SHULLSBURG – The Shullsburg-Benton Home Talent League baseball team went into the weekend looking for their first victory, but closed it riding a two-game winning streak after picking up back-to-back wins on back-to-back days in Western Section action.
The Fever topped Platteville, 7-5, on the road on Saturday, June 15, and then returned home on Sunday afternoon to defeat Ridgeway, 8-4, to leap out of the basement in the Western Section.
“There is quite a bit of burden off the team; it legitimizes our efforts to start this team. We were still having fun playing the game we love, but let’s face it you play to win the game. We have been close in the majority of our games, we just couldn’t put a complete game together,” said player/manager Tom Behrens. “I was originally told by several teams that it takes sometimes three years for an expansion team to start making progress and seeing wins; however, with this group we have a chance a surprising quite a few teams.”
Behrens started Saturday’s game off with a bang, blasting a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to send the Fever (2-9 overall, 2-6 in SL) out to an early 2-0 lead.
After a Tyler Pahnke ground out drove in Connor Crotty to make it 3-0 in the top of the third, the Woodchucks (1-7) answered with four runs of their own in the bottom of the inning to overtake the lead.
Undaunted, the Fever came right back with a pair of runs in the fourth on a two-run single by Behrens to regain the lead at 5-4; but the lead didn’t last long as the hosts plated a run in the home-half of the frame to deadlock the score at 5-5.
The score remained stuck there until the eighth when the Fever broke through for the go-ahead run with Kyle Hoppman driving in Jake Ruehle with a single.
The Fever added an insurance run in the ninth on a RBI single by Nathan Hendrickson, and reliever Brian Kammes shutout the Woodchucks in the bottom of the inning to earn the team’s first win.
Kammes (1-3) tossed four scoreless innings in relief, scattering five hits and striking out one with no walks. Hendrickson started for the Fever, yielding five runs on 10 hits and three walks with five Ks, and he aided the cause at the plate by going 3-for-4 with a run and a RBI.
Behrens finished 3-for-4 with a homer, four RBI and one run, while Crotty went 2-for-4 with a run.
Ruehle came around to score three times for the Fever.
“Jake seemed to be our spark plug. He is always on base at the right time,” said Behrens.
Still riding high from their first win the day before, the Fever got back out on the diamond and went right to work against the visiting Ridgeway Cardinals on a picture-perfect Father’s Day at Badger Park.
The Fever wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as Behrens doubled in Ruehle in the bottom of the first and later scored on a two-out, two-run single by Hoppman to put the hosts ahead 3-0.
Behrens singled in Ruehle in the second to extend the lead to 4-0.
Ridgeway (3-6) fought back to tie the score at four all by plating a pair of runs in the third and fifth innings, but the score didn’t remain tied for long as Pahnke singled home Pierce Russell with two outs in the home-half of the fifth to put the Fever ahead 5-4.
Colton Laird singled in Ruehle and Russell in the sixth to extend the lead to 7-4, and Crotty drove in Laird with a base hit in the eighth to send the Fever to their second straight victory.
Ruehle went 4-for-4 with a double and three runs scored to lead the Fever, while Behrens finished 2-for-5 with a double, two RBI and a run.
Hoppman was 3-for-5 with two RBI, and Russell was 2-for-5 with two runs. Laird also drove in two runs and scored once for Shullsburg/Benton.
Ned Schauff (1-2) tossed six solid innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with five walks and six strikeouts. Kammes earned the save in three scoreless innings of extended relief, allowing just one hit and walking five with two Ks.
“Ridgeway is a tough team. They always seem to be pesky to the better teams in the league. They were stealing bases at will against us, and finally we got ahead enough to where small ball would not work against us anymore. Our defense was key for us,” said Behrens.
“I just hope this begins to create the culture of winning for this team. We know we might not have the most talent, but we have some gamers that will do anything for a W. That is infectious for this group. Everyone starts feeding off of it. I can’t say enough how lucky I am to have this group of guys. They play the game the way baseball is meant to be.”
At Shullsburg, on Thursday, June 13, the visiting Woodchucks used a five-run third-inning rally to sink the Fever, 10-6, in a South Division Night League contest.
Platteville grabbed the lead with two runs in the top of the first, increased the lead to 7-0 in the third and extended it to 8-0 with a run in the fourth.
The Fever (0-3 in NL), who went their last four games without scoring a run, broke through in the fourth when shortstop Pierce Russell tripled and scored on a throwing error.
The Woodchucks upped their lead to 10-1 in the top of the fifth, but the hosts made things interesting by scoring four times in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit to 10-5. Colton Laird had a RBI-double and scored on Tom Behrens two-run double, and Behrens came in on a single by Russell.
The Fever added a run in the seventh when Laird tripled and scored, but it was too little, too late as Platteville held on for the win.
Laird went 2-for-2 with a double and a triple, two runs and a RBI, and Russell was 2-for-3 with a triple, a run and a RBI.
Behrens went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run, and he recorded six strikeouts in four relief innings.
Wyatt Cook also banged out two hits for the hosts.
The Fever hosts Wiota in a Night League game on Thursday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m., and they head to Dodgeville for a Sunday League game with the Knights on Sunday, June 23, starting at 1 p.m.
HTL SUNDAY LEAGUE
Ridgeway…... 002 020 000 – 4 8 0
Shulls/Bent… 310 012 01x – 8 15 1
Leading Hitters: Jake Ruehle 4x4, Tom Behrens 2x5, Pierce Russell 2x5, Kyle Hoppman 3x5. 2B- Ruehle, Behrens.
WP- Ned Schauf. LP- Welu.
At Shullsburg, on Sunday, June 16
Shulls/Bent… 201 200 011 – 7 10 0
Platteville…... 004 100 000 – 5 15 4
Leading Hitters: Tom Behrens 3x4, Connor Crotty 2x4, Nathan Hendrickson 3x4. HR- Behrens.
WP- Brian Kammes. LP- Fritz.
At Platteville, on Saturday, June 15
HTL NIGHT LEAGUE
Platteville…... 205 120 0 – 10 4 3
Shulls/Bent… 000 140 1 – 6 11 2
Leading Hitters: Colton Laird 2x2, Tom Behrens 2x4, Pierce Russell 2x3, Wyatt Cook 2x3. 3B- Laird, Russell. 2B- Laird, Behrens.
WP- NA. LP- Wyatt Cook.
At Shullsburg, on Thursday, June 13