After a 90-minute rain delay, the McFarland Muskies Home Talent League baseball team finally got underway Sunday afternoon at Fischer Field against host Jefferson. Nearly two and a half hours later, McFarland may have thought it would have been better if the game was called off.
The Blue Devils pounded 18 hits and came away with a 9-4 win over the Muskies. McFarland had only three hits, two as part of a three-run rally in the fourth inning.
“We knew going into this game it was going to be a tough one,” McFarland manager Justin Hanson said. “Jefferson is always a difficult place to play. If you get only three hits, it’s likely you’re not going to win.”
Starter Nick Schreiber got through the first five innings but not before he was tagged for eight hits in the first three innings as Jefferson jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
“He was getting hit pretty hard,” Hanson said. “He said he was tired today. He didn’t have full power (on his pitches).”
The Muskies were hitless until they scored three times in the fourth inning to reduce Jefferson’s lead to 4-3. Reid Simon pounded a one-out single and Nick Herbst followed with a double to deep center field to put runners on second and third.
Kyle White grounded to the third baseman, who teamed with the catcher to catch Simon in a rundown. However, the catcher threw the ball down the third base line and Simon crossed the plate with the Muskies first run.
Herbst eventually scored from third base on a wild pitch, and Schreiber drove home White on a ground out to the shortstop.
Jefferson got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-3 lead, but the Muskies reduced the deficit to one in the sixth inning as White singled with one out and stole second with Schreiber at the plate.
Schreiber hit a grounder to the shortstop, who tried to cut down White at third base. But his throw bounced off White’s batting helmet and landed in foul territory. White got up from his slide and ran home with McFarland’s fourth run.
The Blue Devils regained their two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth off Muskies reliever Hanson and then added more breathing room with three runs on five hits in the seventh.
The bright spots included a fantastic diving catch by second baseman Dave Ellefson that ended a Jefferson rally in the sixth inning. Noah Punzel, who started the game at first base, pitched the eighth inning for McFarland and held the Blue Devils scoreless despite an infield error and a walk. Punzel’s performance impressed Hanson.
“He’s definitely going to be part of our pitching rotation,” Hanson said. “He’s new this year, and we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to get him into games. So far, he’s been lights out.”
It was a big loss for McFarland, which entered the game with a 3-4 record after two wins in a row over Cambridge and Lake Mills. The Muskies are fighting Fort Atkinson and Evansville for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Southeast Section.
The Muskies play on the road 1 p.m. today at Stoughton. The Merchants beat the Muskies 7-6 in the first game at McFarland. Stoughton opened a 6-0 lead before McFarland fell just short after a five-run rally late in the game.
“We just need to start swinging the bat earlier,” Hanson said. “We posted a comeback but it was too little, too late.”
Stoughton has two of its last three games after starting the season with six wins in a row.
McFarland plays Sunday at Utica with the first pitch scheduled for noon.
The Muskies June 28 game at Waterloo was rained out, and will be made up as part of a doubleheader at McFarland on Aug. 4.