The Utica Home Talent team had a chance to get back to .500 in the Southeast Section on Sunday, July 16, but a couple of defense lapses and the pitching effort of Fort Atkinson veteran Dan Dean all but did in the A’s.
Utica had seven hits in the team’s 12-2 loss but only four after the second inning.
“We’re beating the teams we’ve got to beat but it would be nice to beat this next tier like Fort and Albion, but they’re good teams,” Utica manager Christian Stokstad said. “It’s not the final result we were hoping for.”
Dean tossed seven innings for the Generals and struck out eight for the win. He allowed two runs on five hits and one walk. Matt Sweeney tossed one inning of relief, allowing a single and hitting a batter before retiring the side in the top of the ninth inning.
“I know Dan’s elbow started to act up a little bit toward the end but when he’s on, he’s really tough to hit,” Fort manager Sam Hartwick said. “Utica can put the ball in play with the best of them, so to keep that lineup at bay is a tough challenge.”
Utica used three pitchers in the loss. Aaron Schauer got the start but left with the A’s down 7-2 after four innings. Schauer allowed five earned runs on nine hits and two walks. Left handers Brady Wanninger and Cole Nelson took care of the final five innings.
Wanninger came on in the fifth and allowed four earned runs on six hits and three walks. The game ended when Dean singled over center fielder Max Gartzke to plate the final run off Nelson. It was the only hit he allowed in his one inning of relief.
For the Generals, it was their third straight win since losing 4-0 at Evansville on June 1.
“We struggled at the start of the year with hitting. We didn’t really put the ball play,” Hartwick said. “I think at Evansville, 15 of our 18 batters struck out. It’s nice to see the guys playing a lot more confident right now and putting the ball in play.”
The Generals struck first with two runs in the bottom of the first inning as Chase Davis tripled home Ty Scheiber and later scored on a Drew Dunkleberger single up the box. Utica answered with its only two runs of the game on a two out, two-run single over a leaping Owen Chady.
Fort Atkinson scored three runs on five hits in the bottom of the second inning and added two more in the fourth as a tie game suddenly turned into a five-run deficit.
“We never got the offense going,” Stokstad said. “Fort kept hitting and we couldn’t come up with a couple plays on our end.”
Dean helped his cause on the mound with a one-out single to start the second inning. First baseman Sam Hartwick followed with a base hit that was misjudged by Mike Lund in left field and Josh Crandall singled home both runs for the Generals. Davis added an RBI base knock before the inning was over.
Hartwick led off the fourth being hit by a pitch and scored one out later as Crandall hit a ball to right where it was misjudged by Stokstad, allowing a run to score.
“I came in hard and I should have probably stayed back,” Stokstad said. “I thought I could make the catch and it shot past and that made it a 5-2 game and took the wind out of our sails.”
A passed ball with two outs pushed the Generals lead to 7-2.
Fort Atkinson posted three more runs in the sixth and one apiece in the seventh and eighth inning to close out the 10-run rule victory.
The A’s (0-1) travel back to Fort Atkinson on Tuesday. See next week’s paper for the final score.