DARLINGTON – Luke Wiegel was huge Chicago Cubs fan all his life, so the Darlington baseball team decided to honor the memory of the former Redbird player and Darlington/Dodgeville coach by heeding the advise of legendary Cub Ernie Banks as they played two games on a chilly afternoon at Otto Ruf Field on Saturday, April 9.
The Redbirds took it a step further by winning both games to earn the sweep on the first annual Luke Wiegel Memorial Baseball Day sponsored by the Wiegel Strong Foundation.
Darlington used an 11-run outburst in the first inning to walk away with an 18-6 five-inning victory over Argyle in the opener, and then the host Redbirds held off a seventh-inning rally to nip the Wiegel’s former Dodgers, 3-2, in game two.
Due to the unseasonably cold weather conditions on Saturday, these were the only games held on the day.
The Redbirds (3-1 overall) sent 16 batters to the plate in the first inning against the Orioles despite recording just one hit in the frame, but thanks to 10 walks and a pair of errors they were able to plate 11 runs to charge into the lead.
Darlington’s first six batters walked to begin the rally and their four batters– Brayden McDonald, Will Schwartz, Tyler Osterday and Jesse Sturtz– to lead the way.
“I liked how we came out ready to play. We were disciplined at the plate and took advantage of some base running situations. Any time you can score double-digit, runs it energizes the team,” said Darlington head coach Brad Solberg. “We didn’t get Argyle’s best effort Saturday. They are much better than that, and they will win a lot of games this year. I have a lot of respect for that program.”
The Orioles responded with six runs in the top of the second inning to make things a bit interesting, but the ‘Birds answered back with six runs of their own in the third and another run in the fourth to pull away for an 18-6 victory.
Sturtz finished 2-for-2 with four runs batted in and three runs scored, while Ryan Glendenning knocked in two RBIs and Tyler Torstenson-Harris, Hayden Hardyman and Sam Cohen each joined McDonald, Schwartz and Osterday with two runs scored for the hosts.
Cohen posted the victory after tossing three-and-a-third scoreless inning in relief. He struck out three batters and walked two without giving up a hit.
Runs were tougher to come by in game two as the Redbirds battled with the Dodgers through three scoreless innings until finally breaking through for a pair of runs in the fourth to grab the lead for good.
An error brought in Sturtz for the game’s first run and Cohen slapped a two-out, RBI-single to score Hardyman to make it 2-0.
Darlington tacked on a key insurance run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Sturtz that extended the lead to 3-0.
Dodgeville, who were coached by Wiegel from 2011–15, put a scare into the ‘Birds in the top of the seventh after scoring twice to cut the lead to 3-2.
The Dodgers had the bases loaded with just one out when a fly ball into right field made for a thrilling finish to the game. Sturtz caught the fly for the second out of the inning, and then threw a strike to home to cut down the potential game-tying run on a play at the plate to end the game.
“We needed a win like this. Dodgeville is that next level opponent that we haven’t been able to beat. It showed us what we are capable of accomplishing this season,” Solberg commented.
“I know the kids were cold, but we don’t let them say the word cold. We don’t let them use the elements as an excuse. We believe games like this make us tougher. One thing that is nice is we get to utilize our entire roster. We had multiple players really step up this weekend.”
Sturtz scored a run and drove in another to lead the Redbirds at the plate.
Six pitchers combined to hold the Dodgers to just three hits over seven innings. Sturtz tossed three scoreless innings to open the game, while Osterday threw one scoreless inning and Jackson Hemming held the guests scoreless in the fifth and sixth stanzas to earn the win.
In the seventh, three pitchers combined to close things out with Cohen coaxing the double-play fly out for the save.
Prior to the game, the Wiegel family took the field to remember Luke, who passed away unexpectedly last August at the age of 34. Luke’s father, Pete, and his three children, Lily, Owen and Tyler, each threw out a first pitch to begin the game.
“Having played for Luke, I know how passionate he was about baseball. His brother, Nate, had a great message before the game that captured that. The game of baseball is better, in both communities, because of Luke,” said Solberg.
Last Tuesday’s non-conference game against Lancaster was postponed due to the weather. It will be made up at Otto Ruf Field on Monday, April 25, starting at 4:30 p.m. Friday’s SWAL game at Fennimore was also postponed and there was no make-up known at press time.
Darlington has a non-conference game scheduled on Thursday, April 14, against Pecatonica at Warner Park in Madison, starting at 7:30 p.m.
The Redbirds will also play a non-conference game at Monroe on Monday, April 18, at 5 p.m., and a SWAL game at home against Riverdale on Tuesday, April 19, at 4:30 p.m.
Argyle……… 060 00 – 6 2 6
Darlington… (11)06 1x – 18 5 2
Leading hitters: Jesse Sturtz 2x2.
WP- Sam Cohen. LP- Argue.
Dodgeville… 000 000 2 – 2 3 4
Darlington… 000 210 x – 3 3 1
Leading hitters: 2B- Tyler Osterday.
WP- Jackson Hemming. LP- Devoss.