Baseballs have been flying off the Monona Braves’ bats all season, and Sunday’s Home Talent League playoff game against the visiting Montello Granite-Jaxx was no exception.
Player/manager Vince Schmitz swatted a three-run blast in the fourth inning to give the Braves all the runs they needed in a 3-1 win to advance to the Eastern Section final game Sunday against Sun Prairie.
Beau Goff and Jordan Carlson hit back-to-back singles with one out before Schmitz came to the plate and pounded a pitch by Montello’s Curtis Morgan over the left-field fence close to the foul pole.
Goff, who was standing on second base at the time, said he wasn’t sure if the ball would make it over the fence.
“I ran back and tagged up at second because there was one out. Jordan knew it was gone so he was standing near second with me. Once I knew it, I figured it was OK to start jogging,” Goff said.
Schmitz was more confident the ball would clear the fence once he connected.
“A lot of people don’t think I hit the ball hard, but when it tingles off my wedding band, I know I hit it hard,” he said jokingly. “I think those new baseballs used in Home Talent are juiced up this year. We’ve been hitting a lot more home runs. If that’s the way we are going to ride through the playoffs, that’s the way it will be.”
It was Schmitz’s fifth home run of the season and the 21st round-tripper for the Braves as a team.
The game’s attendees were treated to a fast-paced, pitching duel between Morgan and Monona starter Dan Genrich, who allowed seven hits including a solo home run to Noah Polcyn in the sixth inning.
Some Montello fly-ball outs were heading into the power alleys were left fielder Goff and center fielder Taylor Carlson were there to make the catches.
“I have the best fielders in the league. I give all the credit to them,” Genrich said. “We definitely needed to have the right stuff, and we had the guys in the right spots.”
Schmitz also gave credit to his players’ work with their gloves.
“We always pride ourselves on our defense,” Schmitz said. “Taylor is one of the best center fielders in the league. We are lucky to have them out there chasing balls for us.”
Genrich allowed two hits in the second and sixth innings, but otherwise kept the Granite-Jaxx off balance with a variety of pitches. Andy Swanson relieved him in the ninth and set Montello down in order.
“I felt good on the mound,” Genrich said. “I was able to establish my fast ball on the outside corner and play around the plate a little bit.”
Morgan took the loss for Montello after yielding four hits with three strikes in eight innings.
The Braves and Granite-Jaxx split their two games during the regular season with Monona winning the first 8-3 and Montello taking the second game, 6-5.
Montello ends its season with a 10-7 record.
Monona improves to 12-5 heading into Sunday’s Eastern Section final game against 13-4 Sun Prairie at Waterloo starting at 1 p.m. The game was moved to Waterloo from Sun Prairie’s Ashley Field, where bleachers are being installed for the upcoming high school football season.
Sun Prairie knocked off DeForest 4-1 in the other Eastern Section semifinal game.The Braves won both regular season games over the Red Birds, and Schmitz said he is confident his team would win again and advance to the final four.
“We will beat them. We will show up and play,” Schmitz said.
A victory for Monona would mean an eighth trip to the final four for the Braves.
In the team’s last appearance in 2016, the Braves beat Wiota but lost to Sauk Prairie and eventual champion Albion.