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Things heating up for Twins

Sauk Prairie cruises by Cross Plains


July 12, 2018

Mary Langenfeld

Sauk Prairie manager Lucas Koenig has been pleased by how his Twins have played this season.

Getting off to a good start hasn't been a problem for the Sauk Prairie Twins this season.

You can usually count on the Twins to score at least a couple of runs in their first at bat.

But after stranding 16 base runners the evening before, the Twins were more concerned about a strong finish when they hosted the Cross Plains Businessmen in a rare Saturday afternoon Home Talent League game.

No problem.

Joah Carlson pulled Sauk Prairie into a tie with a seventh-inning single, and Tyler Prime followed one inning later with a booming RBI double that proved to be the game-winning hit in a 5-4 victory over the Businessmen in a Northern Section cross-over game at Chuck Hall Memorial Field.

"It felt like we never left the park last night," Sauk Prairie player/manager Lucas Koenig said. "It was tough. We had a lot less guys available today than we normally do. It felt a little quiet, and it was a different atmosphere. It was a grinder game."

After Sauk Prairie stranded 16 base runners in a 7-4 loss to Middleton on Friday night, the Twins seemed poised to suffer a similar fate against Cross Plains right-hander Drew Meinholz on Saturday.

Sauk Prairie (9-2) used run-scoring singles from Alex Mayer and Lucas Koenig to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

But Meinholz retired nine consecutive batters and 14 of 16 spanning the first and fifth innings as the Businessmen (4-7) rallied for a 4-2 lead.

"Drew did a good job of locating his pitches," said Cross Plains catcher Will Doherty, who was making just his second appearance of the season in the HTL after spending the past six weeks playing in the Coastal Plains League in North Carolina and Virginia. "He threw well but we weren't able to pull out a win for him."

Drew Meinholz said he relied primarily on a two-seam fastball to keep the Twins in check after the first inning.

"I had trouble finding a curve ball early," said Meinholz, who was making his first start in Sunday HTL action. "I talked to Will and found out I was throwing it too hard. About the third inning, I started throwing it slower and it started working better."

Cross Plains took advantage of a dropped fly ball and Austin Cook's RBI single to pull within 2-1 in the top of the second inning.

Drew Meinholz, who opened the game with a booming double to left field, but was stranded at third, singled in his second at bat to open the third inning and scored on the first of Doherty's two doubles to tie the game at 2-2 in the third inning.

The Businessmen then grabbed a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning against Sauk Prairie starter Tayler Koenig when Jeremy Lochner blasted a one-out triple to center field and scored on Ryan Pulvermacher's double in the right field corner.

One out later, Pulvermacher scored when Eric Hilton reached base on an infield error. But Taylor Koenig induced Brett Cushman to ground out to first base and retired eight of the next 11 Cross Plains batters to keep the Twins close.

"Taylor kept throwing strikes," Lucas Koenig said. "When a guy can attack the zone with breaking balls and throw strikes all day, it gets frustrating for the other team's hitters."

Taylor Koenig tossed 7 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

"That was my longest outing this season by quite a bit," Taylor Koenig said. "I was throwing a lot of strikes. All of my off-speed pitches were strikes. The ones they hit weren't bad pitches. They're just good hitters."

The Busineesmen finished with nine hits, including five doubles and a triple.

"We were able to limit the damage," Taylor Koenig said. "I just tried to stay consistent with my pitches, and I was hitting the corners pretty well."

Meanwhile, Sauk Prairie rallied against Drew Meinholz, tacking on two runs in the sixth inning to pull into a 4-4 tie.

Carlson said the Twins believed all along they were going to find a way to win.

"After they made it 4-2, we came into the dugout and said it wasn't over," Carlson said. "We knew we had plenty of game left. We had a game last night and had a lot of guys with tired legs, but we pushed through."

Prime said that Meinholz "was effectively wild," but that it was a matter of time before the Twins would get to him.

"I don't think he was fooling anybody," Prime said. "It was just that he was missing bats. We had some hard-hit balls but just got under them a bit. He was dodging us just enough."

Not for long, though, as Mayer led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single to center field, and one out later moved to second on Jeremy Meier's single to left field. Mayer then stole third base and scored on a throwing error.

After Prime drew a four-pitch walk with two outs, Carlson followed with a sharp single to center field to score Meier to make it a new ball game.

Carlson, who excitedly punched his fist into the air after he lined the game-tying single, said he was seeing the ball well all day.

"In my first at bat against Meinholz, I saw the ball out of his hand really well. I just didn't put it where I wanted to," Carlson said after he lined out to left field before singling to center in his second at bat in the fifth inning. "I liked what he was throwing and took advantage of what I got. It paid off well for us."

Taylor Koenig retired the first two Cross Plains batters in the eighth inning before his day ended after he walked Shane Murphy on a 3-2 count.

But right-hander Connor Leister came on to strike out Drew Meinholz on four pitches to end the threat.

"He throws hard," Meinholz said of Leister. "That was a nice changeup between him and (Taylor Koenig), who was slower and threw a lot of junk. (Leister) had a fastball with quite a bite on it."

That set the stage for the Twins' game-winning rally against Cross Plains left handed reliever Bryce Duhr.

After Duhr retired the first two batters he faced, Benjamin Lenerz ripped a single to right field and advanced to second base on a balk. Prime then blasted a double off a 2-1 fastball to the left-center field gap to score Lenerz for a 5-4 lead.

"He wasn't blowing anything by anybody, so I was looking fastball," Prime said of Duhr. "He fed it right where I like it. I was going to jump on anything in the zone. I knew we had a guy on second. A walk, getting on base was nice.

"But I wanted to drive a guy in. I was looking for a pitch I could drive."

Leister then retired the side in order in the ninth inning, striking out Doherty on three fastballs to end the game.

"Once it was tied, we came out looking to win," Carlson said. "We knew the game was ours to take. Once we got the lead in the bottom of the eighth, we took it from there. We knew Connor (Leister) was going to shut them down for us."

The weekend split kept Sauk Prairie one game ahead of second-place Mazomanie in the loss column and two games ahead of third-place Reedsburg in the Northern Section Western Division.

"It was a big weekend against Middleton and Cross Plains," Prime said. "We missed one against Middleton. But we needed this one, and we came through. The few mistakes we had, we put behind us. We played good ball when it counted."

Cross Plains manager Randy Meinholz was disappointed after the Businessmen lost their fifth game of the season that was decided by three runs or less.

But he is proud of his team's efforts.

"We've had a lot of close losses and are getting tired of losing," Randy Meinholz said. "But I think we're right there and as good as any team in the league. We'll give any team in the league a battle on any given day."

Sauk Prairie 5, Cross Plains 4

Cross Plains ...... 011 020 000 – 4 9 2

Sauk Prairie .... 200 002 01x – 5 10 3

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) - CP: Drew Meinholz (6-8-2-1-2), Bryce Duhr (L, 2-2-1-0-3); SP: Taylor Koenig (7.2-9-2-2-4), Connor Leister (W, 1.1-0-0-0-3).

Leading hitters – CP: Drew Meinholz (3x5), Will Doherty (2x5). 2B – Drew Meinholz 2, Will Doherty 2, Ryan Pulvermacher. 3B – Jeremy Lochner. SP: Alex Mayer (2x4), Jeremy Meier (2x4), Joah Carlson (2x4). 2B – Jeremy Meier, Tyler Prime.


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