Felton, Cardinals get their groove on

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Reese Felton and Middleton's baseball team rolled past Janesville Craig last week./Photo submitted

Middleton manager Tom Schmitt has had a stable of pitching arms to choose from this spring.

But settling on a second starter to pair with Brian Lochner hasn’t been easy.

Last Thursday, that search came to a close.

Middleton senior Reese Felton had his second straight sensational performance and led the Cardinals to a 4-1 win over Janesville Craig.

Felton threw a complete game, three-hitter, struck out seven and walked five. In Felton’s previous outing, he threw a no-hitter against Verona in which he struck out nine and walked nine.

So in Felton’s last two stints, he’s worked 14 innings, allowed one earned run and has an 0.50 earned run average. Felton has also given up just three hits and struck out 16 in that time.

“Yep, I think he’s the guy,” Schmitt said of Felton. “We always knew he was capable, but the issue was consistency. But right now he’s really got it going.”

Middleton improved to 9-5 in the Big Eight Conference and stayed one game back of Madison West (11-4) in the loss column. The Cardinals also improved to 11-5 overall.

“I’m pretty happy to be helping the team out right now,” Felton said. “I think we’re improving every day and I know we’ll be ready for the playoffs.”

Felton is a big reason why the Cardinals appear ready. And to think, he was an eyelash away from giving baseball up a year ago.

Felton failed to earn a spot on Middleton’s varsity as a junior, and thought about switching over to track. But after a long talk with JV coach Dan Hewuse, Felton changed his mind.

“I’m really glad now,” Felton said.

So are the Cardinals.

Against Craig, Felton gave up just one hit through the first 4 1/3 innings and never more than one in the same inning. Felton also seemed to get stronger as the game went on, recording all seven of his strikeouts in the final four innings.

Felton began the year as Middleton’s closer, largely because he throws in the 85 miles per hour range. But these days, Felton has earned a spot in the starting rotation.

“His curveball has gotten better and he’s really getting after hitters,” Schmitt said. “He was probably even better (against Craig) than his no-hitter because the walks were down.”

Middleton’s offense was quiet until the third inning, when junior second baseman Luke Schafer had a two-out single. Schafer went to third when junior catcher Jackson Keeler singled to right. Then when Craig starter Colin Frey balked, Schafer came home for a 1-0 Middleton lead.

The Cardinals, who have left far too many runners on base in recent games, then had a three-run fourth and took a 4-0 lead.

Junior Kasey Miller led off the frame with a single and stole second. Tanner Meinholz followed with an RBI single that scored Miller and made it 2-0.

After a walk to Chase Dickert, Zach Kasdorf reached on an error that scored Meinholz and made it 3-0. Kenji Passini then grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Dickert and made it 4-0.

“It was good to get the big inning,” Schmitt said. “We’ve been struggling some, especially getting runners around. So we needed that.”

Schafer, who has a hit in every game this season, agreed.

“We’ve been looking for some consistency with the bats,” Schafer said. “The past few games, we haven't had many clutch hits. So hopefully this is a good start.”

While it was a good start for Middleton’s hitters, it was an even better start for their new starter.

“I think I’ve improved through the whole year,” Felton said. “And right now, I just feel like I’m getting better each time I pitch.”

• Middleton 7, Janesville Parker 5 (8) — The Cardinals rallied from deficits of 4-2 and 5-4 and forced extra innings. Middleton then won it with a two-run eighth inning last Wednesday.

• Sun Prairie 3, Middleton 2 (8) — Host Sun Prairie scored a run in the eighth inning to take a commanding lead in the race for the Big Eight Conference title.

Sun Prairie improved to 17-2 overall and 14-2 in the league, giving it a two-game lead over Madison West in the loss column and a three game lead over Middleton.

 

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