanie trimmed its deficit to 4-1 in the fourth inning on Bama Doyle’s RBI-single to left field.

The Mustangs pulled within 4-3 in the fifth inning on four straight base hits with two outs capped by Jack Doyle’s two-run single to center field.

But that was as close as Mazomanie would get, stranding six runners the rest of the way.

“The three runs in the third were just enough,” Sorg said. “We’ll take it.”

Mitch Howard’s one-out double in the seventh chased Leister, and Ballweg took over and promptly walked Andrew Page and hit Jack Doyle with a pitch to load the bases.

But Ballweg retired Kale Pustina on a foul popup to Meier at first base and induced Riley Howard to fly out to Lenerz in right field to end the threat.

“I wanted to get through the seventh,” Leister said. “But after the double, that was it. I’ve played with Adam a long time. He hasn’t really thrown much this year, but it was huge for him to be able to come out and throw strikes.

“Really, that’s all he had to do today. Our defense was there making plays. It was great.”

Ballweg retired the Mustangs in order the final two innings. That included the No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup — Hudson Barsness, Mitch Howard and Page — who were a batting a combined 5-for-9 in the game to close out the victory.

“He battled,” Meier said of Ballweg. “He came in and threw strikes, which was good to see. He hasn’t thrown much this year.”

• On deck: Sauk Prairie travels to Middleton on Sunday for a 1 p.m. game against the 29ers. The Twins’ game scheduled for July 4 at home against Wisconsin Dells has been moved to Tuesday, July 3 at 7 p.m.

The Twins will then host Middleton on Friday, July 6 at 7 p.m. in a make-up game from the teams’ June 10 game that was postponed due to rain. Sauk Prairie will also host Cross Plains on Saturday July 7 at 4 p.m.


Mazomanie ...... 000 120 000 – 3 10 3

Sauk Prairie … 103 000 00x – 4 7 0

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — M: Carter Howard (L, 8-7-2-2-6); – SP: Connor Leister (W, 6.1-10-3-1-2), Adam Ballweg (S, 2.2-0-0-1-1).

Leading hitters – M: Bama Doyle (2x4), Tyler Kurt (2x4), Jack Doyle (2x3), Mitch Howard (2x4). 2B – Mitch Howard. SP: Chucky Schara (2X4), Alex Mayer (2x4), Benjamin Lenerz (2-3). 2B – Schara. HR — Schara.


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