A combination of well-placed hits by Evansville and errors by Stoughton put the Merchants in a hole they simply couldn’t climb out of Sunday, Aug. 18 in the Southeast Section championship game.
The Merchants’ season ended with a 7-3 loss to the Jays at Norse Park, as three first-inning errors helped the visitors to a five-run lead.
The first six Evansville batters reached against Stoughton starter Ben Riffle, with two bunting their way on.
Jameson Lavery’s single through the left side scored Nolan Strzok and Johannes Haakenson. Joe Cox and Lavery came in on a throwing error, and Derek Cashore’s sacrifice fly brought in Brent Cashore.
“That first inning really went to pot,” Stoughton manager Dale Seffens said. “We knew what they were going to do: try to get the lead right away. We couldn’t handle the bunts, we made errors, and the home run hurt us.”
Riffle retired 11 of the next 12 Jays he faced, but Stoughton’s offense couldn’t find clutch hits.
The Merchants went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and left 13 on base.
Stoughton marked the board in the bottom of the second.
Three straight batters reached base with one out, and Ervin Medina’s RBI groundout drove in Jake Wenzel to cut it to 5-1.
Evansville added two loud insurance runs on Lavery’s two-run, two-out home run to right center in the fifth inning.
The Merchants loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth, but two flyouts ended the threat.
Brent Cashore retired seven of the last eight Merchants he faced, as he scattered eight hits and struck out three over eight innings to earn the win.
Chris Lund came through with a two-out single to score Tanner Klitzke and Medina in the bottom of the ninth, but Lavery struck out the side to end any chance of a comeback.
Klitzke finished 4-for-4 with three singles and a double in the ninth inning out of the ninth spot in the batting order.
“I see a lot of fastballs in the 9 hole, so I was looking for good pitches and not trying to do too much with them,” Klitzke said. “We needed baserunners virtually the whole game, so I was glad I put the ball in play and found some holes.”
Stoughton finished the Sunday League with a 14-4 record.
Riffle took the complete-game loss, as he struck out five and allowed five earned runs on nine hits.
Yonardo Herdenez went 2-for-5 for the Merchants.
Evansville (13-5) defended its Southeast Section championship with the win.
The Jays will play East Sectional champ Sun Prairie in the Home Talent first round of the championship round- robin series. Sauk Prairie will host defending HTL champ Verona in the other first-round championship series game.