Baseball Cards fall at state

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton's Drew Finley Haag was thrust into action Tuesday after starting pitcher Alec Morrison was struck in the head with a line drive. The Cardinals fell to Green Bay Preble in a state quarterfinal game./Times-Tribune photo by Don Krueger

GRAND CHUTE — It took Middleton’s baseball team exactly six minutes to discover that Tuesday just might not their day.

On only the eighth pitch of the game from Cardinals starter Alec Morrison, Green Bay Preble third baseman Ryan Dougherty sent a shot back up the middle. The ball struck Morrison in the right forehead, sent him to the ground and immediately ended his day.

While Morrison was eventually OK, the Cardinals weren’t.

Middleton managed just four hits, couldn’t overcome the loss of their ace and dropped a WIAA Division 1 quarterfinal game to Green Bay Preble, 4-2, at Fox Cities Stadium.

Middleton finished the year 22-6, while Preble improved to 24-5.

“That was a tough one to handle,” Schmitt said of Morrison’s injury. “Morry is kind of our heart and soul in the middle of the lineup and our No. 1 (pitcher).

“Alec has done such a good job for us for two years, but it will happen. Just like I told the kids, I said, ‘In life it doesn’t always go as planned and you’ve got to have a plan to back it up.’ It would be nice to have your horse go through the whole game, but hopefully he’s OK.”

As the Cardinals’ left the Fox Valley area, they fully expected Morrison to be all right.

Morrison went to a local hospital for stitches and for an examination. But Schmitt said Morrison had passed the concussion protocol tests before leaving the stadium and seemed to be sharp mentally.

Replacing Morrison on the mound and in the lineup proved too tall of an order, though.

Morrison had an 8-3 record with a 2.85 ERA this season. Morrison was also Middleton’s clean-up hitter and was batting .386 with a team-high 20 RBI before Tuesday.

“You start off getting two outs, then Morry takes one off the head,” Middleton senior third baseman Brennan Schmitt said. “You’re thinking, ‘What the heck? Why this game? Why not a different time?’

“But that goes in one ear, out the other pretty quick. Then you’re thinking about who’s coming in and who’s going to step up? And we had guys step up today.”

The Cardinals did have that.

Senior Drew Finley Haag moved from center field to the mound. And while Finley Haag took the loss after allowing five hits and three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, he kept Middleton in the game.

The Cardinals’ defense was extremely sharp behind Finley Haag. And Middleton’s offense showed some spark late.

But it took the Cardinals too long to solve Preble starter and ace Caleb Schoenholtz. In the sectional finals, Schoenholtz hurled a no-hitter and Middleton didn’t get its first hit off of him until Brennan Schmitt’s double to lead off the fifth inning.

“He had some good movement, even on his fastball,” Brennan Schmitt said. “He used his curveball well and got us a few times. Definitely a good pitcher.

“In our league, we face some really good pitchers, but he was right up there. He wasn’t the hardest throwing guy, but his movement was pretty good. He got us early, but the second and third times through, we were able to square him up and get better at bats.”

By then, though, the Cardinals had dug themselves a hole.

Finley Haag worked out of the first inning after replacing Morrison. But Finley Haag had a rough second inning, allowing a pair of hits, walking two batters and giving up two runs as the Hornets grabbed a 2-0 lead.

“It was tough,” Finley Haag said. “Initially there’s some shock. It’s tough because Alec’s been so important to us all year.”

Finley Haag allowed just one base runner over the next two innings. In the fifth, though, Preble put runners on the corners with one out, and center fielder Jarrett Scheelk delivered a sacrifice fly that gave the Hornets a 3-0 lead.

Middleton began chipping away, though.

In the bottom of the fifth, Brennan Schmitt led off with a double and went to third on a single to left by senior right fielder Nolan Kouba. Sophomore designated hitter Nolan Kelliher followed with a sacrifice fly to left that pulled the Cardinals within 3-1. But second baseman Hunter Bindl grounded into a double play to end the threat.

Middleton added a run in the bottom of the sixth when Finley Haag had a one-out single, then went to second when sophomore catcher Alan Roden was hit by a pitch with two outs. Pinch hitter Zach Shipley followed with a solid single to right that scored Finley Haag and pulled the Cardinals within 3-2.

“He was a good pitcher,” Tom Schmitt said of Schoenholtz. “He’s their best pitcher for a reason and they don’t get here without him.

“It took a couple at-bats, then we had some at-bats where we were better. He’s a good pitcher and a good pitcher is hard to hit. But I thought our guys battled back and gave us a chance.”

They did, but Preble added an insurance run in the top of the seventh off of Bindl.

In the bottom of the frame, Kouba drew a leadoff walk giving Middleton some hope. But Kelliher flew out to right, then Bindl bounced into a game-ending double play.

While the Cardinals were clearly disappointed afterwards, they were also savoring their trip to the state tournament.

Just one year ago, Middleton went 10-16 overall and finished eighth in the 10-team Big Eight Conference. This season, the Cardinals made a complete 180-degree turn.

“For them to lose and have a losing record (in 2015) and then be able to turn it around, that’s a lot of determination and hard work,” Tom Schmitt said. “Only eight teams out of 96 get here and we were one of them. There’s only going to be one team that’s truly happy.”

Finley Haag agreed.

“It was a great year and I’m really proud of all these guys,” he said. “It was a real struggle last year, and I’m just really happy that we were able to make it here with all these guys.”

 

Green Bay Preble 020 010 1 — 4 10 0

Middleton 000 011 0 — 2 4 1

GREEN BAY PREBLE (ab-r-h-rbi) — Champione 3-1-1-0; Lemmens 3-0-0-0; Dougherty 4-1-3-0; Scheelk 3-0-0-1; Kastberg 1-1-0-0; Schoenholz 4-0-1-0; Bagniefski 0-0-0-0; Adrians 4-1-2-1; Geil 0-0-0-0; Bialkowski 3-0-1-0; Summers 3-0-2-1; Baldschun 0-0-0-0. Totals 28-4-10-4.

MIDDLETON — Finley Haag 3-1-1-0; Belleveau 3-0-0-0; Roden 2-0-0-0; Morrison 0-0-0-0; Ziegler 2-0-0-0; Land 0-0-0-0; Shipley 1-0-1-1; Ballweg 0-0-0-0; Ticknor 0-0-0-0; Schmitt 3-1-1-0; Kouba 2-0-1-0; Acker 0-0-0-0; Kelliher 2-0-0-1; Bindl 3-0-0-0; Monreal 1-0-0-0; Ross 0-0-0-0. Totals 22-2-4-2.

2B — Adrians; Schmitt. Stolen bases — Dougherty 3, Bialkowski 1, Summers 1. Caught stealing — Geil. Sacrifice — Lemmens 1, Scheelk 1; Kelliher 1. Hit by pitch — Kastberg (by Bindl); Roden (by Schoenholz), Monreal (by Schoenholz). Errors — Roden. Lefton base — GBP 9, M 3.

Pitchers (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — GBP: Schoenholz (W, 7-4-2-2-1-1); M: Morrison (0.2-1-0-0-0-1); Finley Haag (L, 4.1-5-3-3-3-3); Bindl (2-4-1-0-0-0).

 

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