ARGYLE – Junior Miles Opitz drove in the go-ahead run on an infield single in the top of the sixth inning and senior Jeremy Richardson tossed four nearly flawless innings of relief as the #6-seed Belmont Braves upset the #3-seed Argyle Orioles, 3-2, in a WIAA Division 4 regional quarterfinal baseball game at Argyle’s Veterans Park on Thursday, May 23.
“The last two weeks we’ve started to play baseball like I thought we could play baseball,” said Belmont head coach Dave Michalkiewicz after leading the Braves to their fifth straight opening round playoff victory. “It came down to confidence. We have a lot of young kids who are playing very well right now, and our few upperclassmen pulled us through today.”
Richardson, the team’s lone senior, took over on the mound in the fourth inning with the Braves (7-13 overall) trialing 2-1 and he completely shut down the Oriole bats. The hard-throwing righty retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced, setting nine down on strikeouts and getting the other three on come-backers to the mound.
After Belmont pulled ahead 3-2 in the top of the sixth, Argyle got a runner on on an error in the bottom of the frame, but Richardson fanned the next two batters to keep the lead intact.
Then, after striking out the first two batters of the seventh Richardson issued a walk to Derek Flannery. However, the Belmont senior came back with his third K of the inning and ninth K of the game to end it.
“Jeremy has come out and done a nice job leading us lately– on the mound, in the field and at the plate,” said Michalkiewicz, noting his only senior has tossed 14 straight scoreless innings in his last three outings with a combined 32 strikeouts. “Our juniors and our senior came out and did a nice job for us.”
The Orioles went ahead 2-0 in the third inning when Brock Bruehlman singled in Flannery on the hosts only hit of the game and Riley Ostby came in to score on a wild pitch off starter Kyle Van Bogaert.
Van Bogaert got one run back for the Braves in the top of the fourth when he reached on an infield single and scored on an error to make it 2-1, and he drove Lane Friedrich in for the tying run in the fifth when his blooper to shallow right field dropped for a hit.
In the sixth, Raine Voigts walked with one down to start off the game-winning rally, then Jon Bahr singled with two down and Opitz followed by legging out a slow roller to third to bring in Voigts for the go-ahead run.
“We are not a power-hitting team. We talk about that all the time. We have to find ways to create runs either by stealing bases, bunting or putting the ball in play to put the pressure on the defense,” Michalkiewicz admitted.
Van Bogaert finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a run and a RBI, and he worked three solid innings on the mound allowing two runs (both unearned) on one hit and a hit batter, while fanning four batters with no walks.
Belmont advances to meet #2-seed Barneveld on Tuesday. The results of that game were not available at press time. The Golden Eagles have knocked the Braves from the playoffs three times in the last four seasons, including wins in each of the past two years.
The winner of Tuesday’s game moves on to face the winner of the regional semifinal affair between #1 Shullsburg/Benton and #4 Pecatonica in a regional championship contest at the home of the highest seed on Wednesday, May 29. Sectionals will be held in Barneveld on Tuesday, June 4, with the semifinal game scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and the finals slated to start at 4 p.m.
WIAA REGIONAL QUARTERFINAL
Belmont… 000 111 0 – 3 6 3
Argyle…... 002 000 0 – 2 1 2
Leading Hitters: Kyle Van Bogaert 2x4.
WP- Jeremy Richardson. LP- Treuthardt.
At Argyle, on Thursday, May 23