Momentum swung back and forth between Stoughton and Utica on Saturday, Aug. 3, but the Merchants finished strong to secure a 5-2 road win over the A’s at Utica Community Park.
Utica got out of a big jam in the top of the sixth, then tied the game at 2 in the bottom half of the inning.
A’s shortstop Ben Hildebrandt threw out Ryan Nyhagen at home for the first out of the frame. Brock Wanninger struck out Caleb Broege with runners on first and third, and after a walk to Tyler Wilberg to load the bases, Wanninger struck out pinch hitter Dan Campbell.
Connor Kalinowski and Hildebrandt recorded back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom half, and Sam Raff delivered a one-out bloop single to score Kalinowski.
“That was big to tie it,” Utica player-manager Christian Stokstad said. “It was a turning point, but unfortunately we left a runner on third. We could have used that run.”
The Merchants rallied for three runs with two outs in the seventh to surge ahead for good. Yonardo Herdenez and Nyhagen hit back-to-back singles, and Dave Hanson served a single through the right side to score Herdenez to make it 3-2. Sam Schretenthaler smacked a double into the right-center gap to score Nyhagen and Hanson.
Stoughton pitcher Ben Riffle retired 10 straight A’s, five via strikeout, to finish off the complete-game victory. He scattered six hits and struck out seven.
“I felt like my stuff was working the entire game,” Riffle said. “Lots of first-pitch strikes, not a lot of hard contact, and I was on the same page with Ryan (Nyhagen) the entire game. As the game went on, I really wanted to finish it.”
The Merchants were 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base, but eventually figured out Wanninger.
“We had a few guys in the lineup that aren’t regulars on Sundays due to some injuries, but we persevered,” Stoughton manager Dale Seffens added. “Ben threw a really nice game. He was in control the whole time.”
Wanninger took the loss, allowing five runs (three earned), nine hits and three walks while striking out six over seven innings.
Utica jumped ahead 1-0 in the first. Hildebrandt hustled for an infield single, motored around second on a sacrifice bunt, slid safely into third, and scored as the ball got away from Stoughton’s third baseman.
The Merchants grabbed a 2-1 lead in the third thanks to a pair of defensive miscues by the A’s. Wilberg reached on a throwing error to start the inning, and scored on a throwing error with two outs. Ervin Medina then scored on a fielding error.
“We persevered through a bad start with four errors in the first two innings,” Stokstad said. “To come away only down 2-1 was something to build on.”
Stoughton flashed leather in the fourth. Medina made a sliding stop up the middle and threw out Raff for the first out, and Tanner Klitzke made a diving catch for the final out of the frame.
Utica second baseman Aaron Zimmerman snared three line drives in the fifth.
Medina went 2-for-3 with a double for Stoughton, while Hanson and Herdenez were both 2-for-5.
The Merchants will hit the road to play top-seeded Montello tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Night League playoffs.
Stoughton finished 13-3 in the Sunday League regular season, and earned the third seed in the Southeast Section Sunday League playoffs. The Merchants will play at Jefferson at 1 p.m. Sunday. Jefferson clinched the second seed with a 9-0 win over Lake Mills on Sunday, Aug. 3.
“I’m confident in our pitching, and we’ve been swinging the bats well,” Seffens said. “The bench has got some quality playing time, too.”
Hildebrandt finished 3-for-4 for the A’s. Aaron Schauer struck out three and walked two in two no-hit innings of relief.
Utica finished the Sunday League 5-11, but Stokstad is optimistic about the future despite being done for the season.
“We have some good young talent,” he said. “They can really play, and you can see them getting more comfortable at the plate and having better at-bats and more hits. I can see we’re getting better, and that’s uplifting.”
Stoughton 9, Cambridge 5
The Merchants secured a spot in the Night League playoffs with a home win over the Blues last Thursday.
Erick Sperloen started and tossed five innings. Herdenez threw two innings of relief for Stoughton, which finished 5-3 in the East Night League regular season.
Waterloo 6, Utica 4
The A’s finished 0-8 in the East Night League after a road loss last Thursday.
Raff, Wanninger and Aaron Zimmerman each had singles and scored during a three-run fourth for Utica. Stokstad had double and a run, Nick Woodstock recorded an RBI groundout, and Andy Skjolass added a sacrifice fly.