Oconomowoc falls in state quarterfinal
It came as a surprise when Stevens Point didn't send workhorse pitcher Logan Mallek out to start the game in the opening round of the WIAA Division 1 baseball state tournament in Appleton on Tuesday. Unfortunately for opposing Oconomowoc, it was Mallek who was on the mound at the finish.
The Raccoons built a 4-0 lead at Time Warner Cable Field in Appleton, but a pitching change, clutch hits and a pair of OHS fielding miscues left the Raccoons mulling a 6-4 loss in the state quarterfinal. The Panthers advanced into the semifinal later Tuesday evening, while Oconomowoc was eliminated after playing in its first state tourney since 2001.
A fielding nightmare in the sixth inning allowed Stevens Point to score twice with two outs and break a 4-4 tie.
Shortstop Jack Zoeller couldn't get a handle on a bounder with two outs and a runner on first, keeping the inning alive for SPASH left fielder Seth Merill, who singled up the middle to give the Panthers their first lead of the game. One batter later, Sterling King reached when Austin Hallett couldn't snag a grounder to second base, and another run came around to score.
"There's only one team that ends up winning the last game," coach Arno Kirchenwitz said. "We have to remember the positive things we did. We had them on the ropes. The ball didn't bounce our way a couple times, and that's baseball. The kid they had (on the mound) got tougher. They tried to sneak their No. 2 by us, and it didn't work."
Stevens Point elected to start sophomore Austin Schulfer on the mound instead of senior workhorse Logan Mallek. Both had ERAs under 1.80 coming into the contest, but Cooney jumped all over Schulfer, churning out six hits and a hit batsman in 1 1/3 innings. Tyler Christensen tripled in a run, and Matt Klink's RBI groundout made it 2-0 in the first. In the second, three straight singles by Blake Loppnow, Mike Del Vecchio and Zoeller brought in two runs to make it 4-0.
Mallek entered to record the final two outs of the frame, making plays on consecutive comebackers and stranding two more runners in scoring position. He allowed only one clean hit, a double by Hallett, during the remainder of the game.
SPASH went to work in the bottom half of the second, sending eight men to the plate and scoring twice. Christensen recorded a strikeout, one of his five, to leave the bases loaded and keep the lead at 4-2.
That advantage lasted another frame, when SPASH scored twice more on a single and sacrifice fly. One of those runs was earned as well, and Christensen finished with two earned runs allowed in six innings, with six hits and five walks.
After making a sensational diving stop to record a force out and take a hit away from Christensen closing the sixth, SPASH shortstop Eric Zelhofer drew a one-out walk in the bottom half and came around to score the go-ahead run.
"We hit the ball hard and didn't have anything to show for it a couple times," Kirchenwitz said.
Mallek looked strongest in the seventh, striking out all three Oconomowoc batters and sending his team into the semifinal.
"I'm proud of our kids, proud of everything they accomplished and how hard they played," Kirchenwitz said. "We've got a lot of kids coming back next year. This is a heck of an atmosphere."
Del Vecchio reached base safely three times and was on first base all four times, reaching on an error in his final at-bat.
"It meant a lot (to get here)," the senior said. "Playing in Beloit on that nice field (at the sectional) and playing here, it was just a great time. They hit a flair here, a flair there. It happens."
Said fellow senior Corey Lamp, "Oconomowoc's a baseball high school. To finally get back after 11 years, it's huge."
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