In a game where two teams combined for 21 runs on 26 hits, it came down to a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Brett Ainsworth that allowed the Shawano Patriots to edge the Clintonville Diamond Cats 11-10 Friday night.
After surrendering three runs in the seventh inning during a tie ball game, Shawano scored three runs and loaded the bases without recording an out. The Patriots attempted a suicide squeeze with Dylan Sumnicht at the plate, but he was unable to keep it fair, eventually going down on strikes.
With one out and Bret Ainsworth due up, Shawano coach Ryan Koenig put the squeeze sign on again without hesitation.
“Defensively, their adjustment to it, if Dylan gets it anywhere in play it’s a run,” Koenig said after the game. “With their infield, the way they reacted, I thought we could do it again. We waited until the second pitch. Brett did a great job of getting it down and Casey [Kristof] did a great job running the bases…It went really well and we got the win. Huge win for our team.”
“You know the suicide is coming one way or the other, but that’s baseball,” said Clintonville coach Randy Finger. “[Ainsworth] put the ball down where we had nobody. Our pitcher’s job is to get over there and get that, but it wasn’t even close. [Kristof] got such a big jump, but that’s baseball. I would have done the same exact thing. My hats off to their coach for pulling that off in the bottom of the seventh.”
The game see-sawed back-and-forth after Shawano jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings. That’s when the Clintonville bats would awaken, scoring at least one run over the final four innings. The Diamond Cats put up five runs in the fourth and another in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead.
Shawano responded with a three-run fifth to reclaim a 7-6 advantage, but would surrender the lead again after Clintonville tied it in the sixth and took the lead again in the seventh.
“They never got down and battled back,” Finger said of his team’s perseverance. “We got some guys on and a couple lucky breaks, got some stolen bases, came back and got the lead, but at the end of the game there things happen sometimes. [Shawano] won one tonight.”
Josh Schroeder had a big day at the plate to lead Clintonville. He collected a pair of big hits, including a two-out, two-RBI knock in the seventh to give his team the lead; he also scored two runs. Chad Bork, Hunter Vollmer and Matt Morse each had a pair of hits.
For Shawano and coach Koenig, they knew they weren’t out of the game trailing by three entering the final inning. It all started by having quality at-bats. A pair of lefties-Jacob Lacy and Noah Brodhagen-slapped a pair of opposite-field hits to begin the rally.
“They’re pitching outside, you’ve got to do that,” said Koenig on his first two batters in the seventh. “We didn’t really do that all night, but at the end they did, so the team executed beautifully in the last inning. If we do that the whole game the score is a lot different. I’m just proud of these guys, the people that are here. There’s a lot of guys missing commitment-wise-and we have to get a better commitment out of everybody-but the people that are here care and that’s why we won this game tonight.”
Five Shawano batters produced multi-hit games. Lacy finished 3-for-3 with with a walk and two runs scored, while Zach Alvarez and Brodhagen each were 3-for-4 with a combined five runs scored and three RBI.
Koenig adds that he’s got a group that wants to win. Shawano had a disappointing year in spring ball, finishing last in their conference and losing their opening regional game in extra-innings, but this kind of come-from-behind effort could be a catalyst moving forward.
“We’re talking about executing. We’re talking about doing the little things right and playing as a team. You see the atmosphere after the suicide there and these guys are happy. It’s really exciting to see. It’s really a fun time right now for our legion team and I hope we keep it going.”