After a wild weekend which saw them win a pair of thrilling games, the DeForest Deacons baseball team finds themselves not only in the thick of the Home Talent Eastern Section playoff race but in contention for a regular-season title.
The Deacons scored one-run victories over both Poynette and Rio over the weekend.
“It was a really weird weekend,” DeForest player-manager Taylor Mack said. “The nice thing is that we are a different team this year because last year, we probably would have folded during tight games like these two. We are fighting harder this year and have a good shot of going far in the playoffs.”
On Saturday, the Deacons traveled to Poynette for a battle of playoff contenders. DeForest edged the Indians 5-4 in a game shortened to six innings because of bad weather. After a short rainstorm, Poynette players worked on the field for an hour, but the umpires deemed the field unplayable and called the game.
On Sunday, DeForest battled back twice from late deficits to win 10-9 in 11 innings.
“A loss to Rio would have been devastating heading into big games with Monona and Sun Prairie,” Mack said.
The wins pushed the Deacons into a first-place tie with Sun Prairie. Both teams are 9-4 in Eastern Section play. Monona (8-4) and Poynette (8-6) currently hold the final two playoffs spots, but Montello (6-6), Cottage Grove (6-7) and Rio (5-6) are still in contention.
“In past years, we have been in position to make the playoffs but missed it by a game or a half a game,” Mack said. “This team doesn’t want that fate this year, so we are fighting hard.”
The Deacons have three games remaining on their regular-season schedule. They will play at Monona this Friday at 7:30 p.m. before hosting Sun Prairie on Sunday at 1 p.m. and Poynette on Aug. 9 at 1 p.m.
Mike Johnson was the story for the Deacons against Poynette. He was just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle after going 4-for-4 with two home runs, two runs scored, two RBIs and a double.
“I was feeling good and seeing the ball well,” Johnson said.
Johnson went right to work in the top of the first inning with a one-out solo home run.
DeForest pushed two more runs across before the first frame came to an end. Jack George had a run-scoring single, while Ryan Dauman added an RBI sacrifice fly.
The Deacons’ Dryden Van Schoyck increased the lead to 4-0 with an RBI single in the top of the second.
Poynette cut the deficit in half with a two-run double by Dylan Tomlinson in the bottom of the second frame.
After the Indians scored another run in the bottom of the fifth, DeForest came up with the eventual game-winning run in the top of the sixth inning, as Johnson had his second home run of the game, a towering shot to left field.
“Mike getting a home run in the top of the sixth inning was huge,” Mack said. “He is hitting really well right now.”
Poynette scored a run in the bottom of the sixth and had the bases loaded with two outs when Kory Ryan hit a shot deep to center field. But, DeForest’s Julian Edwards tracked down the ball to end the threat in what turned out to be the final inning.
Edwards finished the game 3-for-3 at the plate.
Shawn Held earned the pitching win for the Deacons. He finished with six strikeouts and five walks.
Garett Kertz got the final two outs for DeForest and earned the save. He had a strikeout and a walk.
The Deacons came from behind in the ninth and 10th innings to extend the game before Tyler Kurt had a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th.
“That was a huge win for us,” Kurt said. “We battled in the last few innings and came back twice, so it was nice to come through with that hit. I was just trying to get the ball out there so we had a chance to score.”
The win helped DeForest avoid a season-sweep at the hands of Rio, who defeated the Deacons 11-6 in the second week of the season.
“They battle and never give up,” Johnson said about Rio. “They always give us a good game.”
DeForest had a good start to the game after scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Van Schoyck led off the frame with a home run, while Kurt added a two-run single.
Rio took its first lead with a four-run explosion in the top of the fourth inning.
The Deacons briefly tied the game after an RBI ground ball by Edwards.
However, Rio scored three in the top of the sixth to go up 7-4.
DeForest cut the deficit to one, 7-6, with two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Shawn Held was hit by a pitch with the bases-loaded for the first run and then Brock Allen scored on a passed ball.
The Deacons forced the game into extra innings after a run-scoring single by Van Schoyck in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Rio regained the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the 10th, when DeForest had one of its four errors in the game.
As they did earlier, the Deacons answered with their backs against the wall and tied the game up. Kurt scored on a passed ball before Held scored on a dropped third strike to tie the game.
After holding Rio scoreless in the top of the 11th, DeForest got a walk from George and a single from Allen to set up the game winner by Kurt.
Johnson led the Deacons with three hits, while Held, Kendall Frank, Van Schoyck and Kurt each had two.
Mack started and pitched into the sixth inning for DeForest, but Brett Vomhof got the win in relief. Mack finished with five strikeouts and a walk, while Vomhof recorded seven strikeouts and three walks.
Rio’s Dakotah Kirchenwitz led all batters with four hits. Teammate Brennan Kearney finished with three hits, while Danny Strause and Trevor Kearney had two each.
Andrew Gibbons, Strause and Trevor Kearney all pitched for Rio and combined for six strikeouts and nine walks. Kearney took the loss.