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Middleton rallies past Sauk Prairie


July 12, 2018

SAUK CITY — Brady Schmitt was playing high school baseball for Middleton High School a month ago.

But the left-handed pitcher, who earned All-Big Eight Conference first team honors his senior season, found himself in a familiar position on the mound when the Middleton 29ers faced the host Sauk Prairie Twins in a Home Talent League Northern Section crossover game last Friday night.

While Schmitt was pitching for the 29ers for the first time in Sunday League play, he displayed the poise of a veteran in holding the Western Division-leading Twins at bay.

Schmitt allowed one run on five hits over five innings in relief as Middleton rallied for a 7-4 win over Sauk Prairie at Chuck Hall Memorial Field.

“I’ve pitched in the (high school) playoffs three times in my career and it felt like that tonight,” said Schmitt, who plans to try out for the UW-La Crosse baseball team this fall. “Against solid teams, you need to make pitches to win games. I like being in a pressure situation and going out and doing it.”

Middleton (8-2) trailed, 4-2, before using a three-run outburst in the seventh inning to take control. The 29ers’ balanced attack contributed 12 hits, including four doubles, with eight players coming up with base hits.

“All around, we had guys doing their job,” said Middleton left fielder Josh Hinson, who served as co-manager for the 29ers along with Jeff Schafer with manager Brandon Hellenbrand on vacation. “That’s great. It was a team effort.

“Sauk (Prairie) is a really, good team. The intensity is always up when we play against those guys.”

Middleton didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard in the first inning when leadoff hitter Brandon Scheidler blasted a double down the left-field line, moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on Luke Schafer’s ground out to first base.

Sauk Prairie (8-2) quickly countered in its half of the frame with a pair of unearned runs off Middleton starter Dylan Acker after the 29ers committed four errors.

Chucky Schara drew a leadoff walk, moved to third on a pair of infield errors by second baseman Luke Schafer, and scored when Alex Mayer bounced into a force out to tie the score.

Mayer, who moved to second on a throwing error on the play, then stole third base and scored when catcher Kevin Dubler’s throw sailed into left field to stake Sauk Prairie to a 2-1 lead.

The long-awaited matchup of the first-place teams in the Northern Sections Western and Eastern Divisions had a playoff buzz to it, which Mayer said made it important to get off to a good start.

“When Middleton comes, they’re going to bring it,” said Mayer, who had two hits and also drew a pair of walks for the Twins. “It’s always a good, competitive atmosphere. Win, lose or draw, it’s usually an exciting and fun game to play in.”

Sauk Prairie extended its lead to 3-1 in the fourth inning when Mayer walked with one out, moved to second after Lucas Koenig was hit by a pitch and scored on Dylan Slotty’s sharp single off shortstop Brennan Schmitt’s glove.

But Sauk Prairie would regret not taking advantage of its numerous opportunities early in the game when it stranded 10 base runners through the first four innings and 16 for the game.

The Twins left the bases loaded in the first two innings and left two on in both the third and fourth innings.

“We had some opportunities, and we’ve got to come through against Middleton and take advantage when we can,” Sauk Prairie player/manager Lucas Koenig said. “Offensively, we didn’t quite do that, but we were close.

“Both of their pitchers mixed it up, used multiple pitches and kept it low. Under the lights, it’s tough to hit. We’d get two hits, but couldn’t quite get that third hit with all the runners on.”

Middleton pulled within 3-2 in the top of the fifth when Hunter Bindl reached base on a bunt single and eventually scored on Brennan Schmitt’s ground ball to second base.

Hinson said he was impressed by the 29ers’ ability to overcome their rough start.

“I’m still not sure how we kept them to two runs early,” Hinson said. “But Dylan (Acker) did a very, good job pitching and hung in there. We made some errors. It happens.

“We made more than we’d like to, but he got through it. Kudos to Dylan. He did a great job getting through those innings and held them for four and Brady finished it up.”

Acker threw 98 pitchers through four innings, allowing just one earned run on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

“He made the pitches when he needed to,” Dubler said of Acker. “I’m really proud of Dylan. He didn’t really give in to them. He kept throwing like he should. He didn’t worry about what was going on behind him. He just kept plugging along.”

Brady Schmitt took over in the fifth inning and allowed a run in the sixth when Sam Koenig laced a double to left field, moved to third on Mayer’s bunt single and scored on Dylan Slotty’s sacrifice fly.

Slotty led the Twins with three hits and two runs batted in, while Sam Koenig and Elijah Jorgenson also had two hits each.

“That was good to see,” Lucas Koenig said of Slotty, who started at third base and finished up the game at second base. “It was nice to see him have a good night. He’s been putting a lot pressure on himself.”

But that was all the offense the Twins would muster off Brady Schmitt, who used his off-speed pitches, particularly his change-up, to limit Sauk Prairie to five base runners the rest of the way.

“Brady came in and with an experienced catcher like Kevin (Dubler) behind the plate, it was a good night for him to learn and grow,” Scheidler said. “You could see as they went along that Brady was making good pitches later in the counts.

“He was throwing 1-0 curve balls for strikes. That’s not something you see high school pitchers doing. It was fun to see. He will have a good future in this league.”

Dubler agreed.

“That was my first time catching him, and he had good stuff,” Dubler said of Schmitt. “He had a great change-up and was able to mix it up and keep guys off balance. It’s fun to work with guys when they are around the plate and can change speeds because it makes the game go a little bit faster.

“If you’re behind in the count and have a good off-speed pitch you can throw at any time, that makes a big difference. He knows the game, which makes it more enjoyable.”

Sauk Prairie starter Sam Koenig lasted five innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

But Middleton grabbed the lead for good with three runs in the seventh inning off Twins’ reliever Tom Ginther.

Ivan Monreal, who was 2-for-4, drew a leadoff walk and one out later Scheidler singled and Schafer walked to load the bases. Brennan Schmitt then bounced into a force play at second base, which scored Monreal.

The Twins’ narrowly missed turning an inning-ending double play, which came back to haunt them.

Dubler followed with a booming double into the right-field corner to score Scheidler and Schmitt for a 5-4 lead.

“If we get the double play there, that doesn’t happen,” Mayer said. “But Dubler is a seasoned veteran. He knows when to take advantage of the mistakes as well. Hats off to him for coming up big.”

For Dubler, who has battled a shoulder injury most of the season, which has limited his playing time, the timing of the clutch hit couldn’t have been better.

“I was hoping for something over the plate to hit and got a good pitch and put the ball in play,” Dubler said. “I’m just starting to get back into it and starting to get comfortable. It felt good.”

Jeff Schafer’s pinch hit RBI single made it 6-4 in the eighth, and the 29ers capped the scoring on Andrew Zimmerman’s run-scoring single in the ninth inning.

Hinson said although the playoffs are a month away, both teams didn’t hold anything back.

“It was back and forth down to the wire,” he said. “It’s never over until it’s over against these guys. They can hit the ball pretty well. It’s always nice to beat them here.

“We had some fielding errors and some throwing errors. But we came through. That’s the big thing.”

Middleton 7, Sauk Prairie 4

Middleton….....100 010 311 – 7 12 6

Sauk Prairie….200 101 000 – 4 11 2

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — M: Dylan Acker (4-6-1-4-3), Brady Schmitt (W, 5-5-1-2-1); SP: Sam Koenig (5-3-2-2-5), Tom Ginther (L, 3-5-4-2-4), Adam Ballweg (1-4-1-0-1).

Leading hitters – M: Brandon Scheidler (2x3), Kevin Dubler (2x4), Ivan Monreal (2x4), Hunter Bindl (2x4). 2B – Brandon Scheidler, Kevin Dubler 2, Ivan Monreal. SP: Dylan Slotty (3x3), Elijah Jorgenson (2x3), Sam Koenig (2x6), Alex Mayer (2x3). 2B – Sam Koenig.


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