After a hot start, the Waunakee baseball team has hit a bit of a rough patch.
The Warriors opened their season 10-0, but have gone just 5-5 since, including last week’s stretch of games, where they went 2-2.
“It’s rare that you go through an entire season where you don’t hit a few bumps in the road…” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Spencer Lee. “It’s how you respond from that, how you come back from that.”
Up first was Sauk Prairie on Tuesday: Waunakee’s sixth game in five days.
Sauk Prairie 7,
Waunakee’s first game against the Eagles had all the makings of a defensive battle early.
The first run of the game wasn’t scored until the top of the third inning, when the Eagles crossed home plate on an error. The Warriors responded in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Caden Lewis on a sacrifice fly from Dane Luebke.
With only two runs scored through four innings, the bats finally awoke for both teams. Sauk Prairie tacked a combined four runs on the board in the fifth and sixth innings, putting the Warriors in a 5-1 hole.
Joe Hauser and Luebke each scored in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Eagles’ lead to two runs, but Sauk Prairie extended the lead to 7-3 with a two-run seventh inning.
Needing to score four times to keep the game going, Waunakee was able to add only one run – by Will Ross – to the board in the bottom of the seventh, and ultimately fell 7-4.
“You’ve got to give Sauk credit because they came ready to play and did a really good job; they had some big hits with runners in scoring position and their pitcher did a good job today…” said Lee. “This is definitely a tough stretch for us with a lot of games in a short period of time.”
Ross led the Warriors with two hits, and four Waunakee players – Nick Smith, Luebke, Ryne Fueger and Charlie Fisher – drove in runs.
Hauser got the start on the mound, giving up one earned run through two and a third innings before Nate Stevens took his place. Stevens pitched the rest of the way, taking the loss while giving up six earned runs.
After the grueling five-day stretch, Waunakee finally got some rest. The Warriors had their rematch with the Eagles three days later.
Sauk Prairie 7
Waunakee ensured they wouldn’t find themselves trailing the second time around against Sauk Prairie.
The Warriors racked up nine hits – including a homer by Stevens and a triple from Hauser – in the first two innings to jump out to a 7-0 lead.
After earning the start on the bump, Smith struck out five and allowed two earned runs in three innings before giving way to Jacob Dettor. Dettor held on for an inning – allowing two runs – before he too gave way to Noah Dixon, who finished out the game.
Up 7-3, Waunakee added what proved to be a valuable insurance run in the top of the fifth when Ross drove in Fisher.
The Eagles kept chipping away, scoring one in the fifth and two in the sixth to get within striking distance. In the bottom of the seventh, Dixon kept his composure after the Eagles tacked on another run to make it a one-score game. With no outs and the tying run on first, it took Dixon only three pitches to get the final three outs. The first came on a sacrifice bunt, moving the runner to second.
With the tying run now in scoring position, Dixon forced the batter to line-out straight to shortstop Taiten Manriquez, who then completed the double play by getting the ball back to second to secure the final out of the game.
After being held to five hits in their first contest, the Warriors racked up 15 in game two, including three each by Manriquez and Luebke. Stevens drove in three runs to lead the team, followed by two RBI by Luebke. Manriquez and Jeb Frey both scored twice.
On Saturday, Waunakee faced another big test. Awaiting them were the second-ranked Cougars of Janesville Craig.
Janesville Craig 6,
The Warriors opened the scoring in the top of the second against the Cougars, scoring Hauser and Luebke to take the game’s first lead.
Janesville Craig quickly responded, though, scoring three in the bottom of the inning. After adding another run in the fourth, the Cougars’ lead stood at 4-2 after three innings.
Waunakee’s bats fell silent for the remainder of the game; the Warriors were able to muster only two hits throughout the game’s final four innings.
For good measure, the Cougars scored twice more in the sixth inning to give the game its final score of 6-2.
Hauser was tops on the team with two hits, while Manriquez and Fisher each drove in one run.
Nathan Jordan had a tough outing starting as pitcher, giving up four runs in two and two third innings. Caden Hough finished out the game, surrendering two runs in the remaining three and one third innings.
The Warriors returned home on Monday for a home contest with Beaver Dam.
Beaver Dam 2
Waunakee had a new look for their contest against the Golden Beavers. The new look wasn’t in their lineup or on the field; it was out beyond center field. The Warriors debuted their new scoreboard on Monday, hoping to christen it with a victory.
Dixon did his part on the mound, allowing just two hits through three innings. Though he stumbled a bit in the fourth, allowing two runs following an error, he responded with a clean, six-pitch fifth inning to keep the Golden Beavers at two.
Fueger cut into Beaver Dam’s lead in the fourth, smacking his second home run of the season – a solo shot – over the left field fence.
In the sixth inning, Hauser relieved Dixon on the mound, and turned in a stellar performance. The junior allowed no hits and no walks the rest of the way, giving Waunakee’s offense a chance to mount a comeback. They did just that in the bottom of the sixth, starting with Hauser being hit by a pitch. Luebke followed with a single, and a sacrifice bunt moved both into scoring position.
Fisher and Dixon each bunted in their following two at-bats to score both Hauser and Luebke and give the Warriors their first lead of the game.
Hauser did the rest, not allowing anybody to reach base in the top of the seventh to earn the win for the Warriors.
Six Waunakee players accounted for one hit against the Golden Beavers, while Fueger, Fisher and Dixon each led the team with one RBI.
Waunakee hopes to stay back on the winning track after Monday’s win, which upped their record to 15-5 (9-2 Badger North) on the season.
“Everything we’re hoping to do this season is in front of us yet, despite the fact that we’ve hit a little bit of a rough stretch here,” said Lee. “We just have to come ready to work, and I’m confident in this group.”
Waunakee traveled to Miller Park on Tuesday to take on Medford, the results of which were not available for this week’s edition. The Warriors play at Beaver Dam on Thursday before returning home on Saturday for a contest against Mount Horeb.