A three-run seventh inning pushed the Clintonville A’s to a 3-2 win Aug. 17 over Marion in the BABA East Division final at W.A. Olen Athletic Field at Don Jirschele Stadium.
The A’s will now host Plover at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, in a BABA semifinal. The Pterodactyls advanced with a 17-inning 1-0 win over Waupaca.
The game in Clintonville was a pitcher’s duel through the first six innings. Both teams sent former Clintonville Truckers baseball standouts to the mound, as Jansen Van Daalwyk pitched for Clintonville and Chase Stenson headed to the hill for Marion.
Van Daalwyk used his full arsenal of pitches, mixing breaking balls with fastballs and off-speed pitches to keep Marion hitters guessing. The defense behind him was solid, although Marion scored a run in the top of the second inning on a two-out error by the A’s second baseman.
Marion took a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning on a towering solo home run to center field by another former Trucker, Jake Westphal.
Stenson, meanwhile, looked to overpower Clintonville hitters with his fastball. His strategy worked well, as he tossed a few breaking balls into the mix and kept the A’s offense silent through six innings. Clintonville put runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the sixth, but Jared Westphal and Jesse Wiley hit deep fly balls that were caught at the fence for the second and third outs of the inning.
The A’s, seeming to feel a sense of urgency as they entered the bottom of the seventh inning, sent Van Daalwyk to the plate to hit, removing designated hitter Scott Schoenike. Van Daalwyk hit a line drive up the middle for a single and Corey Smith entered the game to pinch run for the pitcher.
Catcher Jeremy Schoenike tried to get a bunt down to advance the runner, but popped the ball up into the air. Stenson charged in from the mound and made a great diving catch in front of the plate for an out. He then fired to first, but Smith dove back to the base a split second before the ball arrived to break up the double play attempt.
Griffin Wiley stepped to the plate with one out and ripped a base hit. Ryan Ebert was up next, but before he had a chance to hit, a passed ball allowed Smith to race to third base while Wiley trotted to second.
With two runners in scoring position, Ebert hit an RBI groundout scoring Smith and sending Wiley to third base. Ebert’s RBI cut the score to 2-1 in favor of the Meisters.
Aaron Everts came to the plate with a game-tying RBI in mind, but settled for a walk.
John Dunlavy followed Everts and smashed a double to left center field. Griffin Wiley scored easily from third while Everts got on his horse and raced around second base and into third, where third base coach Mike Sasse furiously windmilled his arm toward home, sending Everts in an attempt to score the go-ahead run.
Everts desperately raced towards the plate as the Meisters relayed the ball back to the infield. The throw to the plate appeared to beat Everts by a step, but he dove into a head-first slide as catcher Ricky Nettles caught the relay throw and reached to apply the tag. The umpire emphatically waved both arms as the dust settled, signaling that Everts had made it home safely.
The call drew a deluge of boos and several choice remarks from the Marion fans, but the play stood. Nettles would later tell his teammates in the dugout that Everts had made a great slide and another camera angle confirmed that Everts had avoided Nettles’ tag.
Dean Muthig popped out to second base to end the inning, but the A’s had a 3-2 lead.
Dave Jueds led off Marion’s half of the eighth with a walk. With the tying run at first, Cody Riemer came to the plate looking to bunt, but missed on his first and second attempts. Jeremy Schoenike alertly threw to first base after the second failed bunt attempt, as Jueds had wandered far from the base. The throw was on target and Jueds was easily tagged out by first baseman Jesse Wiley.
Riemer struck out swinging on the next pitch from Van Daalwyk for the second out of the inning. Jeff Miller made the final out of the inning, grounding out to third base.
Stenson rebounded from the heartbreaking seventh inning to strike out Jared Westphal for the first out in the bottom half of the eighth. Stenson never seemed to tire, firing two blistering fastballs past Jesse Wiley before getting him to ground out to Riemer for the second out. Van Daalwyk followed with a walk, but Schoenike popped out to Stenson to end the inning.
Dunlavy warmed up his arm in the bullpen during the bottom of the eighth and looked ready to come into the game in relief of Van Daalwyk, but the A’s stuck with their ace, giving the young pitcher a chance to finish what he started.
Van Daalwyk got Jake Westphal to pop out to Muthig for the first out, but Ryan Mortenson followed with a walk on a 3-2 count, putting the tying run at first.
Joe Green followed with a pop out to second, but Mark Miller drew a walk on a full count to put runners at first and second.
Sasse called a timeout and gathered the infielders at the mound to talk things over, but again they chose to stick with Van Daalwyk.
Stenson, with a walk-off win in mind, looked confident as he stepped to the plate. Van Daalwyk fearlessly continued to throw his best pitches. Stenson took a mighty swing at a pitch he liked, but the result was a ground ball to shortstop. Muthig charged, scooped up the ball and threw to first on the run for the game’s final out.
Clintonville beat Plover 4-3 last year in the playoffs and went on to win the BABA Grand Championship with a 13-7 win over Elderon.
West Division champion Tigerton will host North Division champion Aniwa in the other semifinal. Aniwa beat Elderon 7-5, while Tigerton downed Leopolis 2-0.
The BABA Grand Championship is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, and hosted by the winner of the Aniwa vs. Tigerton semifinal.