Central's stay at state shortened by Marathon
St. Croix Central's trip to the 2008 WIAA State Baseball Championships was kept brief by Marathon last Wednesday.
Central and Marathon squared off in the first of the two Division 3 state semifinal games. Central had many baserunners, especially early in the game, that it couldn't capitalize on. Marathon had chances that it did put to use, scoring six runs in the fifth and sixth innings, to beat Central 7-2.
The loss leaves the Panthers with an 18-6 final record for the 2008 season.
This was the first trip to state in baseball in school history for St. Croix Central, but the Panthers showed no signs of nervousness. In the first innings it was the Panthers that put the pressure on Marathon, by getting runners into scoring position in each of the first three innings.
"We had the right people up, they gave us some breaks too. We just didn't put the ball in play enough," said Central coach Mike Fern.
Whenever Marathon starting pitcher David Schreier got into trouble in those early innings, he relied on a sharply diving curveball to get out of jams. Schreier recorded six strikeouts in the first three innings, all with Panthers in scoring position.
"We're not a good low-ball hitting team," Fern said. "We had trouble with his curveball."
Strikeouts would continue to be an issue for the Panthers throughout the game. They finished the game with 14 K's recorded in the scorebook.
The game remained scoreless until Marathon scored in the top of the third inning. Schreier singled and stole second base. After a walk, Marathon's Andy Kaldunski hit a sharp grounder to third. Central's Mike Winkler made a nice stab on the ball and tagged third for the forceout. He then tried to throw across to first for the double play. Winkler's throw sailed wide of the target and out of play, allowing Marathon's Tyler Seubert to score from second base.
The Panthers had a great chance to score in the fourth inning. Jared Fern and Brady Hartung walked. Then Luke Brown was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Schreier again was able to pitch out of the pickle, getting two strikeouts and a groundout.
The game began to slip away from the Panthers in the fifth inning. Both Schreier and Central starting pitcher Mark Shaver had struggled to find an inconsistent strike zone during the game.
Shaver threw a high number of pitches in the game and by the fifth inning the burden began to show. Marathon put runners on the corners with a walk and a single. Seubert then put down a perfectly placed suicide squeeze bunt to bring home the first run of the inning.
Kaldunski then singled to leftfield, bringing home two runs, and the Panthers were in a 4-0 hole.
The hole got deeper when Marathon added three more runs in the sixth inning. This was when Marathon began hitting Shaver with authority. The rally included a pair of hard-hit RBI doubles.
The Panthers never gave up and they were able to produce two runs in the sixth inning. Brown led off with a walk. Pinch-hitter Andrew Erickson also walked, and they both moved up on a passed ball. Brown then scored Central's first run on a ground out by Michael Tilton. Jeff Fern followed with another walk. Shaver then struck out, but Noah Bollom came through, lining a single to left that scored pinch-runner Cody Olson. Nick Nygaard then struck out for the third time in the game to end the threat.
Shaver pitched the complete game for the Panthers, suffering his first loss after winning his first 11 decisions. He allowed eight hits and walked four while striking out seven.
"He pitched well enough to win, we just didn't score enough," Coach Fern said. "Mark didn't look as fluid as he has. But if we'd scored a couple runs early, the whole team would have been more relaxed."
The Panthers are nearly entirely seniors and Coach Fern has worked with this team for much of their lives. He said the first state appearance was a fitting way for this group of seniors to conclude their high school careers.
Marathon 7, St. Croix Central 2
Schreier p-3b 4-2-3, Seubert ss 1-3-1, Kaldunski 1b 4-0-1, Hamann 3b-p 4-0-2, Heindl lf 4-0-0, Ahles rf 4-0-0, Stanley dh 3-0-0, B.Blume cf 3-2-1, N.Blume 2b 2-0-0, Krautkramer c 0-0-0. Totals 29-7-8.
ST. CROIX CENTRAL (2)
Tilton ss 4-0-0, Jeff Fern cf 3-0-1, Shaver p 4-0-0, Bollom lf 3-0-2, Nygaard c 3-0-0, Jared Fern 2-0-1, Hartung 3b 3-0-0, Brown 2b 1-1-0, Peterson ph 0-0-0, Winkler 3b 2-0-0, Erickson ph 0-0-0, Olson pr 0-1-0, Poulin ph 1-0-0. Totals 26-2-4.
2B-Schreier, Seubert. RBI-Schreier, Seubert 2, Kaldunski 2, Hamann, Tilton, Jeff Fern. E-Schreier, Seubert, Tilton, Shaver 2, Winkler.
Marathon 001 033 0=7
St. Croix Central 000 002 0=2
PITCHERS IP H R ER BB SO
Scheier (W) 5 3 1 1 6 11
Hamann 2 1 1 1 3 3
St. Croix Central
Shaver (L) 7 8 7 5 4 7