Big 8 title in reach for baseball Cards

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Matt Ballweg and Middleton's baseball team are in the hunt for a Big Eight Conference title./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton baseball standout Alan Roden sat with Cardinals’ skipper Tom Schmitt at the start of the year.

Schmitt asked his catcher-turned-shortstop what he wanted to accomplish in 2018, and Roden’s answer was precise.

“I said No. 1, I want to win a state championship,” Roden said. “And 1A is to win the Big Eight.”

We’ll learn more about the Middleton’s chances at a state title next month. For now, though, Roden and the Cardinals are set up perfectly for a Big Eight Conference title run.

Middleton won three of four conference games last week and moved into a tie for first place. The Cardinals are 11-5 overall, 8-3 in the league and tied for the conference lead with both Janesville Craig (7-2, 13-2) and Sun Prairie (8-3, 11-3).

Middleton defeated Janesville Parker 3-0 on May 1 and edged the Vikings, 2-1, on Monday. The Cardinals also split a doubleheader with Madison West Saturday, dropping the opener, 7-6, then rallying for a 12-7 win in the nightcap.

Middleton has seven league games remaining and six of those are against the bottom three teams in the league. The other is against Craig, which has won three straight conference titles.

In theory, Middleton’s path to a title isn’t overly daunting.

“Well, it sets up OK,” Schmitt said of the Cardinals’ closing schedule. “But we’ve got to play with a lot more consistency. Right now, we’re not close to where we need to be from a consistency standpoint.”

Schmitt made those comments after Middleton split with West on Saturday. And to a man, the Cardinals felt fortunate to leave with one win, which kept their title dreams in focus.

Middleton played one of its most uneven games of the season in the opener and dropped the first game of the twinbill.

The Cardinals built a 3-0 lead. But Middleton ace Brady Schmitt allowed two runs in the bottom of the third inning and three more in the fourth without recording an out.

Schmitt, usually a control artist who specializes in keeping opposing batters off balance, struggled with his location. West took full advantage as eight of the final 11 batters Schmitt faced got hits and the Regents grabbed a 5-3 lead.

“It was just a rough day for Brady,” Tom Schmitt said of his son. “He hasn’t had many like that.”

Middleton rallied with a three-run fifth and reclaimed a 6-5 lead. Both Luke Ballweg and Carsen Schulz scored on a West error, then Noah Casali doubled to right scoring Nolan Kelliher and putting the Cardinals back in front.

But West scored a pair of unearned runs off reliever Josh Stumpf in the bottom of the fifth and surged back ahead, 7-6. Middleton managed just one hit in the final two innings and suffered a tough loss.

“That was a rough game,” Roden said. “One of our worst, for sure.”

The second game of the doubleheader didn’t start any better.

West raced to leads of 5-0 through 3 ½ innings and 7-3 after 4 ½ innings. But two things happened to keep the Cardinals in the thick of the Big Eight race.

First, Middleton erupted for nine runs in the bottom of the fifth and turned a 7-3 deficit into a 12-7 lead. Second, reliever Carson Blair did yeoman’s work down the stretch to earn the win.

Blair threw the final 3 1/3 innings and didn’t allow an earned run. Blair struck out six, allowed four hits and walked just one.

Blair escaped a bases loaded jam in the fourth when he struck out West’s John Frehner. Then Blair struck out three in the final two innings and refused to let the Regents back in the game.

“Coach always preaches to throw strikes and I was just trying to get the first pitch strike right away,” Blair said. “I come into the tough spots pretty often and I just have to be ready.
“Then our team got a lot of momentum when we started hitting the ball and that relayed to me. Our team really helped me a lot and they talked to me and they encouraged me and that helped a lot.”

Middleton’s bats did a lot of talking, too, during its nine-run fifth.

Joel Ticknor walked to open the frame, then Roden singled to right. Luke Ballweg singled to right to score Ticknor, then Schulz reached on an error that scored Roden and pulled Middleton within 7-5.

Zach Shipley then crushed a double to left that scored both Ballweg and Schulz and tied the game, 7-7. Middleton later loaded the bases with one out, when pinch hitter Adam Casali singled to left to score Kelliher and give the Cardinals an 8-7 lead.

Two batters later, with the bases still loaded, Roden lofted what appeared to be a routine fly ball to left. But Regents left fielder Max Hanson misjudged the ball, it fell over his head, and two runs scored.

“I thought that was a can of corn,” Roden said. “I’ve played a lot of baseball and thought that was a routine out.”

Luke Ballweg then reached when Frehner, West’s second baseman, committed a pair of errors on the same play. That allowed Adam Casali and Roden to score and give Middleton a 12-7 lead.

“I was pretty worried before that inning,” Roden said. “We didn’t play very well (Saturday), but we played some good ball the last few innings.”

Blair agreed.

“We were hoping to do better than winning one out of two,” he said. “That’s not good enough. But after the way the day started, it was good to win one game.”

And stay in the hunt for a conference title.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Cardinals’ week:

• Middleton 2, Janesville Parker 1 — Matt Ballweg threw a complete-game, six-hitter as the Cardinals edged the visiting Vikings Monday.

Ballweg threw strikes on 56 of his 79 pitches (70.9%), struck out five and walked just two.

Middleton scored both of its runs in the fourth. Joel Ticknor had a leadoff double and scored on Alan Roden’s RBI single to right. Roden went to second on the throw home, then scored himself on Luke Ballweg’s single to right.

Parker scored a run with one out in the fifth, but Ballweg worked out of that jam. The Vikings put their first two runners on in the sixth, but Ballweg escaped thanks a double play started by Middleton first baseman Carsen Schulz.

Then after Parker put the leadoff man on to start the seventh, Ballweg retired the next three batters and the Cardinals left victorious.

• Middleton 3, Janesville Parker 0 — Luke Ballweg and Derek Reisdorf combined to throw a four-hit shutout as the Cardinals blanked the host Vikings on May 1.

Ballweg threw 4 2/3 innings, allowed just three hits, struck out four and walked three. Reisdorf gave up just one hit and struck out one in the final 2 1/3 innings.

Carsen Schulz led off the fourth inning with a single and eventually scored on a Noah Casali groundout to give Middleton a 1-0 lead. The Cardinals then added two runs in the fifth and took a 3-0 lead.

Cooper Holewinski drew a leadoff walk and scored on a sacrifice fly by Roden. One batter later, Luke Ballweg singled to score Nick Michaels.


May 5

Game 1

Madison West 7, Middleton 6

Middleton .............. 102 030 0 — 6 7 1

Madison West ....... 002 320 0 — 7 11 4

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Ballweg (1-0-0-1-1), Schmitt (L; 3-10-5-2-2), Stumpf (2-1-0-2-1); Grunder (2-1-0-1-2); Burgess (W; 5-6-3-2-1).

Leading hitters — MID: Ticknor 2x3. 2B — Schulz, Roden, Holewinski. MW: O’Flahrity 2x3, Sorensen 3x3, Treichel 2x3.


Game 2

Middleton 12, Madison West 7

Madison West ....... 001 420 0 — 7 10 3

Middleton ............ 000 390 0 — 12 9 2

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Sorensen (4-5-6-2-1), Grunder (1-3-1-2-1), Grosse (L; 1-1-0-0-1); Blair (W; 3.1-4-1-1-6); Ballweg (3.2-6-5-6-2).

Leading hitters — MW: Baldwin 2x3, Frehner 2x3, Sorensen 2x4, Rosenberg 2x3. 2B — Baldwin. MID: Roden 2x3, Casali 2x4. 2B — Roden, Shipley, Casali 2.


May 1

Middleton 3, Janesville Parker 0

Middleton ………….. 000 120 0 — 3 8 2

Parker ………………. 000 000 0 — 0 4 1

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Ballweg (W; 4.2-3-0-3-4), Reisdorf (2.1-1-0-0-1); Stone (L; 7-8-3-2-2).

Leading hitters — MID: Ballweg 2x3, Shipley 3x3. 2B — Shipley. JP: Hamilton 2x3. 2B — Nemetz.


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