The Milton Junction Pub Raptors didn’t look like a team playing just its third Rock River League game Sunday, July 26, in Clyman.
In their 5-2 win over the three-time RRL South Division champion Canners, the Raptors looked more like a team in mid-season form and firing on all cylinders. The Raptors combined solid infield and outfield defense with timely hitting and a beast-like performance from veteran right hander Sean McCann to stymie Clyman on its own diamond surrounded by Sunday’s oppressive, pre-thunderstorm heat.
“That was as complete a game as we played in few years,” Raptors manager Doug Welch said. “We got a ton of timely hits, our infield dazzled, our outfield threw guys out on the base paths and Canner was the same guy who carried us to a lot of big wins a few years back.”
The Raptors improved their RRL record to 2-1 and Clyman fell to 3-2. The Raptors continue their road ventures this week with a game at Watertown on Saturday and then at Ashippun Sunday. The Ashippun game is scheduled as Milton’s home game. But the Raptors still do not have access to Schilberg Park due to COVID-19.
McCann made his first start of the season after pitching sporadically the last few seasons. The big right hander pitched a complete game four-hitter. McCann struck out 10 and walked just three against the Clyman team that has been at the top of the division the past three seasons.
“We get a little goosed-up when we play these guys, especially Canner,” Welch admitted. “They had three league losses last year and we got ‘em twice. It’s a really good, friendly rivalry.
“It’s been such a stop-and-start season with everything that’s been going on around us,” Welch added. “By late July we’re suppose to be in mid-season form, but here we are just three games in, playing with our third different lineup. Somehow we stitched things together.”
The Raptors finished with eight hits and did a lot of damage with runners on base. Josh Shere had two run-scoring singles, Kevin Raisbeck blasted a ninth-inning double off the centerfield fence to set up Drew Frietag’s two-run double and McCauley Cox launched a long, high homer to right in the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Raptor defense turned away the Canners on several occasions, snuffing out potential rallies.
In the fifth inning with Clyman leadoff hitter Ryan Kaul on first base, Raptor third baseman McCauley Cox scooped a grounder and got the ball to second baseman Josh Shere who relayed to first for a sparkling double play. Raisbeck made a couple of nifty plays at short and right fielder Dave Sagitis gunned down Hunter Olson at second with a frozen-rope throw that nixed Olson’s attempt to stretch a single to a double.
A close call at home plate went against Sagitis, potentially taking away his second outfield assist of the day in the eighth inning. Following the call, the Canners had the tying run on third and go-ahead runner at second with one out. But McCann struck out Olson and Tony Schmitt to end the eighth with the Raptors clinging to a 3-2 lead.
The Raptors plated a couple of crucial runs in the top of the ninth, an inning that began with a single to right by Sagitis. Raisbeck then blasted a double off the centerfield fence to send Sagitis to third with no out.
Frietag then hit a hard liner to right-center that bounced over the fence for a two-run ground-rule double. McCann pitched around a two-out walk to seal the game for the Raptors.
The Raptors opened the scoring with a run in the first inning. Frietag reached first base on an error, stole second and scored on Shere’s sharp single to left. After Clyman answered with a run in the bottom of the first, Frietag and Shere hooked up again for the second Raptor run. Frietag drew a two out walk and was on the move for a hit-and run when Shere dumped a soft single to center. Frietag never broke stride around third and scored standing up.
“Its great to have some speed at the top of the lineup with Kevin and Drew,” Welch said. “Usually it takes two doubles for us to score a guy from first.”With the score 2-1 into the top of the sixth, Cox gave the Raptors a two-run cushion when he led the inning off with a towering drive over the right field fence for a solo homer.