There haven’t been many games Verona has been out-hit this season.
That was the case in a first-round Home Talent League playoff game on Sunday, Aug. 4, against West Middleton, but the Cavaliers turned two double plays and made a couple of highlight-reel catches to beat the Braves 2-0.
“Our defense was unbelievable,” Verona player-manager David Lund said. “Those double plays were huge. Our infield played great, and Nelly (pitcher Kyle Nelson) feeds off that.”
West Middleton outhit Verona 5-4. The Cavaliers’ Mike Jordahl delivered a timely two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fifth inning to give Verona a two-run lead it would not relinquish.
West Middleton had to forfeit three games earlier this season for using an ineligible player but snuck into the playoffs as an eighth seed looking to upset top-seeded Verona, which is looking to repeat as HTL champions.
“It’s heated every time we play them and it means something,” Jordhal said. “It’s kind of weird facing them now because they probably would have been a two or three seed. We would have had to face them regardless at some point.”
Verona (15-1) advances and will host Shullsburg/Benton in a second-round playoff game at 1 p.m. Sunday at Stampfl Field.
Verona shortstop Justin Scanlon made a diving catch in shallow left field in the top of the fifth. Later in the inning, center fielder Derek Burgenske threw a runner out at the plate by six feet. Those two dazzling defensive plays sparked Nelson, who tossed a five-hit shutout to earn the win.
“He’s been like that all year,” Lund said of Nelson. “Ever since he has come to pitch for us and has been in this league, he has been a workhorse.”
West Middleton was 0-for-5 hitting with runners in scoring position and stranded eight. With two runners on base in the sixth, Dakota Daniels hit a line drive that Verona second baseman Klayton Brandt made a leaping catch on.
The Braves had a golden scoring opportunity in the seventh with two on and one out, but the Cavaliers turned a 4-6-3 double play on Drew Haack’s grounder to end the threat.
“We know that Nelly is good, but he’s going to be around the zone and they are going to put balls in play,” Jordahl said. “We have to be there to back them up. We had a few diving catches, and that was huge.”
The Cavaliers broke through in a pitchers’ duel against West Middleton’s Justin Langley in the bottom of the fifth. Brandt walked and moved to second base on a passed ball. Scanlon reached on an error, and Burgenske reached on an infield single to load the bases. Jordahl then came through with a two-run single to center.
Verona loaded the bases in the seventh, but Langley struck out Jordahl to end the threat.
“His curveball was working good, and his fastball plays way up because of his curveball,” Jordahl said of Langley. “You have to kind of grind out at-bats.”
Verona turned its second double play in the eighth, and Brandt made a leaping catch on Langley’s line drive in the ninth to end the game.
Verona will play at Middleton in the Night League playoffs tonight.