On the first day of 70-degree weather in Wisconsin, it certainly felt like baseball season as two of the state's top programs met in a Big 8 conference clash on Tuesday evening in Verona.
Middleton, ranked #14 in the Division 1 preseason poll, wasted no time getting on the board in the first inning, as leadoff hitter and second baseman Nolan Kelliher drew a walk and scored on a Luke Ballweg single to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead to start in the first inning.
Verona, picked #12 in the Division 1 preseason poll, answered quickly. The Wildcats' leadoff man, Tucker Teskey, drew a walk of his own in the bottom of the first, and tied the game on a Ryan Taylor single at 1-apiece after one.
After a scoreless second inning, Creighton baseball commit Alan Roden drew a walk with one out in the third inning. Roden advanced to third after a successful steal attempt at second base, when the ball went through the infield for an error and allowed him to get into scoring position. Ballweg provided his second RBI single of the game to give Middleton a 2-1 advantage through two and one-half innings of play.
Middleton would pad that lead in the fourth inning, with Nolan Dahlk and Cooper Holewinski both coming around to score on RBI singles by Kelliher and Roden, respectively.
That 4-1 lead held until the fifth inning, when Verona made their move to rally. Teskey led the inning off with a single, and then advanced to second on a passed ball. He scored when Connor McGowan singled to right field and ran home on a fielding error, while McGowan advance to third base on the play. Stephen Lund drew a walk in the next at-bat, and McGowan scored on a double-play ball to trim the deficit to 4-3 Middleton after five complete.
Verona lefty Reagan Klawiter threw five innings, but allowed nine hits, four runs, and three walks, while striking out five. He was relieved by Jonah Haffner in the sixth inning.
The Cardinals got the inning started with a walk and then a single by Kelliher. Roden advanced the runners on a ground-out to first, before Luke Ballweg reached on error to load the bases. Carsen Schulz drew a walk to get a run for Middleton, making the score 5-3 in the top of the sixth inning. Zach Shipley hit a single to score Kelliher, and then Noah Casali drew a walk with the bases loaded to extend the lead to 7-3.
Middleton made a pitching change as well, as Matt Ballweg left after five innings pitched with four hits and three runs allowed, as well as issuing three walks with one hit batter. He also threw three strikeouts. The lefty gave way to Derek Reisdorf.
The Wildcats started their rally with a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth inning by Tristian Largent, who would score three batters later on a Michael Fischer pinch-hit RBI single. Tucker Teskey grounded into a fielder's choice, but Sam Pederson was able to score to trim the deficit to 7-5 at the end of the sixth inning.
In the top of the seventh inning, Middleton was able to get an insurance run when Roden doubled in Adam Casali, but was thrown out two batters later trying to score from second on a single by Schulz when Tucker Teskey lasered in a throw from shallow center field.
With the score now 8-5 Middleton, Verona managed to get two of their first three batters on by drawing walks. However, Reisdorf got Largent to ground into a double play to end the game.
-Middleton's top four hitters in the order went a combined 9-for-17 with five RBI.
-Six of the Cardinals' seven leadoff hitters got on base, and four of them came around to score a run.
-Reaction from Middleton coach Tom Schmitt and Verona coach Brad D'Orazio can be found at the end of this article.
Final: Middleton 8, Verona 5.
WP: Middleton: Matt Balweg (5IP, 3R, 4H, 3BB, 3K, 1HB)
LP: Verona: Reagan Klawiter (5IP, 4R, 9H, 3BB, 5K)
SV: Middleton: Derek Reisdorf (2IP, 2R, 2H 3BB, 1K)
Verona: CF Tucker Teskey 1-3, 2R, RBI, BB; SS Ryan Taylor 1-3, RBI, SB, BB, K; RF Sam Pederson 1-2, R, BB
Middleton: 2B Nolan Kelliher 2-4, 2R, RBI, BB, 2K; SS Alan Roden 3-4, 2B, R, 2RBI; LF Luke Ballweg 2-4, R, 2RBI, BB
Time Of Game: 2:05
First Pitch: 5:03 p.m.
Weather: 73 degrees, clear
Location: Stampfl Field, Verona, Wis.
*The Big 1070 will cover Division 2 #4 Turner vs #3 Jefferson on Thursday, April 26. Jefferson topped Turner 3-2 on Tuesday night.