Stoughton Home Talent team lost its first Southeast Section game of the season Sunday, June 16, to the rival Evansville Jays 3-2. The Merchants fell behind early but were never fully able to dig out of the hole.
Evansville scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the third inning and Jake Wenzel (1-for-3) knocked in both Stoughton runs to make it a one-run game.
Evansville 3, Stoughton 2
Stoughton ace Ben Riffle and Evansville’s Jameson Lavery squared off in a pitchers duel Sunday with the Merchants coming out one run behind the Jays 3-2.
With the loss, Stoughton dropped into a first-place tie with Albion at 6-1. Evansville tied with Jefferson for third place with identical 4-2 records and Fort Atkinson is 6-2 after 10-running Utica last weekend. The top four teams advance to the playoffs in August.
Riffle got the start and lasted eight innings Sunday, allowing three runs on six hits. Lavery gave up two runs over nine innings on seven hits and one walk to earn the win. He stuck out six.
Two runs was the lowest offensive output for the Merchants since a 2-1 win at Cambridge on July 14, 2018. Stoughton was without center fielder Chris Lund, one of the biggest bats in the lineup.
Riffle ran into problems with back-to-back walks to No. 9 hitter Griffin Allen and leadoff batter Nolan Strzok in the bottom of the third inning. Johannes Haakenson followed with a single to move both runners into scoring position for Joe Cox, who hit a two-run line drive to center. One out later, Lavery helped his cause, hitting a sacrifice fly.
Riffle got out of the inning, inducing Trevor Aasen to ground back to him. The Stoughton ace struck out five, but the Vikings were never able to even the score.
“Both pitchers threw really well,” manager Dale Seffens said. “It’s too bad that both of Riff’s walks came on consecutive batters.”
Ervin Medina singled and stole a pair of bases with two outs before being driven in by Wenzel in the top of the fourth inning to cut Evansville’s lead to 3-1.
Ryan Nyhagen went 2-for-4 with a triple and a run scored on a Wenzel sacrifice bunt with one out in the sixth inning. Stoughton only had two baserunners following that. Tanner Klitzke singled in the seventh and Yonard Herdenez reached base on an error in the eight. Medina popped out to Aasen behind the plate in the seventh and Nyhagen lined into a double play in the eighth.
Waterloo 1, Stoughton 0
Stoughton dropped to 1-2 in Thursday Night League action following a 1-0 loss to Waterloo.
The Merchants had three hits and committed four errors, including one that scored the game-winner run. Erick Sperloen threw all seven innings.