Just when it looked like Rio was going to force extra innings in the Aug. 8 Home Talent Night League playoff game at Fireman’s Park, Cottage Grove left fielder Graham Schroeder-Gasser ended the game with an accurate throw to the plate to cut down the potential tying run.
That play gave the Firemen a 3-2 win over the Railmen and another week of playing in the hot August night.
With the Firemen leading 3-1 in the top of the seventh inning, starting pitcher Al Dimmig struck out leadoff hitter Steve Plenty but hit Steve Hoene with a pitch to give the Railmen a baserunner. Micah Zirbel smashed a line drive to center field, but Cottage Grove’s Mitch Kelsey made a running catch for the second out.
Brennan Kearney then pounded a double to move Hoene to third and put the two tying runs into scoring position.
The next Rio hitter, Cogan Kirchenwitz, then lined a single to left field. Hoene made it home easily and Kearney was also waved to the plate, but Schroeder-Gasser swiftly got in front of the ball and threw to the plate. Catcher Jake Miller snatched the ball and tagged out Kearney on the right side of the batter’s box before he could touch the plate. Without hesitancy, the plate umpire called out Kearney leading an impromptu celebration by the Firemen.
“It definitely had a chance if you get it in the right spot,” said Schroeder-Gasser about the throw. “You could throw it three other times and it may not get there.”
Team manager Pat Hawker said he was impressed by Schroeder-Gasser’s ability to make such an accurate toss.
“That was some throw especially in a night game like this, and you have a little wet grass,” Hawker said. “To make that throw, a perfect strike to home, was pretty incredible.”
Cottage Grove took the early lead in the first inning as Tristan Herber cracked a leadoff single and Derrick Rice walked. After the runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, Paul Patten pounded a double to give the Firemen a 2-0 lead.
Rio cut the lead to 2-1 in the third on an RBI single by Trevor Kearney, but the Firemen came in the bottom of the inning as Tristan Herber led off with a single and moved to second on Patten’s ground out.
Left-handed hitting Schroeder-Gasser followed with an opposite fly ball which was dropped by the left fielder as Herber scored to put the Firemen up 3-1.
Dimmig struck out eight and allowed seven hits to earn the victory. When Rio had runners on second and third in the seventh, Hawker and teammates from the infield offered him words of encouragement.
“I told him to keep throwing strikes. I was trying to build his confidence,” Hawker said. “If he lets his defense do the work, he will get out of it.”
His teammates had seven hits with Herber and Patten each getting two.
Cottage Grove hit into two double plays and missed out on getting more runs in the sixth inning when Patten hit an apparent double into the power alley but was cut down on the center fielder’s throw to the infielder covering second.
Hawker said Rio has always been a tough team to beat.
“They could be down five, they could be down one and they are still going to fight to the end,” Hawker said. “Hats off to Rio for putting up a good fight.”
The Firemen take on Sauk Prairie tonight in the night league quarterfinal game at Fireman’s Park. The Twins defeated Shullsburg/Benton on Aug. 8 7-4.