Nick Schreiber sat on the floor of the McFarland Muskies dugout looking exhausted as he tried to pull off his socks and cool down after another strong pitching performance Sunday against the Evansville Jays in a Home Talent League Southeast Section game.
The scorching heat made his job difficult, but he was still able to get 11 strikeouts and allow just seven hits in nine innings.
But while the Muskies bats had eight hits, they couldn’t string them together and produce a rally as the Jays took a 4-0 win in the second game of a doubleheader at McFarland. Earlier in the day, Evansville beat the Muskies 10-0 in five innings.
The Muskies record slipped to 3-11 with another doubleheader scheduled Sunday against visiting Waterloo, which is just 1-13.
Schreiber admitted the hot weather took its toll on him, but he successfully found the strike zone.
“In the early innings when the sun was directly over the field, I could feel it in my cleats,” Schreiber said. “It was like walking on hot stones for a while. My fast ball was really hitting the spots. They were off balance with the curve ball.”
Schreiber dueled Jays starter Trevor Aasen to a scoreless tie until the fourth inning when Joe Cox rapped an infield single off Schreiber’s ankle and Rob Dimery followed with a walk. After Austin Andrews sacrified the runners to second and third, Sam Behm drove in Evansville’s first run with a sacrifice fly and Derek Cashore’s base hit gave the Jays a 2-0 lead.
McFarland tried to rally in the bottom of the fourth as Schreiber lined a one-out single and Kyle White doubled to the left field fence to give the Muskies runners on second and third. Reid Simon lofted a fly ball down the right field line. Second baseman Dimery made a basket catch while Blake Davis, a courtesy runner for Schreiber, tagged up at third. Davis sped to the plate and collided with the catcher as the ball arrived. But Davis was ejected from the game by the umpire for illegal contact.
Team manager Hanson, third base coach White and Davis pleaded their case, but the umpire’s call held. Hanson said the play was a turning point in the game.
“I thought he was safe. I guess that’s how it goes,” Hanson said. “He was called out for malicious contact, and he was called out even though the catcher didn’t have the ball.”
Hanson led off the Muskies fifth with a single was cut down after Dave Ellefson hit into a double play. Nick Knoche singled to keep the inning alive, but Eric Seeliger flew out to deep center field to end the inning.
Still trailing by two runs in the seventh, Simon led off with a single but Hanson hit into Evansville’s second double play of the game.
The Jays increased their lead in the eighth as Nolan Strzok reached on an infield error and later scored on a Jameson Lavery double. Behm’s single drove in Lavery for a 4-0 advantage.
Knoche led off the eighth inning with a double but was stranded after Seeliger popped up to second base, and Nick Herbst and Greg Riese both flew out to center field.
Schreiber allowed a hit and a walk in the ninth but kept Evansville off the scoreboard. Hopes for a McFarland comeback never came to be as Schreiber grounded to shortstop, White popped up to the second baseman and Simon ended the game with a fly out to right field.
Hanson was befuddled on his team’s lack of offense.
“There was nothing tough they threw at us. We just didn’t hit the ball today,” Hanson said. “I don’t understand it. We couldn’t sting anything together.”
Aasen struck out four to earn the win for Evansville, which remains in the running for a playoff spot with a record of 10-5. The Jays play Fort Atkinson on Sunday with the winner capturing the fourth seed in the Eastern Section.
Hanson once again had words of praise for Schreiber, who has been the team’s workhorse on the mound all season.
“He’s the center of the team. If we can keep him rolling on the mound and play good defense behind him, we should be able to win games,” Hanson said. “We can’t rely on our offense right now. It’s just down.”
Evansville 10, Muskies 0
Brent Cashore held McFarland to two hits and Evansville scored seven runs in the third inning to blow away the Muskies in five innings.
McFarland starting pitcher Hanson gave up three runs and five hits in the first two innings before the Jays had their first seven hitters reach base in the third on two doubles, a single, an infield error, a walk and two hit batsmen.
The Muskies didn’t have a baserunner until the fourth inning when Riese cracked a one-out single. He was left stranded after White and Schreiber struck out.
Xavier Schreiber led off the fifth inning with a base hit, but Herbst flew out to center field, Brent Sufack grounded to third and Knoche struck out to end the game.
Hanson took the loss after allowing nine hits and two walks in three innings. Herbst pitched the fourth inning and kept the Jays scoreless.