Consecutive five-run innings by Portage put the Verona Junior Legion team in a hole it couldn’t climb out of Wednesday, July 24, as the Wildcats lost 11-6 in the season finale at Stampfl Field.
Verona ended the summer 4-5.
Portage did its damage in the third and fourth innings against a pair of relievers. The first six Warriors reached base safely against EJ Jaschinski in the third. Four singles, a walk and a hit batsman resulted in three runs. The Warriors tacked on two more runs with a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout to make it 6-1.
Verona cut into its deficit with two runs in the bottom of the third. Ryan Merlet ripped a one-out single through the left side to score Ryan Olson, who singled through the same hole to lead off the inning. Jaschinski picked up a two-out RBI single into left-center to bring in Merlet.
The first six Warriors reached safely against Jack Farrell in the fourth, as four singles, a walk and a throwing error by Farrell resulted in five runs and an 11-3 deficit for the Wildcats.
Once again, Verona battled back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Colby Davis had a bunt single to lead off the frame, and scored on a throwing error by Portage’s catcher. Andres Kleinsik also scored on a throwing error by Portage’s catcher to make it 11-5.
Joe Ducharme struck out eight Warriors in three scoreless innings of relief. Including the Monday, July 22 game against Sauk Prairie, Ducharme recorded 16 strikeouts over seven innings.
Merlet hit an inside-the-park home run with two outs in the seventh for Verona. His line drive flew over the head of Portage’s right fielder, and Merlet scored despite running through a stop sign from third-base coach Shane Olson.
“I thought I was going to get a double or possibly a triple, but I just kept running,” Merlet said. “I wasn’t even paying attention to (Olson), I just went.”
Both teams scored a run in the second inning. A two-out, three-base error allowed the Warriors to score first, but Davis drilled a two-out single through the right side to score Ray Weigand.
Verona starter Remy Klawiter struck out two batters in two innings of work. Like his teammates, Klawiter played several different positions against Portage and other teams throughout the season.
“Other than our mental lulls in the middle of the season, I thought we finished games well,” Verona coach Shane Olson said. “We had a few kids willing to try different positions. Everybody got a lot of extra at-bats that they otherwise wouldn’t have this summer.”